Skip to comments.Darfur's violence spreads across borders
Posted on 12/01/2006 9:45:09 PM PST by NormsRevenge
GOZ BEIDA, Chad - The chief's story is dark and familiar. Attackers on horseback shattered his dawn ritual of tea brewing shouting racial venom, killing men, raping women. The survivors fled to a makeshift camp, sheltering from the desert sun under lengths of cloth strung from thorn trees.
Chief Umar Kabayi is not one of Darfur's tens of thousands of victims. He and his fellow villagers are Chadian, and theirs is a story of western Sudan's violence and passionate hatred spreading across borders.
"This is an old, old story," Kabayi said. "We've had disputes going back 30 years, but the chiefs would settle them. We've always lived side by side, we share the same market."
Modern politics and weapons have transformed age-old disputes over land and water in this bleak corner of Africa into something potentially explosive. Conflict is spreading south as surely as the march of the Sahara Desert and becoming increasingly violent.
Chad is buffeted by violence on multiple fronts. The government is trying to quash rebels bent on toppling President Idriss Deby. Ethnic Arab Chadians are fighting ethnic African Chadians like Kabayi, mirroring the clashes in Darfur. Sudan's Arab janjaweed militias have been chasing Darfur refugees into Chad, and there are reports they have been attacking ethnic African Chadians as well.
There are 218,000 refugees from Sudan's Darfur region, which neighbors eastern Chad, and some 90,000 internally displaced Chadians in camps close to the border.
Jan Egeland, head of the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, summed up the complexities: "Fighters attack Chad from Darfur. Others attack Darfur and Sudan from Chad. And they all seek refuge in the Central African Republic. It's a really dangerous regional crisis."
Behind the scenes are shadowy players with a plethora of interests, some in Sudanese and Chadian oil, others with expansionist aspirations.
"We risk a conflagration that will consume the entire region. We'll be another Congo," said Mahamat Nimir Hamata, a general in charge of Chad's most affected eastern province. The conflict in Congo drew troops from a half dozen nations who looted mines of diamonds, copper, and cobalt; more than 4 million people died.
The Central African Republic is fighting its own rebellion with help from French forces. Chad also said it was deploying troops to help the Central African Republic government, and has received support from France against Chadian rebels. A multinational African Union contingent is struggling to quell violence in Darfur, and the U.N. wants to broaden that force.
Chad and Sudan trade accusations and denials that each is supporting the other's rebels. President Deby of Chad and President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan were friendly until Sudanese members of Deby's Zaghawa, an ethnic African tribe that straddles a border drawn by colonial rulers, revolted in Darfur after years of neglect by Sudan's Arab-dominated government.
Al-Bashir is accused of responding by arming Arab militias in Darfur.
Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, who nurtured rebels from the region in the 1970s in pursuit of his expansionist agenda, is accused of supporting both Darfur's Arab militias. Al-Bashir seized power with Libya's backing; Deby also had Libyan support in his violent takeover, and went on to help install Francois Bozize as president of the Central African Republic.
Caught in the middle are millions of civilians.
In Darfur, at least 200,000 people have been killed and about 2.5 million of the 4 million people have fled their homes in 3 1/2 years of fighting. Tens of thousands have fled to Chad. Most of Darfur's victims are African in a conflict former Secretary of State Colin Powell has called genocide.
In this region, everyone is Muslim and generations of intermarriage have blurred racial lines. Yet language, culture, history all help define the various groups.
For decades, nomads have traversed this area twice a year, using established routes through farmlands as they moved south in search of pasture for their cattle and camels during the dry season. But severe droughts since the 1980s, and the steady march of the Sahara, has nomads on the move earlier and staying south longer.
Some now compete with farmers for land to cultivate, and their presence taxes already scarce water and arable land.
Chad's government is accused of arming African militias known as Tora Bora, who attack Arabs from vehicles fitted with mounted submachine guns. The name Tora Bora has nothing to do with the Afghan mountains where al-Qaida had bases it means "fat hyena" in local Arabic.
Like the Darfur militias, Chad's Arab militias are called janjaweed, which means men on horseback.
"Arab communities in Chad and Darfur have been the silent victims of attacks by militias and are suffering from the stereotype that all Arabs are janjaweed," said Peter Takirambudde, African director of New York-based Human Rights Watch.
"The Chadian government's support to the Darfur rebels and select ethnic militias is exacerbating existing interethnic tensions in Chad," he said.
It's impossible to get any figures on how many Arabs have been killed, wounded and displaced, humanitarian workers say. Most live in areas aid workers cannot reach because of the danger.
Refugees walk for days to get to Goz Beida, a town of mud huts where the crackle of gunfire at night has become as familiar as the braying of donkeys. Its 8,000 residents have been overwhelmed by 10,000 displaced Chadians and more than 14,000 Sudanese from Darfur.
The hospital is overrun with wounded, some camped in U.N. tents, others sleeping on mats in the open a man who had his eye gouged out, another who lost a leg from an infected gunshot wound.
"What can we do?" Chief Kabayi, one of those seeking shelter in Goz Beida, said when asked how the conflict could be resolved. He drew his lanky legs up to his chin, hugging them with his arms and rocking himself, like a child, for comfort.
Village Chief Umar Kabayi sits beside Koranic verses written on wooden blocks that were saved when Arab militiamen and Sudanese rebels attacked his Chadian village near Goz Beida, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2006. Conflicts over land and water between Arab nomads and black farmers, fueled by governments pushing Arabist agendas, are spreading south in Africa as surely as the march of the Sahara Desert. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
"What can we do?" ... Chief Kabayi
Funny, where are the Libtard's cries of 'Genocide' now ???
I also hate it when attackers on horseback shatter my dawn ritual of tea brewing....
"In this region, everyone is Muslim and generations of intermarriage have blurred racial lines."
PEACEFUL RELIGION ~ Is there anyone on the planet who can't see these folks are hellbent on death?