This is Genocide: “[Khartoum Regime Vice-President] Hassabo told us to clear the area east of Jebel Marra. To kill any male. He said we want to clear the area of insects”

 

Eric Reeves | September 6, 2016 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1VX

Exactly a year ago Human Rights Watch released a searing report detailing the brutally violent assaults on civilians by Khartoum's current "militia of choice," the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).  "‘Men With No Mercy': Rapid Support Forces Attacks against Civilians in Darfur, Sudan" (September 9, 2015) is a superb but appropriately lengthy report, based on more than 200 interviews with survivors, witnesses, and-crucially-defectors from Khartoum's military apparatus. Revealing satellite imagery is also a key part of the report.

I am haunted by one account from a defector from the peculiarly misnamed "Border Guards," another of Khartoum's paramilitary forces. His account should, I believe, give pause to those in the European Union rushing to embrace the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime in Khartoum as a means of staunching the African refugee flow to Europe, and to those in the U.S. intelligence community who value putative "counter-terrorism intelligence" from Khartoum above the lives and livelihoods of Darfuris.

A speech by Vice-President of this regime, Hassabo Mohammed Abdel Rahman, addressed to troops about to begin assaults on civilian in the area known as East Jebel Marra, is recalled by a defector:

Ahmed, a 35-year-old officer in the Border Guards, spent two weeks at a military base in Guba in December 2014 before being sent to fight rebels around Fanga. Two senior RSF officials, the commanding officer, Alnour Guba, and Col. Badre ab-Creash were present on the Guba base.

Ahmed said that a few days prior to leaving for East Jebel Marra, Sudanese Vice President Hassabo Mohammed Abdel Rahman directly addressed several hundred army and RSF soldiers:

"Hassabo told us to clear the area east of Jebel Marra. To kill any male. He said we want to clear the area of insects... He said East Jebel Marra is the kingdom of the rebels. We don't want anyone there to be alive."

Ahmed said he was then given direct orders from Colonel Badre, who explained that they were going to attack the area of Fanga and the orders were to kill all the rebels and all of the civilians because they were supporting the rebels. Badre told the officers that if they found any women they were allowed to do anything they want to them, which [he] interpreted to mean rape.

Ahmed said that approximately 300 government vehicles, including army, RSF, and Border Guards, were used in the attack on Fanga. Many of the vehicles came from the base in Guba, and travelled west of El Fasher to Tawila, Katoor and then to East Jebel Marra. (emphases in bold added)

The "insects" Hassabo refers to are the African (non-Arab) tribal groups in Darfur, in this region predominantly the Fur (as is the case for the Jebel Marra massif). The nature of the ensuing attacks is chronicled in the preceding sections of this singularly authoritative Human Rights Watch report, noting in particular a series of attacks conforming all too well to Vice President Hassabo's urgings.

[My own brief monograph on these militia assaults outlines and maps in detail the full range and locations of the attacks as reported by Radio Dabanga and other Sudanese news sources. "‘Changing the Demography': Violent Expropriation and Destruction of Farmlands in Darfur, November 2014 - November 2015" |  December 1, 2015 |  http://wp.me/p45rOG-1P4. It is based on a data spreadsheet with 502 data entries, giving dates, locations, sources, brief characterizations of the violence, injuries/ casualties/ victims, often with names/damages and losses, as well as relevant observations. Attacks in the Fanga area noted by "Ahmed" figure prominently in this data spreadsheet.]

[A second brief monograph chronicles the use of rape as a weapon of war for the years 2014 and 2015, focusing on the unsurpassably brutal crime of raping, often gang-raping, girls, particularly in East Jebel Marra: "Continuing Mass Rape of Girls in Darfur: The most heinous crime generates no international outrage" | January 2016 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1QG

[Arabic translation of this report | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Rr / Arabic names for key locations on maps | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Si ]

Darfur long ago lost its "cachet" as a grass-roots human rights cause, but the gross human rights violations-including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide-continue apace. This past year has seen an extremely violent assault on the last major area controlled by rebel forces, the Jebel Marra massif itself. As in the attacks on East Jebel Marra, the attacks in the current Jebel Marra offensive have been directed overwhelmingly against civilians---again, almost exclusively from African tribal groups.

We catch only glimpses of the horror from Radio Dabanga and sources on the ground speaking confidentially; but these should be more than enough to remind us how deeply wrong a photo caption in the New York Times was (February 26, 2012), when it claimed in a dispatch from Nyuru, West Darfur that: "Darfur was long known for the brutality inflicted upon its residents by militias, but peace has settled on the region" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/27/world/africa/darfur-refugees-returning-home.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all ). In fact, violence was even then accelerating in Darfur, and this much was obvious to anyone listening to Darfuris themselves or reading Radio Dabanga. The Times has never offered a correction, retraction, or modification of this fantastically misleading account.

Revealingly, the dispatch from the New York Times is the last allowed by Khartoum to a major news organization with a dateline outside the three capital cities of Darfur and their immediate environs (old administrative division). And remote Nyuru, West Darfur was nothing more than a well-organized "Potemkin village," with the Times' reporter-and all he spoke with-under constant surveillance by the National Intelligence and Security Services and Military Intelligence, a fact that would have been made abundantly and threateningly clear to the residents of Nyuru before the reporter's arrival. To understand just how intimidating Khartoum's security and military forces can be of civilians in areas they control, see the detailed account (released February 11, 2015) by Human Rights Watch of the mass rapes of girls and women at Tabit, North Darfur, October 30 - November 1, 2014.

The primary researcher and author for both Human Rights Watch reports is Jonathan Loeb, who heroically manages to stay engaged with this most arduous, dispiriting, and under-appreciated of human rights reporting tasks. I salute his efforts past and-we must hope-future. Herewith, Section Three of the September 9, 2015, 88-page report on the Rapid Support Forces.

"‘Men With No Mercy': Rapid Support Forces Attacks against Civilians in Darfur, Sudan"

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 8.42.28 AM

Fighters of the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces in captured vehicles celebrate a victory against the rebel Justice and Equality Movement, Goz Dango, South Darfur, April 28, 2015. (© 2015 Reuters)

III. Accounts of Defectors from Sudanese Military Forces

Human Rights Watch spoke with five defectors from Sudanese military forces: two RSF members, two SAF members, and one member of the Border Guards. Four of the five participated in attacks in Jebel Marra or East Jebel Marra. All five defected to rebel forces.

Omar was a Sudanese army soldier stationed in Rockero at the time of the SLA/AW attack on March 13, 2015.  A few days after the attack, Adam defected and fled to SLA/AW-controlled territory with the intention of joining the rebel forces. He told Human Rights Watch: "I ran away from the army and defected to the rebels. [When I arrived] they didn't trust me. They arrested me. They put me in jail. But then they released me."

When asked why he defected, Omar said: "What I saw the army doing, I did not accept it. They raped women and killed civilians. They said that we were fighting the movements but we never went to the movement areas."

Omar, a member of the Fur tribe, said that he and other soldiers from the same ethnic group were often forbidden from going on certain missions:

Sometimes [the commander] would leave us outside of the village because we are from African tribes... maybe we would not accept what they were doing. ... In the village of Fattah Kridnia, I saw with my own eyes four women being raped [by soldiers] ... but when we were back at the base everyone was talking about how many they raped. It could have been 20.

Omar told Human Rights Watch that there was a prison at the base in Rockero where the soldiers detained, beat, and tortured men whom they accused of being rebels. After the attack in Rockero they detained several men and "two died of torture," he said.

Omar said that on two separate occasions he was given orders to rape woman, including on the day after the rebel attack on Rockero:

The commander told us that these are rebels or rebel supporters and the woman are their harem. You go there and you rape them and kill them. ... [On the day after the attack, after the commander gave the order] we went inside the town of Rockero. ... I went with the soldiers. I stole some belongings from the civilians and I saw other soldiers burn down eight houses. ... We detained 15 people. I saw one woman being raped.[153]

Yahya, a 27-year-old army soldier, was stationed in Zalingei, Central Darfur, when his commander informed him that he would be travelling into Jebel Marra to confront the rebels in the town of Sarong. His unit arrived in Golo on January 22, 2014. He said that early on the morning of January 24, army and RSF soldiers left Golo en route to Sarong and were confronted by rebels near the town of Kwui, about two kilometers from Sarong. The rebels killed and injured many soldiers, forcing them to return to Golo.

Back in Golo, his commander than ordered Yahya to loot everything in the town and kill any man who resisted.

While in Golo on January 24 and 25, Yahya saw soldiers raping numerous women:

In Golo town I saw soldiers raping women and looting the belongings of civilians. ... Everywhere we went in town we saw fighters raping. In the southern part, in the east, in the north. It was Janjaweed and RSF and SAF too.

Yahya visited the entrance to the hospital in Golo, where he saw huge piles of looted belongings. RSF personnel prevented him from entering the hospital: "The RSF told us the SAF was supposed to go search for rebels. ... They would not let us in."[154]

Ahmed, a 35-year-old officer in the Border Guards, spent two weeks at a military base in Guba in December 2014 before being sent to fight rebels around Fanga. Two senior RSF officials, the commanding officer, Alnour Guba, and Col. Badre ab-Creash were present on the Guba base.

Ahmed said that a few days prior to leaving for East Jebel Marra, Sudanese Vice President Hassabo Mohammed Abdel Rahman directly addressed several hundred army and RSF soldiers:

"Hassabo told us to clear the area east of Jebel Marra. To kill any male. He said we want to clear the area of insects. ... He said East Jebel Marra is the kingdom of the rebels. We don't want anyone there to be alive."

Ahmed said he was then given direct orders from Colonel Badre, who explained that they were going to attack the area of Fanga and the orders were to kill all the rebels and all of the civilians because they were supporting the rebels. Badre told the officers that if they found any women they were allowed to do anything they want to them, which MOHAMMED interpreted to mean rape.

Ahmed said that approximately 300 government vehicles, including army, RSF, and Border Guards, were used in the attack on Fanga. Many of the vehicles came from the base in Guba, and travelled west of El Fasher to Tawila, Katoor and then to East Jebel Marra.

Ibrahim, 19, said he joined the RSF in 2013, shortly after he finished high school in Darfur. After three months of training in Khartoum he was sent to fight in South Kordofan.  In February 2014 he was sent to Darfur and participated in the February 28 attack on the town of Hijer Tunyo.

He said that at several points during his service with the RSF, including just prior to leaving South Kordofan and coming to Darfur, commanding officers such as General Hemetti gave orders to abuse women.

Ibrahim said that during the attack on Hijer Tunyo, he witnessed 11 women being raped. He acknowledged that he attempted to rape one woman, whom he killed when she attempted to resist: "Personally I did attempt to rape one of the women and she hit me. And I lost my composure and I shot her. ... She is dead."[155]

Khalil, a former herder from North Darfur, said he was a member of the RSF since its inception. He told Human Rights Watch that he participated in 10 battles, including Um-Gunya, Fanga, and Golo. On numerous occasions he was given orders to loot and to abuse civilians. He said he witnessed members of the RSF committing abuses in during many battles. "In Um-Gunya I witnessed rape, and in Fanga and Golo."

Khalil said that prior to the attack on Fanga, Vice-President Hassabo and Hemetti visited the military base where he was stationed, in Um Al-Gora, near Nyala.  Hassabo and Hemetti joined the soldiers for a celebratory meal prior to the attack on Fanga. According to AL-TAYEB, Hassabo told the soldiers to "clean the area of civilians and to take everything that you find."

Khalil told Human Rights Watch that after an attack, all the looted livestock was gathered in one location. Then the commanders took a large share and the remainder was divided up among the soldiers to do with as they pleased.

Khalil said that during the fighing in 2015, he spent 20 days in Golo, where he was based at the local council office. During this period he witnessed soldiers rape eight or nine women.

He defected to the rebels along with a dozen other RSF soldiers January 2015.[156]

-- 

Eric Reeves, Senior Fellow at Harvard University's François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights

 

ereeves@smith.edu

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About Eric Reeves: http://sudanreeves.org/about-eric-reeves

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