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Aug 13, 2007
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Life in Darfur Revealed in a Series of Al-Jazeera TV Reports

#1543 | 11:05
Source: Al-Jazeera Network (Qatar)

Following are excerpts from a series of reports on life in Darfur, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on August 13-19, 2007:

Reporter: Qadura is the military leader and a founding member of the largest rebel movement in Darfur. He is now the powerful ruler of the Marrah Mountain. His commands are undisputed, and every rock or tree are like headquarters to him. Using sweeping gestures, he told us how he left the Sudanese army, in order to become a rebel.

Qadura, a rebel military leader: I was a soldier in Omar Al-Bashir's army, but several times, I was denied the promotion I deserved. Others, who had tribal connections, were promoted instead. One day, an officer who was training me told me that no one gets what he rightfully deserves unless he fights for it.

Reporter: Along with the political leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement, Abd Al-Wahed Muhammad Nur, Qadura began the rebellion in 2001. They demanded equality in economic and social rights in the region. Now, as the other factions are turning a peace agreement, Abd Al-Wahed is refraining even from conducting negotiations.

Qadura, Military Commander, Abd Al-Wahed movement: The planes continue to bomb us on a daily basis, the demands of our displaced people have not been met, and they have not disarmed the Janjaweed as they promised. We are prepared to hold negotiations, but not in order to reach the kind of peace that Minni Minnawi signed. That's impossible.


All the displaced people – from the Abu Shouk camp to the Kalma camp, and from Chad to South Darfur – are followers of Abd Al-Wahed. If you don't believe me, ask any of them. Even the little children will say so. These people will not return to their villages unless we reach a peace agreement and gain their rights.


Reporter: Abd Al-Wahed and his comrades are the most radical of all the rebel movements. They demand a no-fly zone over Darfur and an oil-for-food policy. This position, according to some, indicates that they are not ready to leave the mountain region in the near future.


Most of these rebels were farmers before the conflict started, but today, their families live off aid in the camps for the displaced. They tell us that this makes them very angry.

Military commander: We've set out because of injustice and for the sake of freedom. Ever since 1965, we have had no freedom. We ride donkeys, while they ride cars. We want the entire Sudanese people to live in equality, like in the past, and ride cars, like they do in their capital city.

Reporter: Economical and social equality is at the core of their leader's stated demands, but the young rebels, like the National Group, as they are called, have more extremist aspirations.

Rebel: We, the people of Darfur, want to rule Darfur. The land of Darfur – we will rule it.

Reporter: Do you want to establish a state?

Rebel: Yes, we will establish a state, Allah willing.

Reporter: In addition to their honesty about their desire to split away from the Arab north, the style of dress and the haircuts of some of them suggest a stronger connection to their African identity. A change in identity usually leads to a change in loyalty. The people of the Fur tribe, who until recently, used to call their sons Omar and Abd Al-Nasser, have become fond of other names.

Commander: George Bush!

Rebel George Bush reporting for duty, sir!

Commander: Colin Powell!

Rebel: Colin Powell reporting for duty, sir!

Reporter: Could you explain why your name is Jan Pronk?

Rebel, Jan Pronk: We admire Jan Pronk because he represented the case of Darfur very well.

Reporter: Nevertheless, Islam remains the essence of their belief, even if they mix it with some superstitions. These amulets protect them from bullets. They believe that they make the body bullet-proof. In the market, you see them amazed at the making of amulets, which, they believe, make the wearers invisible to the enemies. Unemployment, poverty, and lack of education have made these young men easy recruiting material for the rebels. Paradoxically, the leaders of this rebellion, who are the only ones to benefit from it, are a small, educated elite living abroad.


This is a camp for displaced people, but it is like any of the camps you have heard about in Darfur. It is situated deep in the mountain region, and is controlled by the rebels. No roads lead to it, and the world knows nothing about it. To this day, humanitarian organizations have not reached it directly. More than one thousand displaced people, mostly women and children, came here by foot two months ago. They were fleeing the fighting between the government and the rebels to the east of the mountain region. They live in huts made of whatever straw they could find. Their food is sometimes inconceivable. Each and every one of them has a tragic story to tell.

Refugee: The people who attacked our village killed two of my nephews, as well as my uncle and my father. Then they burned down our homes and stole our livestock and clothes. They even took our cooking utensils. I came here in order to find safety.

Reporter: Today, these displaced people received their very first medical aid. The Red Cross, which supplies the medicine, is helped by doctors from among the rebels. They are only a few miles away from the closest camp of the international organizations, but they preferred a secluded place beyond the mountain. Some of them say that they feel safer in these areas, which they call "liberated." Others believe that the difficult living conditions here are much better than the long procedures that they would have to go through over there, before they get any help. In the evening, rain falls on the small camp, and a new journey of displacement begins, in search of refuge in the forest or under the rocks. But one girl remains there, as if nothing interests her anymore, after the catastrophe she has been through. Like Hagar seeking water for Ishmael, Aisha searches in vain for her missing husband and her burned-down village. In this case, however, no miracle awaits her.

Aisha, a refugee: I don't know who our attackers were, but they wore dark suits and drove military vehicles. My husband used to gather wood and sell it. They killed him and burned the village down, so we fled to the mountains.

Reporter: Aisha lives off one portion of lentils a day. Despite her mental exhaustion, she cannot rest. Hunger and disease afflict her and her two daughters. Therefore, she climbs the mountain every day, driven by the cries of the girl carried on her back. She gathers wood to sell, in order to buy the meal of the day. It may be that the people in this camp, like Aisha, enjoy the protection of both the mountain and the rebels, but in the face of hunger, disease, and the forces of nature, they remain helpless.


Abdallah Harran, military commander, Abd Al-Wahed Movement: Studies show that there is a huge amount of oil here.

Reporter: This impression that there are exceptional natural resources in their region is what caused the people of the Fur tribe to feel bitterness, considering their poverty, which is also exceptional. They have no roads, no electricity, no telephones, no hospitals, no schools. There is no sign that the state cares for them.

Khadar Abd Al-Rahman: The economic situation of the people is bad. The government does not help at all. Look at our villages, and see how people live in the third millennium. If this government cared about the people, it wouldn't have come to this.

Reporter: The Fur is considered to be a tribe of farmers. Until the Darfur war began, they all worked in the fields. Now, however, the only profession left for their, youth, like Sadeq, is rebellion. While his wife, Maryam, prepares food for their child, Sadeq and his friends are busy preparing RPG's.


Musa Hilal is accused by the West of waging a war of racial annihilation against the people of Darfur of African origins, but he says that these accusations are false.

Musa Hilal, chieftain: These claims are untrue. You passed by the Arab Bedouins, or the ruins of the villages of the Arab tribes. The villages of the Fur tribe are only one or two kilometers away. There are areas in which people [of both sides] lived in the same village. We are moderate tribes. It is in our nature to mix with other tribes. This means we are not racist.


Reporter: The Mahamid tribe, to which Musa Hilal belongs, is one of the least fortunate Arab tribes in West Sudan. They were not given territory of their own by the Fur sultans or the British colonialists. They are still nomads roaming the peripheries of the province, under the most difficult living conditions and climates. Survival is all they hope for. Nevertheless, like the other Arab tribes, they do not bear arms against the central government. On the contrary, Musa Hilal and his tribe have joined the government ranks in order to put an end to the rebellion, and they consider the rebels to be traitors and mercenaries of the West.


Musa Hilal says that the people of Darfur may agree to foreign forces, if their goal is to bring about order and stability, but...

Musa Hilal: If they come with colonialist goals, they will undoubtedly encounter resistance. The people will not agree to be harmed or humiliated.

Reporter: The U.S. has announced that he is forbidden from traveling by air, and that it has frozen his overseas accounts. This decision made this man – who lives off camel milk – laugh.

In how many banks have they frozen your accounts?

Musa Hilal: In all the banks abroad – the Swiss ones, the American ones.

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