An edited version of this is published in todays Independent on Sunday. Heartfelt thanks to my Darfuri friends who risk their lives in order for the truth to be known and to James Hanning for allowing their voices to be heard.
On October 31st, when most of our children were playing trick or treat, enjoying their childhood innocence, 200 women and girls (as young as 7) in Darfur, were raped. According to locals, the perpetrators were the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). One month later the victims of this egregious assault are no closer to justice.
Rape has been a weapon of genocide in Darfur for decades. The attack in the village of Tabit however, is on an unprecedented scale. Despite numerous sources verifying it, the discredited hybrid UN/AU force (UNAMID) issued a press release claiming, “None of those interviewed confirmed that any incident of rape took place in Tabit”. What the press release neglected to mention is that, according to a UNAMID officer, military personnel accompanied the UNAMID delegation so, “No one could speak freely to anyone”.
UNAMID’s chicanery emerges at the same time that a UN investigation exonerated the force of previous allegations of cover up. Despite finding instances in which UNAMID officials withheld evidence indicating the culpability of Sudanese government forces in crimes against civilians and peacekeepers, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon concluded, “There was no evidence to support the allegation that UNAMID intentionally sought to cover up crimes against civilians".
To the uninitiated, withholding evidence of crimes against civilians, particularly given that protection of civilians is UNAMID’s remit, may sound like a cover up. But in UN land, unless the scandalous event was the result of an intentional cover up, and you can prove that, it doesn’t count as one.
Where is the UK in all this? Instead of calling for an independent investigation into the mass rape in Tabit at the time, our government diverted attention away from it. Issuing a press release about food vouchers for displaced people in Darfur (440,000 beneficiaries over 7 months) was in my view, an act of either willful obfuscation or gross ineptitude.
The cash/vouchers have been in place since 2011 apparently, but there’s no evidence, that I could find, that anyone other than the government of Sudan benefits from the UK’s £11m contribution. A local UN official told me he was unaware of the scheme. The 3m Darfuris living in camps want the humanitarian organizations that were expelled by the genocidal regime in 2009, to be reinstated. Not gimmicks. They want enough food for every child (not just the percentage calculated to hit millennium goals).
Eight years ago, having visited Darfur, David Cameron said, “This is ethnic cleansing and we cannot remain silent in the face of this horror”. He knows that rape is a weapon of war and that mass rape constitutes a war crime. He is therefore obliged under international law, to ensure that the perpetrators in Tabit are held to account.
Ban Ki-Moon once said, "Break the silence. When you witness violence against women and girls, do not sit back. Act." Here’s Ban and Cameron’s chance to put those laudable words into action. Speak up, the world is listening.