Sudan needs three years to disarm tribes

Amira Agarib And Charles Buth Diu
Filed on July 31, 2004

DUBAI - The Sudan Club in Dubai yesterday arranged a meeting in which North Darfur Ruler (Wali), Othman Yosuf Kibir, briefed the Sudanese community about the Darfur problem, which drew threats of military intervention in Sudan if its government failed in its attempt to end the armed conflict and improve the humanitarian conditions there.

Mr Kibir was accompanied to the meeting by Engineer Ibrahim Hamid Mahmoud, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, and Mahjoub Shawir, Sudan Consul-General in Dubai. On the sidelines of the meeting, Khaleej Times interviewed Mr Kibir who answered a number of questions on the burning issue.

What are the reasons of Darfur problem?

"The causes of Darfur problem were marked by conflict which flared up between tribes which owned 'hawakeer' (plots of land) and those who did not. The non-land owners scrambled for it. The scarcity in resources intensified the problem besides desertification, which had left only a limited portion of land, resulted in the area becoming a centre stage of the conflict. But tribal feuds as witnessed today actually began as early as 1974 whereby armed robbery escalated and the volume of weapons multiplied in a wide scale. Darfur problem is not a racial one. There are no pure Arabs or pure Africans in Darfur."

Who pushed Darfur to this edge ?

"The rebels kindled the fire. According to statistics provided by the police, 320 citizens had been kidnapped and killed and 218 policemen have been killed and 78 others haven been missing. Scores of citizens were subjected to torture, 161 private vehicles were looted, 89 of which belonged to citizens. The rebels had abrogated the ceasefire agreement 59 times. Humanitarian aid was looted and aid workers kidnapped. The rebels have exploited the truce agreement and achieved what they could not gain during the war."

What are the effects of the war on Darfur People ?

"The immunisation of children was forcibly suspended, 280 schools in Northern Darfur are out of use, 14 per cent of basic education is dysfunctional and social relations in the region are seriously affected."

Number and status of the displaced?

"About 730,000 people had been displaced and not a million as stated by some Western bodies. About 26,000 of them deserted their villages but 17,000 of them have so far returned. I have no idea about the number of displaced in Chad. The aid agencies have termed the humanitarian situation as "very serious", but we do not have any problem in our camps. Health conditions are under control and no epidemic has been reported. The death toll is between four and five deaths per day. The humanitarian aid provided to the state was enough to last more than 9 months. US Secretary of State Colin Powell commended Abu Shook camp when he visited Northern Darfur."

Numbers of voluntaryreturnees?

"Fifty per cent have so far returned to South Darfur, 70 per cent to western Darfur, and in North Darfur out of total 267,000, only 67,000 have returned to their villages. We had deployed 6,000 paramilitary troops to maintain security. The reasons for delay in return of refugees are threats against Sudan by US."

What are the government's plans to solve the problem?

"The government opts for the establishment of law and order, return of the displaced, restructuring of the disrupted social fabric and the infrastructure and disarmament of tribes. The government's authority must be established and the tribal friction must be stopped."

What about the one-month disarmament condition put by US ?

"If the US and the UK came forth with all their might to Darfur, they will not be able to bring about any disarmament there within that limited time-frame, because everyone in Darfur is armed to the teeth. No one will give up their weapons until the government fully establishes a comprehensive security in the region. The government will have to virtually buy off those who bore arms, but to affect this we need at least three years."

What is the role of the NCP headed by Dr Turabi in the conflict?

"The National Congress Party as a political entity had no role in the conflict, but Ali Elhaj and his cronies have played a substantial role in blowing the problem to the current proportions".

What has whetted the appetites of the Western powers in the region?

"US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are exploiting the situation as an election propaganda to get re-elected and, of course, the oil and precious mineral resources such as uranium discovered in Hofrat Al Nihas have set off fierce competition between US and France. The US has started to invest in oil industry in Chad, France's former colony, while France Total company obtained drilling rights in Sudan."

What is the stance of Arabs in the crisis?

"Arab humanitarian contribution is not up to Sudan's expectations. We only received aid from UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but not from Lybia. Most NGOs operating in Sudan are non-Arab. The only Arab NGOs engaged in the humanitarian aid operations are UAE Red Crescent, Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian Organisation and others."

Do you think Darfur will separate?

"There is no such movement in Darfur, because Darfurians are imbued with strong national sentiments, though they had every reason to entertain separate aspiration as did South Sudan which propagated that marginalized regions obtain their share from the national wealth."

Why didn't the government contain the problem in due time?

"One of the reasons for the growth of the conflict was that the government did not take the problem seriously at the beginning. It should have nipped it in the bud. However, in its attempts to solve the problem, there have been16 conferences convened, but Darfurians who are connected to western countries attempted to escalate Sudan question and internationalise Darfur problem. No solution is reached due to international interference which encouraged the rebels to discontinue negotiations."

What's the role of Chad's president in the crisis?

"Idris Debbie had played a great role in reconciling warring factions in Darfur despite his being a Zagawa which is rooted in Sudan. Although the US has set foot in Chad yet we believe he would not be influenced by it. The Chad government is not involved in the war but Chad's Zagawa tribe are fighting with their kin in Sudan."

How do Darfurians react to US intervention now?

"A huge procession of 30,000 persons, demonstrated on Thursday at Al Fashir city against US threat. The protesters warned the US that it would face the most staunch resistance than it experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US should rely on reliable information before it meddled in other nations' affairs."

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