Wednesday, 12 March 2008
We were armed by Sudan, say Darfur killers
Adjusting his camouflage turban, the commander pointed at the weapons and vehicles inside his camp in Sudan's war-torn region of Darfur.
"All the hardware that we have - where did we get it from?" said Mohammed Hamdan. "Do you think we just magicked it out of the air? It belongs to the government."
With those words, he destroyed a myth carefully crafted by Sudan's regime.
Hamdan commands hundreds of gunmen from the notorious Janjaweed militia, which human rights groups blame for countless atrocities in Darfur's civil war.
President Omar al-Bashir's Arab-dominated regime has always denied any link with the Janjaweed.
Instead, Mr Bashir has denounced them as "bandits and thieves" and denied giving them any arms or supplies.
Yet Hamdan spoke near a Toyota Land Cruiser, mounted with a heavy machinegun, and his fighters were armed with mortars, anti-aircraft guns and Kalashnikov rifles. "The weapons, the cars, all that you see, we got it from the government," he said.
This support was given in direct breach of United Nations Resolution 1556, passed in July 2004, which gave Sudan's regime 30 days to disarm the Janjaweed and bring their leaders to justice.
The Khartoum regime might disown them now, but Hamdan said that his orders came directly from Mr Bashir. He claimed to have met the president twice in September 2006. "They asked for a meeting with us," he said. "There were two places that had fallen to the rebels: Um Sidir and Kiryari [in Northern Darfur]. After they fell, they called upon us - of course as part of the army - to go to the northern areas. We asked for the hardware that you now see with us. And they provided us with cars and weaponry, and we moved to the northern area."
He claimed that both meetings took place in the presence of Abdul Rahim Mohammed Hussein, Sudan's defence minister. "One meeting with the president was in his home, and the other was in the armed forces' headquarters," said Hamdan.
Using the weapons supplied by the regime, he managed to block a rebel assault into Northern Darfur in 2006. He was then entrusted with securing Southern Darfur province against the insurgents.
He had his first contact with the regime at the outset of Darfur's war in 2003. Hamdan said he was personally recruited to fight the rebels. "There was a general call to arms, to the entirety of Sudan after the rebellion began," he said. "The Sudanese government then specifically came to us."
Hamdan rejected the label Janjaweed, which translates as "devils on horseback" for the mounted raids typical of the militia. He does not deny that other Arab fighters committed atrocities in Darfur, only his own guilt.
Others would disagree. The African Union, an alliance of all 53 countries on the continent, has sent a team of observers to Darfur. According to one of their reports, Hamdan was one of three Janjaweed commanders who led an attack on the village of Adwah on Nov 30, 2004, in which women were beaten and raped and more than 200 people killed.
Now that Hamdan has disclosed his relationship with the regime, the central question is whether Khartoum will maintain its bluster and denial. 
Posted on 03/12/2008 3:11 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
12 Mar 2008


Supplementary report: " Darfur's return to hell"




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