The Rapes Of 200 Sudanese Girls Aren't The Only Tragedies The Country's Government Is Covering Up
For years, the people of Darfur have battled sweeping genocide, starvation, and violent oppression. Despite what appeared to be a momentary quell over the last few years, due in part to the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) that was signed in 2011, it seems that behind the curtain of glossy media coverage, the situation in the south Sudanese region is still just as horrific as ever. According to a report released on Wednesday by monitoring group Human Rights Watch, more than 200 women and girls were raped by Sudanese Army soldiers over a period of 36 hours during an attack on the village of Tabit, which began on Oct. 30, 2014 — and though it's shocking, it isn't the only crime that the Sudanese government has been hiding.
The Human Rights Watch report stated that throughout the October attack, soldiers moved from house to house, raping, beating, and stealing from the women and girls inside. Over the past few years, the largely ethnic Fur region has been predominantly controlled by rebel groups, but Human Rights Watch investigators claimed in the report that no such ruling force was present in the region at the time of the attack.
After allegations of "mass rape" first surfaced in radio reports out of the Netherlands, the Sudanese government denied the claim and prevented peacekeepers from carrying out a full investigation. Human Rights Watch continued to push for witness reports, despite the restrictions.
The terrifying attack follows months of similar reports out of the North African country, including an Aug. 5 attack on the displaced civilians of the El Salam camp in southern Darfur by military and security forces of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime, which is led by Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti — an invitee to the recent National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. Only two days later, another camp was attacked and women were violently assaulted as well.
In March 2014, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power criticized the Sudanese government for its perceived failure to protect civilians from fighting between rebels and national security forces, pointing to approximately 120,000 displaced citizens who had been forced from their homes due to the violent clashes. She stated in a council meeting:
During a June 2008 press conference, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, a prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), accused the Sudanese government of hiding a major humanitarian crisis, saying:
The ICC had attempted to bring cases against militia leader Ali Kushayb and Ahmad Harun, former minister of state for the interior, in 2007, arresting and charging them with murder, rape, property seizure, and wrongful imprisonment among other crimes against humanity (one witness even alleged that Kushayb himself had inspected a line of naked women before allowing his men to rape them). Kushayb was eventually released from Sudanese custody in April 2008, "because there [was] no evidence against them," a spokesman for the Sudanese embassy in London told reporters. Throughout the debacle, Harun remained in place as the Sudanese minister of humanitarian affairs, and in May 2011, he became governor of South Kordofan — just next door to Darfur.
The Sudanese government is already seemingly doing everything in its power to downplay the vicious and tense atmosphere that hangs over its villagers' heads. In an interview with TIME magazine following the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 4, Karti told reporters that the claims of violence by the government and its allies were lies made up to keep the citizens in refugee camps:
Until Sudanese leadership decides to crack down on its own internal corruption, the genocide and sexual violence will continue, said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, in a dispatch:
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