Magazine article The Spectator

Darfur's Terrible Export: The Riders of Death Who Are Pouring into Chad

Magazine article The Spectator

Darfur's Terrible Export: The Riders of Death Who Are Pouring into Chad

Article excerpt

Peter Oborne reports from the battlefield on the Chad-Sudan border where Janjaweed bandits, armed with AK-47s, grenades and helicopter gunships, are ethnically cleansing local African tribesmen

Adre, Chad

When we visited the scene of the battle we found that bodies had been shoved hastily into mass graves.

An arm stuck out from under one bush, and the flesh had been eaten by wild animals. A human foot obtruded from another grave. Dried pools of blood stained the ground. The stench of human putrefaction was heavy in the air. Bits and pieces of clothing, spent bullets and the protective amulets used by African fighters lay scattered on the ground. One body still lay exposed. The dead man had evidently climbed a tree to escape his attackers, but been shot down from his hiding place.

The Janjaweed - a militia drawn from Arab tribes in both Darfur and Chad - had clashed with local African tribesmen.

The Africans used neolithic weapons: bows and arrows, spears and swords. These were no use against the well-armed Arabs who possessed AK-47s, M-14 automatic rifles, grenades and even anti-tank weapons which had been supplied from Sudan. Survivors said the fight lasted on and off for two days and left 118 tribesmen dead. It's not known how many casualties they managed to inflict on the Janjaweed - probably none.

When the battle was over, the Janjaweed turned their attention to the local villages, burning and looting. Today the survivors manage as best they can in camps. The villages they lived in are now empty, except for the Janjaweed presence which remains so menacing that it is dangerous for locals even to go back and bury their dead. When they did return on an earlier occasion, they were shot at.

Our guides had brought shovels and pickaxes. They dug a shallow hole in the ground then manoeuvred the body into it. The dead man was a herdsman named Adiet Adam, 30 years old, father of three young children.

After he was buried Adam's fellow tribesmen gathered round the grave and recited prayers. Then they were very anxious to hurry off for fear of attack.

This story, though shocking, is familiar from the three-year-old Darfur conflict. But this massacre was new. It occurred in Chad, near the village of Djawara, some 45 miles from the Sudan border. The Janjaweed, having patented their techniques in the Darfur laboratory, are moving into the export market. With the support of the Khartoum government and inspired by a grim Arab racist ideology, they are ethnically cleansing eastern Chad. According to survivors, the Janjaweed shouted, 'Djaoub al nubia' - kill the Nuba - during the massacre.

We can be precise about which date the horror inside Sudan adapted to take on this virulent new life. On 18 December 2005 an army of Chadean rebels launched a failed attack on the border town of Adre. These rebels came from inside Darfur. Like the marauding bands of Janjaweed, they were sponsored by the government in Khartoum.

Since last December, with steadily mounting intensity, the Janjaweed have followed the Chadean rebels across the border. They come over mainly in small groups, on horses and camels, armed with automatic weapons and rocket-launchers, murdering and thieving cattle as they go. Some attackers wear Sudanese army khakis. According to Human Rights Watch, whose researchers have displayed great courage and dedication in documenting these incursions into Chad, Sudanese troops and helicopter gunships participate directly in some of these assaults.

Human Rights Watch has collected evidence of these devastating air-to-ground assaults against Chadean villages ranging from partly exploded rockets, shrapnel, stabilising fins to handfuls of flechettes - metal darts that are dispersed by anti-personnel ordnance.

We saw the effect of these incursions as we made the drive south from Adre along the lawless Chad/Sudan border. Many of the villages along the route are now deserted. …

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