Home | Comment & Analysis    Thursday 15 September 2011

Chaos and Displacement for Darfurians in Libya Conflict


By Anne Bartlett

September 13, 2011 — The misfortunes of the people of Darfur are seemingly without end. Forced to leave Darfur in the first instance due to economic marginalization and lack of work; in the second instance due to conflict, they have now been displaced for a third time as a result of the battle to oust Gaddafi. For those who headed into Libya in search of work and a future for their families, their prospects now appear pretty bleak. The heady days of the Arab Spring and the freedom of the Libyan people from the yoke of Gaddafi may bring unremitting joy for the citizens of the country, yet for many Darfurians, Libyan freedom has brought with it a new kind of oppression: the fear of being identified as an African mercenary from Mali or elsewhere on the Sahel.

Today frightened Darfurians are the object of arbitrary violence and oppression by the new friends of the West: The National Transitional Council (NTC). Stuck with many other Africans inside Libya in NTC areas of control, they are forced to either stay in their homes for fear of beating or extra-judicial killing, or if they go out, risk the fact that they may never return. Remaining in one’s home is hardly a safe option either: in many cases Darfurians have received a knock at the door in the middle of the night by armed men who confiscate their property or threaten to kill them – sometimes both. Irrespective of the fact that many are working in menial jobs and have nothing to do with either Gaddafi or mercenaries, the threats continue unabated. Often they are made in front of terrified children who find the situation so stressful that they cannot sleep anymore.

If staying in one’s home is a dangerous prospect, then leaving to make it to a border zone is hardly a better alternative. In fact, those who have made it to refugee camps such as Saloom on the Egyptian/Libyan border or Shusha on the Tunisian border, are treated as troublemakers and subjected to harsh and degrading treatment. In Saloom camp – which is located in the desert in arid conditions – 2600 Darfurians have been left with minimal food (only jam and bread since there are no cooking facilities), very little water and no medicine despite the fact there are many sick people. They are not the only ones there. There are also thousands of other Africans who have also been subjected to this racist and abusive behavior. Today they languish in these camps with little chance of release.

Those who try to leave the camp have been treated as target practice by NTC forces and subjected to arrest or beatings. Currently 3 Darfurians have been placed in detention by the NTC and their exact whereabouts are unknown. All routes are now blocked for escape. Not only is the way blocked to Tunisia or Egypt, but the road south through Kufra is also extremely dangerous. Keen to make sure that Darfurians do not return home, the Sudanese government has positioned many of its forces on the Chad/Sudan/Libya border in order to block their way.

Of course, it should come as no surprise that the Libyan people are worried about migrants from the Sahel. This is particularly the case given the fact that Gaddafi has supported mercenaries and rebel training schools for decades. Acting as a cross border arms smuggling conduit and a nursery for extremists from the Tuareg rebels from Mali or Niger, the IRA, the Janajwiid and countless others, it is clear why the people of Libya are worried about the potential threat from outside mercenaries. However, this is not the fault of Darfurian people who have themselves also been subjected to many of these threats. They must not be held accountable for Gaddafi’s irresponsible actions. They need help since their plight is actually worse than Libyans, and they are now facing the double disaster of being displaced not only from their own country, but from a second one as well.

Of course, the obvious answer to the problems is that the Sudanese government should repatriate their citizens. After all, they have evacuated considerable numbers of Northern Sudanese back to Khartoum. But for Darfurians, there is nowhere to go. Since the onset of conflict in Darfur they are without a home and without a nation to help them. The Sudanese government neither cares nor intends to do anything about their plight.

On the day that Mustafa Abdul Jalil of the National Transitional Council addresses the people of Libya for the first time, it is also high time that the situation of those on its borders is recognized. It is time to remind Libya that racist treatment of African migrant workers is not acceptable. It is also time to remind them that their brothers in Darfur have already suffered enough. For the international community, it is time that assistance for Libya’s new government is made contingent on the cessation of human rights abuses. The West is currently in a position to leverage considerable pressure and they should put it to use by helping Darfurians whom they have thus far failed to assist in their own country.

If the Libyan NTC cannot give such guarantees then it is incumbent on the UK Foreign Office, the French and others involved in the military campaign to arrange for safe passage of these innocent people to an alternative location. Failure to do this will lead to substantial loss of life as conditions worsen in these makeshift camps. With the current level of sickness and lack of treatment, things are likely to go from bad to worse soon. Moreover, as the conflict in enters a new decade in Darfur, one thing is for sure: the people of the region do not need any more deaths or humanitarian catastrophes in their lives. Action to help those in Libya must therefore be taken now, before it is too late.

Dr. Anne Bartlett is a Professor of Sociology and International Studies at the University of San Francisco. She may be reached at: albartlett@usfca.edu

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  • 15 September 2011 11:30, by mohammed ali

    ((Acting as a cross border arms smuggling conduit and a nursery for extremists from the Tuareg rebels from Mali or Niger, the IRA, the Janajwiid and countless others, it is clear why the people of Libya are worried about the potential threat from outside mercenaries. ))

    The Janjweed!

    For sure it is not the fault of the Darfur people. Darfur people are the victim of your " ruthless" agenda to interfer in Sudan and try to " regime change"!

    It is obvious that, when you try to distort facts or simply try to lie , how much damage you and your likes have inflicted on Darurians and on the Sudanese people in general. The whole world know that Darfur rebels are armed and supported by Gadafi. The whole world know that they were fighting with him. Yet , you tell us that he was supporting the so called " janjweed" .This is a big lie; malacious and detremental one!

    For years you have being telling the world that the " janjweed" were supported by the government of Sudan, now you are telling us that they were supported by Gadafi and that the government of Sudan is refusing or not willing to repatriate them back home! What a contradiction! What a lie !

    You have been encouraging everyone who has the slightest problem in Darfur even if it is just a personal economical one, to be a rebel untill we reached more than 30 factions of the " freedom fighters!" Many of them suddenly found themselves on the most prestigious tv screens, in full suit, living in the best hotels and have a valet to open the car’s door for them;and the money is flowing and the pockets are " inflating"..while the suffering of the people of Darfur and Sudan is on the rise.

    Billions were collected in the name of Darfur, yet only few pennies trickled down to the people of Darfur. Most if not all of it went to the " humanaterian industry" organisations and their advocates. What a bussiness!

    You say tha government is evacuating " northern Sudanese" only! I thought according to your classifications the South had already gone and now we are all northern Sudanese including Darfurians. Or, you are planing to divide us again! The fact remains , the government repatriated all Sudanese including Darfurians who are " northerners" except members of the rebels faction who are not willing to go back for fear of reprisal either by the Lybian or the Sudanese authorities. In this instance the government should and must approach and reassure them to come back home as soon as possible. They are victims of the " humanaterian industry" organisations and the failed " leaders" of the rebels!

    In your sociology luctures you should start teaching that " shaping" or manipulating other communities according to the " ideology" of another community and " regime change" from outside , donnot work. It did not work with Hitler , it did not work with Stalin and recently it did not work with Bush in Iraq!

    They all failed.The biggest mistake in America is that they believe that the failure of communism is due to pressure from outside! Failure was "embedded" in the communist system in Europe.

    Change comes from the people as it happened in Egypt, Tunisia , Lybia and Yemmen; without your interference, against your wish and against dictators whom you supported and was without your help " including Gadafi , whom you supported in commiting crimes against basic human rights".All they came as a surprise to you and you were not at all able to predict anything with all of your organisation of espionage!

    repondre message

  • 15 September 2011 12:30, by Akol Liai Mager

    Dear Anne Bartlett,

    You always come up on the right time with great analysis about Darfur’s Conflict. You deserve to be the winner of the Peace Noble Prize awarded to Barack Hussein Bn Obama in few months in office even before receiving the first reports from his advisors on World’s Peace.

    Of course, NTC is not only against Africans on the race-basis, it is against the humanity due to its’ motivation. Look how brutal the NTC’s men are, they slaughter Abdel Fatah Younis in cold blood despite being a Libyan national.

    I believe what we can only expect from the NTC is more massacres, wide spread human rights abuses and denial of rights against the Libyan people leave alone other nationals such as Darfurians.

    The West, especially Sarkozi, Cameron and Barack will regret their intervention in wrong Venue very soon unless they can send the ground troops to occupy Libya and prepare more body-bags for their soldiers.

    I am deeply offended by the words used by the three mentioned leaders and their military commanders in defend of their military action in Libya. They always say Gaddafi was about to kill his own people. What the Hell call Al-Bashir has done and still doing right now in Northern Sudan? Al-Bashir killed 3 millions in the South, 300,000 in Darfur, and who knows he has already killed other two or more millions in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

    French, British and American people should rise against these three Oil thirsty creatures Sarkozi, Cameron and Obama.

    The NTC is the Al-Qaeda created body and is just interested in the NATO Operations to only eliminated Gaddafi’s power and nothing beyond that.

    Dear Anne, please keep up advocating for African Northern Sudanese who are subjected to ethnic-cleansing and Darfurians in particular.

    May God bless you, and bless Darfurians, Nuba, Angessenas and Beja,

    Akol Liai

    repondre message

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