- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 18, 2004

ATLANTA — Arab militias accused of killing thousands of black African villagers in western Sudan are highly organized, with gruesome tasks such as looting, raping and killing assigned to dedicated units, Western relief workers said yesterday. But the workers stopped short of calling the militia’s actions “genocide” for fear of being expelled by the Sudanese government.

“Unfortunately, we rely on our relationship with the government of Sudan for operational permits that give us access to populations in distress,” said Gerald Martone, director of emergency response for the International Rescue Committee, a New York-based refugee aid organization.

“We can’t have an antagonistic relationship with them, so it causes a great deal of consternation for us, as aid workers, to work alongside a government who we feel is, perhaps, also complicit in this.”

Sudan has been embroiled in a 20-year civil war, driven in part by the government’s desire to transform the country into a Muslim state and a hunger for self-determination in the southern, non-Muslim part of the country.

Two million Sudanese had been killed and almost 4 million had been displaced by the time both sides sat down for the latest phase of peace talks last year.

In the midst of those talks, rebels in the western province of Darfur began their own insurgency against the government, in hopes of winning self-determination as well.

In response, Mr. Martone said, the government unleashed local Arab militias called “janjaweed” to quash the revolt. Villages were bombed, and janjaweed on horseback massacred, raped and robbed those left alive at a rate of hundreds a day.

“The way these militias have carried out their raids into these villages is particularly diabolical,” Mr. Martone said at a panel discussion at the Atlanta-based Carter Center.

“It’s diabolical because they’re efficient. These militia groups are divided into groups that are responsible for burning, for razing farms, for burning homes, for stealing livestock, for stealing property. There are even groups of men on horses who are responsible for raping women and girls.”

The United Nations estimates that about 120,000 Darfurian refugees have fled to Chad and that 1 million more are displaced throughout the region.

Because the foreign presence in the region is small, Mr. Martone said, there are no exact statistics on how many people have been killed.

Mr. Martone said some of the Darfurians he met spoke openly about janjaweed militias riding through their villages screaming “Kill the Negroes” and “The black Africans must go.”

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