Mon, Nov 17, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Refugees seeking justice over peace

AP , KALMA CAMP, SUDAN

Refugees in this crowded camp — where mass graves hold the victims of one of the bloodiest Sudanese government attacks against them — see little hope in a new drive for peace aimed at ending the nearly six-year war in Darfur. What they want is justice.

For many of the refugees, that means putting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on trial for genocide.

Khalthoum Adam, a 50-year-old woman in Kalma Camp, says that peace deal or no, without a trial she won’t return to her home village not far from Kalma. She fears violence by Arab camel herders she says are still holding the land she and her family were driven out of by attacking planes and government militia five years ago.

“They will be sending us to another danger” if camp residents are forced to return home as part of a peace agreement, she said. “If [al-Bashir] doesn’t go to trial, we will stay in the camps.”

Adam spoke as she emerged from Kalma with a group of women to collect grain from nearby fields, guarded by UN peacekeepers to prevent the frequent attacks on women who dare step out of the camps.

FEARS

Distrust of al-Bashir and his Arab-led government is deep and bitter among the 2.7 million mostly ethnic Africans driven from their homes. Some observers say their fears must be taken into account amid new, still struggling efforts to get Darfur rebel leaders and the government back to the negotiating table.

After the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced genocide charges against al-Bashir last summer, international observers and Sudan’s allies warned that if the court pushes ahead, the regime could lash out and wreck any peace process.

Next week, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo is to present details to the Hague-based court outlining what he says is al-Bashir’s role in overseeing the systematic targeting of Darfur’s main Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes. Based on that, the judges are to make a final decision on the indictment and on issuing an arrest warrant.

Al-Bashir has sought to avert prosecution by presenting himself as indispensable for peace. He launched a new initiative on Wednesday, offering a ceasefire to rebels and announcing his willingness to meet some of their top demands.

His move comes as the UN and Qatar try to stitch together yet another round of peace talks between the government and Darfur’s multiple rebel groups. So far, the rebels have rejected a ceasefire. They say concrete steps must come first.

Up to 300,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in early 2003.

In the eyes of many Darfur refugees, justice is the only way to peace. Al-Bashir, they say, simply will never make peace, and the ICC is the only way to remove him


STRONGHOLDS

They are convinced his talk of a resolution aims only to force them out of camps to drain what have become strongholds for rebels.

The government has made no secret of its desire to empty the camps.

“These camps are used by the rebels to ignite public opinion against the government. We have the right to find a way to make the displaced return home,” said Sorour Abdullah, the government Humanitarian Affairs Coordinator in Nyala.

Some Darfurians are convinced security can only come with regime change in Khartoum and that trying al-Bashir will bring that about.

Many observers warn that more hardline figures could take his place.

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