Monitor sounds alarm on Darfur

By Katherine Clad, The Washington Times, 11 March 2005

Former Marine Capt. Brian Steidle yesterday relayed his accounts of genocide in Sudan and urged the United States to take immediate action rather than engage in prolonged debate in the United Nations.

In Washington as part of what Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, termed a “campaign of awareness,” Mr. Steidle just returned from six months in Darfur as a monitor with the African Union (AU).

He said there was no doubt about the Sudanese government's role in the killings and systematic rape of girls and women.

“The difference between the government and the rebels is that the rebels attack the military and the Sudan government goes into the villages with the express purpose to kill people,” he said.

Mr. Steidle, 28, left the Marine Corps in 2003 and spent seven months working on the north-south cease-fire in Sudan as an international observer before moving to Darfur for a job with the AU.

As he spoke, a monitor displayed photographs he had taken in Darfur, including smoke plumes ballooning from destroyed villages and charred bodies and skeletons.

The 21-year civil war in southern Sudan expanded in 2003 to the western region as the Sudanese government, faced with opposition by two rebel movements, the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, turned to ethnic Arab militias.

Known as “Janjaweed,” these militias were armed, trained and deployed by the government. By the end of 2004, Human Rights Watch said, hundreds of villages were destroyed, 70,000 people were dead and almost 6 million had been removed from their homes, creating the world's largest population of internally displaced people.

Although the government denies any complicity and claims that it is unable to disband or rein in the Janjaweed, it has refused to accept international help to end the calamity.

Human Rights Watch says the government has been incorporating Janjaweed members into the police forces, army and government Islamist militia.

Mr. Steidle described witnessing an attack in the Labado area of psouthern Darfur, home to 27,000 people, and watching in horror as government forces claimed that they were unable to do anything, with one saying, “These are not my people.”

He told of the drone of flies that greeted his group before they set foot in one destroyed village. “You could not walk around without stepping on bones,” he said.