peace push for darfur

Eiman Abulgasim Seifeldin. Pic. Mbuzeni Zulu. 13/02/08. © Sowetan.
Eiman Abulgasim Seifeldin. Pic. Mbuzeni Zulu. 13/02/08. © Sowetan.

Eric Naki

She is proud to be a freedom fighter. She is even more proud to be the wife of the liberation struggle leader in Darfur.

When Eiman Abulgasim Seifeldin, pictured, speaks about the struggle and yearning for freedom by the people of Darfur, Sudan, she feels like crying, saying people and the world don't understand the reality of their plight enough.

In an interview with Sowetan during the Pan African Women's Organisation congress in Ekurhuleni last week, Seifeldin described in moving detail the oppression, murder and rape of women and children at the hands of the Janjaweed, an Arab militia backed by the Sudan government.

Seifeldin is a guerilla and a member of the Sudan Liberation Army, the military wing of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), Darfur's most popular and one of the two main rebel groups fighting against Khartoum.

The other is the Sudanese People Liberation Movement (SPLM), with the Sudanese People's Liberation Army as its military wing.

She is married to Abdolwahid Nur, the SLM guerilla leader, who hid in the Jebel Marra mountains where he formed a liberation army with young people he had recruited from surrounding villages. Nur was earlier arrested but mistakenly released after three months and fled to establish his headquarters in the mountains.

Seifeldin describes the oppression against Darfur people as "systematic and very similar to the apartheid system against blacks in South Africa".

Sudan has more than 150 tribes but Muslims dominate and run the country. They are blamed for the atrocities carried out by the Janjaweed.

"I am also a Muslim, but there are other important religious groups such as Christians, Kujur and non-believers. Though most of us are Muslim, we don't want Islam to dominate. We are against the oppression of the black tribes in Sudan," says Seifeldin.

As SLM members, they refused to sign the comprehensive peace accord because they believed it was a farce and had no implementation mechanism, it failed to provide for power-sharing and failed to address land claims and reparations for genocide survivors.

The 2001 accord was sponsored by East African countries.

"The accord, for instance, assumes that sharia law should be implemented in northern Sudan but not in the south. This law is implemented against people who are not Muslims and that is a problem," she says.

The law is also applied in non-Muslim parts of Darfur, a region with a population of about 10 million mainly black tribes, according to Sudan government figures. It is rich in oil, minerals like uranium, water and livestock.

"What we want is simple - power-sharing. Since independence in 1956, we have never been in government, we never ruled our country. The government always sent people from other regions to rule Darfur," said Seifeldin.

Until 1916 when it was annexed by Khartoum and declared a "closed area", Darfur was a kingdom with embassies worldwide, its own currency and postal stamp under the last monarch, King Ali Dinnar.

By being "closed", no development took place and oppression and discrimination intensified against inhabitants of the area.

"We want to be part of power-sharing to ensure equal distribution of resources and this must be reflected in development. In Darfur we have no electricity, no piped water. We get water from the wells. We want hospitals and schools. You have to go to Khartoum to get better facilities or a degree," said Seifeldin.

The SLM also wants the Janjaweed and other militias to be disarmed and dismantled.

"The Janjaweed are burning down our houses, looting property and raping women and children in the villages," she says.

According to Doctors Without Borders, women as old as 80 and children as young as six were being raped.

"Women and children are vulnerable, they get raped by the Janjaweed when they go to collect water and wood," she told conference delegates.

As recently as February 8, three Darfur towns - Siba Sirba, Abu Suruj and Sileia - were bombarded and 47 civilians killed and hundreds injured, while about 1200 people fled into Chad.

Since the strife intensified in Darfur in 2003, statistics issued by various anti-genocide groups say about 400000 people have been killed and 3000 homes burnt down.

Of those killed, the biggest massacres took place in Wadi Saleh, Singta, Khazanjadeed and Derbat, carried out by the Janjaweed.

Human Rights Watch accuses the Janjaweed militias of systematic attacks on black Sudanese peasants, and claims government forces are starving black Sudanese to death in concentration camps.

At least 2,5 million Darfurians have been displaced since the war started in 2003. The SLM and SPLM, frustrated by poverty and neglect, rose up against the government in February 2003.

Seifeldin alleged that the Sudan government supplies international terrorism with insurgents from Chad trained by Khartoum. Sudan has become a mecca for Al Qaeda members.

Janjaweed leader Ali Kosheb and another unnamed official are wanted by the International Court of Justice in The Hague for Darfur genocide.

Kosheb was the most senior Janjaweed commander in Wadi Saleh area in west Darfur.

President Umar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan has refused to cooperate with Moreno Acamba, chief prosecutor of the court, to hand over Kosheb.

"We urge African leaders to help restore the dignity and justice of the people of Sudan. The Sudan government must become serious about peace," Seifeldin said.

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