Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Darfur Expands

The horrific massacres in Darfur by militias armed and sponsored by Sudan's government has been showing signs of moving beyond Sudan's borders for a long time. The attempts have grown ever more blatant, though, with the Janjaweed apparently unwilling to let the people of Darfur escape into neighboring Chad.

The chaos in Darfur, the war-ravaged region in Sudan where more than 200,000 civilians have been killed, has spread across the border into Chad, deepening one of the world's worst refugee crises.

Darfur War Spreads Arab gunmen from Darfur have pushed across the desert and entered Chad, stealing cattle, burning crops and killing anyone who resists. The lawlessness has driven at least 20,000 Chadians from their homes, making them refugees in their own country.

Hundreds of thousands more people in this area, along with 200,000 Sudanese who fled here for safety, find themselves caught up in a growing conflict between Chad and Sudan, which have a long history of violence and meddling in each other's affairs.

"You may have thought the terrible situation in Darfur couldn't get worse, but it has," Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, said in a recent statement. "Sudan's policy of arming militias and letting them loose is spilling over the border, and civilians have no protection from their attacks, in Darfur or in Chad."

Indeed, the accounts of civilians in eastern Chad are agonizingly familiar to those in western Sudan. One woman, Zahara Isaac Mahamat, described how Arab men on camels and horses had raided her village in Chad, stealing everything they could find and slaughtering all who resisted.

And no longer is this only about Sudan perpetrating a genocide within its own borders. It's spreading. And as Darfur has been basically destroyed, these murdering gangs are probably ready to turn Chad into their next killing field. Combine that with the utterly unapologetic attitude of Sudan's government for arming these killers, especially Bashir, who was recently noted for saying "Darfur will be a graveyard for any foreign troops" that might intervene. Well, now the violence is beyond Sudan's own borders, and has turned into state-sponsored terrorism and genocide against its neighbors, and not just it's own citizens. Ignoring this problem is only going to make it worse in an already unstable environment. Something must be done. Too bad only the US has been pushing for a larger UN force.