President Bashir is angry at the rebels today, says Al Jazeera. For once I share his sentiments. Not that I think there's any one party whose doing more foot-dragging than another at the Abuja peace talks...today I have my own reasons.
At a camp in Darfur this morning, I try to get some of the men to explain to me in detail where the boundaries between government, militia, and rebel soldiers lie, and what this means for security in the area that we are visiting. As usual, things are complicated and endlessly contested, but overall there seems to be agreement that this is a rebel (SLA) held area.
I tell them I'm confused: in my meeting with the women earlier, there were just as many complaints of rape and beatings from those who wander outside the camp to collect firewood as there are in any other camp. I may be naive here, but I thought it was the Janjaweed raping the women rather than the rebels? Are there Janjaweed or government soldiers around the camp, HERE, in a rebel area?
Well, there are, I am told haltingly. The term Janjaweed is used in the widest possible sense by most people, so I try to be specific. Just bandits then? No no, actual militias. Yes, the ones responsible for the attacks. The discussion goes back and forth, but finally I establish that a lot of the men feel that the rebels are intentionally letting a small number of militias stay in the area to make sure the security incidents don't go away COMPLETELY.
"If there are no deaths, no rape, nothing, then you khawajas will not come here, they are saying. It's just a tactic that the rebels are using."
It is true that the camps in rebel areas are woefully underserviced and make you want to cry in frustration when you see them, while places like Abu Shouk in North Darfur (a government-controlled area) almost look like sanitized film sets with dozens of agencies operating programmes on health, education, water, sanitation, livelihoods (there is even, yes brace yourself, a pasta-making project).
So is getting your people killed, beaten and raped by the enemy really a valid way of attracting more aid?
There are lots of reports flying around on 'protection' issues here in Darfur (HPG, UK House of Commons). Everybody has opinions on concepts like 'protection by presence'; there are protection working groups, meetings and matrices. But somehow I have a feeling none of them will give me answer to questions like this one. Not for the first time this week, I am dreading the curfew and all that time it gives me to think about issues so fucked up that no one should really be debating them at all.
Tags: sudan, darfur, Al Jazeera, HPG, House of Commons, protection of civilians, SLA