Thursday, May 20, 2004
Barefoot and half-naked, Hamesa Adam carried two sons on her back for six days across the searing Sudanese desert. Two other children, missing their dead father, walked barefoot, and two more rode a donkey.
But 6-year-old Mohammed, one of the children on the donkey, got weaker and weaker.
He cried constantly, clutching at his side. There was not enough food. On the fourth day, Mohammed struggled off the donkey and fell onto the sand.
They buried him nearby, about 2 feet down, placing branches on the grave to keep animals from digging up his body.
This is the story of the Adam family, Sudanese farmers chased from their homes by Arab militias on horses and camels who swept down on their village, Selti, about three months ago with a kind of ruthless, medieval wrath: killing, raping, looting, burning. Some attacked in Land Cruisers mounted with automatic weapons. From the air, two helicopters strafed the village.
About 100,000 farmers in the Darfur region of western Sudan have made the same epic journey as the Adam family these past weeks and months, fleeing west into Chad....
Some refugees say that Khartoum government forces have taken part in the scorched-earth attacks, swooping down on villages with helicopters and Antonov planes. Human Rights Watch, based in New York, reported that government forces, allied with the Arab militias, carried out widespread ethnic killings and dispossession.
The Arab militias, mainly herdsmen, are terrorizing black African farmers from the Zaghawa, Fur and Massalit tribes and grabbing the spoils: land, stock, money and anything else they can steal. The Arab-dominated government in Khartoum denies it controls the militias, but observers point out that it serves the government's interests to repress areas where it is fighting rebels.