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    Half a million may die in Sudan genocide

    By Simon Robinson

    Monday, Jun. 28, 2004

    The rains have started to fall across the sandy plains of western Sudan. Soon the dry riverbeds will swell with water and the wadis will become impassable. The change in season may bring some respite from the killing campaign that has convulsed the region of Darfur over the past 16 months but it will bring fresh horrors as well. More than a million people seeking refuge and huddled in makeshift camps outside the largest towns are unable to get back to their farms to plant their crops. The rains will make it harder to distribute food rations. Delivery by road will become impossible, and airstrips may wash away. The camps are becoming open sewers, fueling the spread of diseases like cholera and dysentery. As many as half a million people could starve to death or succumb to illness.

    There is no good season in Sudan. Since February 2003 the farming region of Darfur has been riven by conflict. It was sparked by an uprising by black Africans against perceived government discrimination. Since then, government-sponsored militiamen known as Janjaweed have conducted a campaign to cleanse the area of Darfur's black African civilians. The Janjaweed are Arabs; the Darfurians are non-Arab blacks. Both are Muslim. The U.S., international observers and Darfurians who have fled their villages say the horse-mounted Janjaweed are backed by military forces from Sudan's Arab-dominated government. Survivors report that government helicopter gunships and planes have strafed and bombed Darfurian towns before and after the Janjaweed carried out their massacres. The U.N. and U.S. do not call the pogroms genocide in part because doing so could oblige the international community to intervene to save the Darfurians. But two weeks ago, Roger Winter, assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), told a Senate hearing that the Janjaweed's murders and rapes "raise questions about the [Darfurian] community's long-term ability to survive and re-establish itself."