As Humans Are
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
New York Times Op-Ed
October 13, 2004
Hawa Moussa Abdullah was lucky enough to
survive the first round of murder here in Darfur, but all the
international outrage at Sudan's genocide isn't helping her much.
She and her four children are still having to live like hunted
She is one of more than 500,000 victims
of the Darfur genocide who are beyond the reach of international
aid. The inability to reach victims is one reason the United Nations
describes Darfur as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world
So Ms. Hawa and her children gather wild
seeds to eat, and they huddle under trees at night. They live
in constant terror that the Sudanese Army or the militia it financed,
the Janjaweed, will find them and kill them all.
The Army and the Janjaweed attacked her
village early this year. The thatched huts were burned, and village
wells were filled with rubble or corpses. Ms. Hawa's husband disappeared
and presumably was killed.
Most of the village's survivors escaped
to Chad or to camps outside the cities. It is the frail - the
young, the old, the infirm - who remain, stuck in a war zone with
no way to flee. Ms. Hawa was heavily pregnant and could not make
the journey to Chad, a four-day trip by camel.
So she hides with her children in the hills.
She gave birth under a tree with the help of an elderly neighbor
who was also too weak to escape. Ms. Hawa tries to nurse her baby
daughter, but she has little milk and the infant is scrawny.
"It's like we're being hunted,"
said a woman from the village of Karakil, 60-year-old Kultuma
Muhammad. "We're still staying outside, because of fear.
We're terrified, and besides, our houses are burned."
The Sudanese government refuses to give
me a visa so I came here on my own, sneaking across the border
into Darfur from neighboring Chad.
The area is desolate and throbs with malevolence,
with villages burned and abandoned and survivors hiding from the
Janjaweed and the Sudanese Army. Tearing across the desert in
a pickup truck, I see more gazelles than humans. When survivors
see my vehicle, they tend to hide. And, frankly, when I see a
man, my impulse is to hide as well. That makes interviews difficult.
This area is controlled, to some degree,
by rebels of the Sudan Liberation Army. The rebels have also killed
and robbed civilians, but not nearly as often as the Sudanese
government. The limits of rebel discipline were underscored when
I rolled up to a rebel checkpoint: the commander scolded me for
not calling ahead because, he said, the rebels might have shot
me by mistake.
The stories of those hiding in Darfur are
heartbreaking. Zahra Mochtar Muhammad, from the village of Darma,
saw the Janjaweed kill her husband. In the chaos of the gunfire
and burning huts, she and her children ran in different directions,
and she lost her 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.
Later, she found her children's bodies
where they had died of thirst. They were together - the older
one had apparently tried to protect her brother.
Ms. Zahra's family had owned 100 camels,
50 sheep and 150 cattle - a net worth of more than $100,000 -
but now she is a homeless, penniless cavewoman. She and her four
surviving children, ages 5 to 10, live furtively under trees or
in abandoned huts, surviving on wild seeds.
"If I had transport, I would go to
Chad," she said. But she and two other widows' families have
only one donkey among them. Even if the adults and older children
could walk to safety, the younger ones could not.
It's progress that the world has denounced
the genocide without waiting the customary 10 years before wringing
its hands in regret. But there are many other steps the United
States could take: a no-flight zone, an arms embargo, an asset
freeze on businesses owned by Sudan's ruling party, and greater
teamwork with African and Islamic countries to exert more pressure
President Bush is already in the forefront
of the world leaders who have addressed the slaughter in Darfur,
and he has done far more than President Clinton did during the
Rwandan genocide. But there is so much more the United States
can still do.
Mr. President, you pride yourself on your
willingness to stand up to evil - so why do you remain so passive
in the face of such evil?