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Darfur crisis crosses borders

Violence threatens to drag Chad and the Central African Republic into a regional war.

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For the past three years, Arab militiamen have helped Sudan's government quell a rebellion in Darfur by slaughtering the region's mostly black African population and leaving behind a trail of rape, murder, and destruction. The result: more than 200,000 dead and 2 million displaced in what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian emergency.

At the very least, however, the violence in western Sudan was mostly confined to its borders.

No more.

The crisis in Darfur has exploded in recent weeks, and now threatens to drag fragile neighboring countries into a regional war.

Both Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) have become engulfed in fighting that involves a toxic mix of rebel groups, government forces, armed militias, and civilians.

"It's not a steady deterioration," Jan Egeland, the outgoing UN humanitarian chief, told reporters last week. "It's a free fall, and it includes Darfur, eastern Chad, and northern Central African Republic."

In the past month alone, nearly 60,000 Darfurians have been forced from their homes to escape massacre at the hands of Arab militias known as the janjaweed. Aid workers, UN personnel, and independent observers say the janjaweed are backed by Sudan's government, but Khartoum has repeatedly denied this charge.

In eastern Chad, hundreds of aid workers have been evacuated due to increased hostilities between military forces and anti-government rebel groups, while Arab militiamen have ventured deeper into the country to conduct assaults, resulting in the displacement of nearly 100,000 Chadians.

And atrocities committed by a variety of rebel groups and armed bandits over the past few months have forced tens of thousands of people from the CAR to cross the border into Chad.

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