Traveling throughout the Sudanese region of Darfur and neighboring refugee camps during the mid-2000s, we saw firsthand evidence of the monster the Sudanese regime had built to carry out a genocide. The government organized, armed and deployed militias, known then as the “Janjaweed,” alongside the regular army as the primary instruments of its killing machine. Ethnic cleansing and mass rape were the Janjaweed’s weapons of choice.
Fast forward to the present: Massive peaceful protests that erupted throughout Sudan in mid-December led to the removal in April of Sudan’s 30-year dictator, Omar al-Bashir. In May, the protesters’ leadership and the military leaders who assumed power after the coup reached a tentative deal to establish civilian rule in the country, agreeing on a three-year transition to democraticelections and granting power to civilian-controlled institutions. Massive peaceful protests continued during and after the negotiations, as demonstrators kept pushing to dismantle the violent, undemocratic kleptocratic system built up during al-Bashir’s reign.
But there was one big problem with the deal. The big losers in such an arrangement would be al-Bashir’s allied generals, who had looted the country with impunity for 30 years, and the Janjaweed militias, who would no longer have free, lawless rein in their areas of deployment.
As a result, on June 3, Sudanese security forces spearheaded by the Janjaweed attacked a major protester encampment. Now known by the deceptively anodyne term “Rapid Support Forces,” the Janjaweed militias over the last few days have killed more than 100 unarmed protesters, dumping many bodies in the Nile River, as well as raping, whipping and robbing Sudanese civilians throughout Khartoum. Hundreds more are missing and feared dead. Janjaweed have raided several hospitals and assaulted medical staff. Internet and phone networks are blocked to limit communication. The regime’s military leaders cancelled the agreements it had reached with the protesters and instead called for quick elections that they will surely rig in their favor.
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