Less attention has been devoted to the SLA rebels, who said they started the conflict to defend the rights of Darfur's African tribes but now preside over corners of acute suffering and desperation on the frontiers of Africa's largest country.
A week spent traveling through rebel-held areas showed the SLA to be an ill-equipped, untrained and disorganized group, with child fighters among its ragtag ranks. Its grand ambitions are not matched by its resources. The only thing the rebels don't seem to be lacking is motivation.
"Give us 500 cars with mounted machine guns and we'll take Khartoum in one month," proclaimed Bahar Ibrahim, a top adviser in the SLA's political wing, referring to Sudan's capital. A graying wisp of man, Ibrahim said over sugary tea at a base camp in the town of Bahai that he admired the ferocity of American action movies and spaghetti westerns. "We can act like that," he said. ...
... SLA leaders speak with ferocity about the Arab government in Khartoum, which they say has discriminated against generations of black Africans. They see themselves as heroes defending the lives of tribal members who have not fled to disease-ridden camps that the government runs.
SLA leaders, like the commanders of the Janjaweed, refuse to silence their guns. Peace talks in Nigeria between SLA rebels and the government stalled last week, as the sides argued over who scuttled attempts at a cease-fire.... The rebels control a vast countryside where an estimated 130,000 civilians are beyond the reach of food and medical aid that those in the government-held areas are slowly receiving. ...
Aid groups say they believe there are tens of thousands of people struggling to survive in rebel areas, sealed off from aid. The government will not permit aid agencies to travel into rebel-held areas, arguing that the SLA will steal the food. The U.N. food agency has recently been granted access by rebel groups to study the needs in the region, entering through Chad or circumventing government troops.
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
SLA rebels in Darfur (western Sudan) who are fightin against the genocide being committed by the militias. While groups like these try to protect suffering, they are often treated as part of the problem rather than the solution. They can even be villified for their techniques, sometime criminal. Such was the case with Kagame's army of Tutsi and the KLA in Kosovo.