ImageShack.usA 13-year-old’s drawing of an attack on his village:

“I am looking at the sheep in the wadi [riverbed]. I see Janjaweed coming – quickly, on horses and camels, with Kalashnikovs – shooting and yelling, `kill the slaves, kill the blacks.’ They killed many of the men with the animals. I saw people falling on the ground and bleeding. They chased after children. Some of us were taken, some we didn’t see again. All our animals were taken: camels, cows, sheep, and goats. Then the planes came and bombed the village.”

Human Rights Watch researchers Dr. Annie Sparrow and Olivier Bercault visited Chad in Feb. 2005 to assess the issues of protection and sexual violence in refugee camps along the Darfur/Chad border. As a pediatrician, Dr. Sparrow [asked the children to draw]. [T]he children drew scenes from their experiences of the war in Darfur: the attacks by the Janjaweed, the bombings by Sudanese government forces, the shootings, the burning of entire villages, and the flight to Chad.

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CAPTION: “A Sudanese mother and son attempt to approach a food and clothing distribution point as a “special policeman” tries to impose order in a camp for internally displaced people in West Darfur, October 2004. ©2004 EPA PHOTO.” Human Rights Watch photographs

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“As Sparrow and Bercault visited schools in refugee camps in Chad, many children between the ages of 8 and 17 shared the drawings they had done in their school notebooks, often alongside their lessons in Arabic or math.

“Schoolchildren from seven refugee camps and the border town of Tine offered Human Rights Watch‘s researchers hundreds of drawings in the hope that the rest of the world would see their stories as described in their own unique visual vocabulary of war.”

From The Guardian‘s blog: “Human Rights Watch calls it the ‘unique visual vocabulary of war‘. Drawings created by children in refugee camps along the Darfur/Chad border and collected by visiting HRW researchers in February 2005 have been published on HRW’s website along with each child’s explanation of what they were depicting: villages bombed by planes, women and girls being dragged away to be raped and Janjaweed militiamen shooting people from the backs of camels and horses.”

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usBlogger and BlogAfrica co-editor Ethan Zuckerman, who has seen the images at first hand, points out that the drawings provide visual evidence that is hard to obtain from Darfur, where press freedom is extremely limited.

He writes:

What amazed me was how details in the children’s drawings echoed details from the photos – the stocks of the automatic rifles, the round shape of the houses, the posture of two gunmen riding on horseback.

It was immediately clear to me that these drawings weren’t of weapons imagined by children, but eye witness accounts.

Can it be fixed?

Marc Lacey, in an exquisitely written essay for The New York Times on May 1, 2005, asks, “Peace Is in Sight, but Is Darfur Too Broken to Fix?”

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe Sudanese soldiers and allied militiamen who destroyed Darfur could empty out an entire village in something like 60 minutes flat.

They would swoop in fast in the early morning hours, their horses and camels sprinting, their trucks racing, their guns blazing. Within the space of that one calamitous hour they would obliterate the settlement, torching, raping and killing with ruthless efficiency.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usBut now, with some of the first tentative signs of peace settling over the area, the question is how, and even whether, their malign work can be undone.

It will be years before we know the answer. But it is already evident to diplomats and aid workers here that Darfur has been deeply changed by the war in ways that will be difficult to fix. They point to a litany of emerging problems: diminished water supplies; bitter land disputes; inflamed tribal animosities; the psychosocial traumas of rape and displacement; and a significant transfer of wealth in a place that has always been, and still is, desperately poor.

Note: The article is from the New York Times, but the drawings are from the children of Darfur, displayed at Human Rights Watch.

Lacey articulates the challenges of reconstructing what’s been destroyed by the long war:

  • “Vicious militiamen continue to rule the lawless hinterlands”
  • nearly two million people have fled their homes
  • many have now become “hooked” on city life
  • tribal tensions are escalating, property titles are nonexistent
  • the killers steal food aid
  • there are serious water shortages
  • the balance of wealth has been badly skewed
  • and then there’s the issue of rape.

In a May 3, 2005 op-ed in The Washington Post, Tom Malinowski, HRW‘s Washington Advocacy Director, bluntly goes after the Bush administration’s “ineffectual stand” on Darfur:

Repeating Clinton’s Mistakes

U.S. Response to the Crisis in Darfur

In his willingness to confront evil head-on, President Bush likes to think he’s more decisive than that mushy-headed multilateralist Bill Clinton. But when I look at the Bush administration’s response to what it has itself called genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, I can’t help thinking I’ve seen this movie before. It recalls the early Clinton administration (in which I served) and its initially ineffectual stand against genocide in Bosnia.


I have no doubt that the Bush administration cares about Sudan. The United States has done more than any other Western country for Darfur. To its credit, the administration even allowed the U.N. Security Council to refer the atrocities there to the International Criminal Court, despite its bitter opposition to this court.


There is only one sure path to saving lives in Darfur deploying a much larger military force with a clear mandate to protect civilians. The African Union should put in place a concrete plan to deploy more troops, at least 10,000, within a month. If the A.U. will not do that, the U.N. Security Council should immediately deploy a civilian protection force to do the job. And if the Security Council will not do that (because of, say, a Chinese veto), then NATO and the European Union should be prepared to step in. In any event, the United States and its allies should start planning now to provide logistical support and troops.  …

HRW’s list of “What You Can Do About Darfur”

  • Inform Yourself About Darfur: Read Human Rights Watch’s publications on Darfur. Besides HRW’s reports on abuses in Darfur, you can see our photo galleries from the region, watch video and listen to radio segments on the crisis in Western Sudan.
  • Write to Your Local Newspaper
  • Hold a Video Screening: Raise public awareness of the crisis in Darfur by inviting friends and neighbors to a screening of Human Rights Watch’s video “Darfur Destroyed,” now available in DVD format. … 
  • Write to the Members of the U.N. Security Council: Urge them to take action on Darfur to reverse ethnic cleansing and to open the region to humanitarian access. Ask the Security Council to do the following:
    • Ask the African Union, under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, to increase the number of troops on the ground in Darfur and to expand its mandate to include protection of civilians;
    • Fully support the African Union protective military and police mission;
    • Impose an arms embargo against the Sudanese government, with a mechanism for monitoring and enforcement
  • Write to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at
  • And much more

And there is the work of U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) with Sudanese refugees in Chad:

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Caption: UNHCR (U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees) Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie sits and speaks with Sudanese women who have just crossed the border into Tine, Chad, after fleeing fighting in the Darfur region of Sudan, in June 2004.

How You Can Help the UNHCR Program:

  • Internships
  • Donations (For example: $100 puts a survival kit, which includes necessities such as blankets, and a cooking & heating stove, into the hands of a refugee family, and $1,000 provides a therapeutic feeding kit, which helps feed 100 children.)
  • Careers and recruitment


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