What follows is a transcript of BBC Panorama's "New Killing Fields", first broadcast on 11 November 2004 on BBC One.
NB: THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A TRANSCRIPTION UNIT RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT: BECAUSE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF MIS- HEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY, IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS ACCURACY.
The New Killing Fields
HILARY ANDERSSON: Millions swallowed up into the camps of the desert. This is the Sudan the world sees, but what are the horrors these people have fled? Darfur's real nightmare has been hidden.
KALIMA: They raped me. There was nothing I could do.
ANDERSSON: Tonight we travel through the frontlines to tell of a desolate countryside littered with graves, of a land of mass killings.
KALIMA: They grabbed my child from me and threw him on the fire.
ANDERSSON: We ask is the first genocide of the 21st century happening now as we stand by? We set off on a journey into the unknown. This is deepest Darfur. We wanted to reach the remote mountains of Jebel Mara where we'd heard rumours of killings. We moved out of government territory secretly and headed into the war zone.
HILARY ANDERSSON: Any minute now we're going to be effectively - although it's just countrified and you can't really tell the difference - but we will effectively be crossing from the government controlled part of Darfur into the rebel controlled part of Darfur and that's where we'll meet our people and move from there on into Jebel Mara.
We saw armed men on the road. This was our first glimpse of Darfur's black African rebels. We stopped to negotiate access, they held the road from here.
Almost every African man and boy in this area has joined the rebels to fight Sudan's government. They're losing the battle. Darfur is being purged of black Africans.
We're picking up a bit of an escort here on our roofrack. I suppose they're going to escort us.
Our destination was a town called Kidinyir. To get there we had to pass through a dangerous area. There had been attacks near this road.
The commander we've just met is now worried about the safety of the road down to our destination because he says there's been some attacks on the road over the last few days, so he's just making a phone call to check what's happening and whether or not it's safe for us to proceed.
Hour after hour as we drove, the landscape was eerily deserted. This was rich farmland. There were miles of fields unattended. We came across African families on the move. They were carrying all their possessions. They were fleeing an attack by the Janjaweed, the dreaded Arab militia backed by Sudan's government. The Janjaweed have been slaughtering the Africans here.
What happened in the attack?
MAN: They went back, they came to attack and they returned back.
ANDERSSON: How many... what's the situation in Kidinyir?
MAN: Six people were attacked, six people died as a result of an attack by Janjaweed in Kidinyir.
MAN: Last night.
ANDERSSON: Last night. This raises the question of whether it's safe to go.
Eventually we decided to proceed. We were entering an area where the killers roamed freely. The Janjaweed militia have cast a shadow over vast tracks of Darfur. Where they are, there are no black Africans to be seen.
We reached the mountains of Jebel Mara, the ancient home of the African Fur Tribe that lends its name to Darfur. Some areas here have been cut off from outsiders for years. The killings here have never been documented.
At our destination hundreds of women have gathered. They'd heard outsiders were coming. Everyone wanted to tell of what they'd been through. These women were all from the Fur tribe. Everyone here had lost members of their family.
ANDERSSON: Did she lose any children?
TRANSLATOR: Yes, six years
ANDERSSON: Boy or girl?
TRANSLATOR: boy, a boy
ANDERSSON: She lost one boy?
TRANSLATOR: One boy, yes.
TRANSLATOR: Seven years
ANDERSSON: In the school, or not in the school?
TRANSLATOR: In the house.
ANDERSSON: In the house.
TRANSLATOR: Hawa Musa Juma
ANDERSSON: Hawa Musa Juma
Their testimonies were overwhelming. There were no men here. Most had been killed or had joined the rebels. A huge number of these women had been raped. Almost everyone had witnessed an atrocity. We asked just the women who had had children killed to gather.
ANDERSSON: A girl or a boy?
TRANSLATOR: In the house
ANDERSSON: Musa Ismail.
ANDERSSON: Did she lose any children?
TRANSLATOR: Six girls¿. She lost one boy. Two girls and one boy in school.
ANDERSSON: So she lost three children in the school.
TRANSLATOR: Mmm. Mmm.
ANDERSSON: After an hour we counted 80 children dead in Kidinyir alone and we hadn't counted them all. An evil had been unleashed on the black African population here, and there are hundreds of towns and villages like this in Darfur.
This is Kidinyir, it's a place that's utterly silent now. Five times this place was attacked, each time it was the same. First the Janjaweed surrounded the town, then Sudanese government planes bombed from the air. This is the evidence. As people tried to escape, the Janjaweed moved in. They methodically torched the houses, they killed without mercy.
HAWA: They attacked us in the early morning. As usual it started with the plane and the bombing, then the men came. They were on trucks, camels and horses. The people in the village started to run in all directions.
KALIMA: The planes were bombing. I told the children to run, but men on horseback and in trucks had already entered the village. I started to shout to my husband to run from the house. They shot him as he stepped from the door. I went back to help him. My son was clinging to my dress. An Arab looking man in a uniform with military insignia stopped his car next to me. He grabbed my son from me and threw him into a fire.
ANDERSSON: Kalima's son was 3 years old. The men then turned their attention to her.
KALIMA: They raped me. There was nothing I could do. Nothing I could do.
ANDERSSON: Hawa was on the outskirts of town. She heard her father and her ten year old son had been killed and started running home.
HAWA: Five of the men surrounded me. I was paralysed with fear. I could not get away. I was trapped. They raped me one after the other. After this I tried to find my father and my son.
ANDERSSON: At Kidinyir¿s school, children were sitting at their desks. A young teacher, Hikma, was about to start class, then she heard the planes and the gunfire.
HIKMA: We saw the Janjaweed coming into the school. The children started jumping from the windows and running from the school. Others were running into the building. The Janjaweed killed two or three children in their classrooms, and were shooting at others as they ran away. One of the Janjaweed raped me while the others pointed their guns at me. During the rape I was still hearing gunfire all around me.
HADIJAH: I found the body of my 4 year old son by the hospital. I picked him up and went looking for my other two children. I found them dead inside the school. They'd been hiding in the corner of the classroom. There were lots of dead children lying in front of the school.
ANDERSSON: Hadijah and the other survivors collected the bodies of the dead. They dug pits, some big enough to hold ten bodies each.
WOMAN: We had to block our noses with cotton to stop the smell when we buried the bodies. For three days we were carrying the dead to bury them. Their blood dried on my body. There is so much sadness. God forgive me, it would be better to be dead.
ANDERSSON: Cataloguing the immensity, the cruelty, of what happened here begs enormous questions.
Sudan's government says they bombed towns in Darfur to put down a regional uprising by the African rebels. But this attack is identical in pattern to many others in Darfur and the rebels are not the only targets.
If all of this, the ruthless and ongoing destruction of Kidinyir is just part of an attempt to put down a rebellion, then there are a lot of questions unanswered. Why were more than 80 children killed here, some of them shot at point blank range? Why were women targeted? The killing of black African civilians here in Kidinyir and across Darfur has been thorough, systematic and planned. So is this genocide?
In two years in Darfur it's estimated that tens of thousands of people have been kille. The estimates are still rising. The vast majority are black Africans. Summary executions of African men in groups of 60 to 70 have been documented.
The attacks have a clear pattern. Government planes bomb while Janjaweed militia move in to kill on the ground. At least 400 African villages have been scorched, the livestock taken, their wells filled in so no one can return. In past cases genocide has been proven by evidence of a repeated pattern of attacks on one ethnic group, in other words, by the facts on the ground.
KALIMA: They said they didn't like the Fur people, that's why they wanted them all wiped out.
ANDERSSON: In many of the attacks we catalogued, Darfur's killers spoke of extermination. They called their victims inferior, haunting echoes of the slave trade that thrived here for centuries.
HIKMA: They were saying: "The blacks are slaves, the blacks are stupid, catch them alive, tie them up, take them away with you." They would say: "Kill them." They were terrorising our people.
ANDERSSON: It was the horrors of the Holocaust that led to the creation of the word 'genocide'. An international convention was drawn up in 1948 to ensure that nothing like this could ever happen again. To prompt early intervention genocide was not defined as mass extermination, instead it was defined as the deliberate attempt to destroy an ethnic group. The definition was worded to ensure future genocides were stopped before they reached this terrifying scale.
The Convention says that genocide is "the intention to destroy an ethnic group, whether in whole or in part" and "whether by killing or harming." When Darfur's killings were at their height in April, the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan was in Geneva to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. Kofi Annan said the horrors of Rwanda had happened because the world failed to act.
CAPTION: 7th April 2004
CAPTION: KOFI ANNAN United Nations Secretary General:
KOFI ANNAN: One of the reasons for our failure in Rwanda was that beforehand we did not face the fact that genocide was a real possibility, and once it started for too long we could not bring ourselves to recognise it or call it by that name.
ANDERSSON: Now, almost two years after Darfur's killing started, the UN says it still can't be certain if genocide is occurring there.
It was this that woke the world up to the catastrophe that was unfolding. By April, months of massacres had gone largely unseen, but a million people on the move were harder to ignore. Vast refugee camps emerged in Darfur and across the border in Chad. Whole sections of Darfur's black population had been burnt out of their homes. In this squalor they sought salvation but death stalked them here.
CAPTION: June 2004
This is the first time the people here have been given any kind of food aid in weeks and it's the only food distribution for absolutely miles around. A million Darfurians face the prospect of starvation and the help they're being given here today is a drop in the ocean.
Juma had stumbled into the camp after a two day walk when we first met her in June. She was carrying her 10 month old daughter, Nadia. Their village had been burnt. Their food rations in the camp had run out completely 20 days ago. Nadia was in the extreme pain of slow starvation. On the day we filmed this she'd lost weight since the morning.
JUMA: The baby isn't well. She's not eating her food. I don't know what to do. The Arabs attacked our village in the early morning. They set fire to everything. They killed young children. My brother was shot whilst trying to escape. The women and children who got away came here to the camp.
ANDERSSON: That day Nadia's life was on a thread. The doctors said if she lost one more pound she would die.
Sudan's government had blocked much foreign aid with bureaucracy. A quarter of the children were malnourished. The government knew this was happening. In this tent in June, during the time we spent in Mornei camp, a child died every night. The children were so weak they couldn't cope when a tiny drop in the temperature came after sunset. When darkness fell we heard the mothers scream.
CAPTION: June 2004
ANDERSSON: When we were here a month ago the situation was absolutely appalling but now it's even worse. We've been moving around this camp trying to find the people whose stories we told last time but most of them are now dead. Forty people a week are dying here in Mornei now and this is just one camp in Darfur.
We came back to Mornei in July to a catastrophe that had no mercy.
This was someone we knew. Nadia had died minutes after we returned. She had been recovering but disease fed on her weakness, her lungs became infected, her body couldn't fight. Juma had lost most of her family in the attack on her village. Nadia was her only child. She couldn't understand why this was happening.
In September Washington decided to make a statement. America had failed to call Rwanda a genocide until after almost a million people were dead. It wanted to take the lead on Darfur.
CAPTION: 9th September 2004
CAPTION: COLIN POWELL US Secretary of State
COLIN POWELL (US Secretary of State): We concluded that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility and that genocide may still be occurring. We believe the evidence corroborates the specific intent of the perpetrators to destroy a group in whole or in part.
ANDERSSON: In this desolate part of the earth the killings have been named as racial and deliberate. Orchestrated evil, genocide. How had it come to this?
Sudan lies on the access of the Arab and African worlds. Its deserts were once ancient slave routes. The nation has long been troubled by ethnic and religious conflicts, but in Darfur, the tribes, united by Islam, have coexisted well for more than a century.
In the 1970s the forces of nature intervened to change that. The Sahara sands shifted south. Arab nomads moved with them, trying to escape the encroaching wastelands. They moved onto more fertile land that was farmed by black Africans. The tribes began to polarise and gather arms. Violence began. Khartoum's government sided with the Arabs.
KALIMA: We used to live with the Arabs in our villages and trade with them, but then the soldiers started attacking us.
ANDERSSON: After several years of violence the Africans of Darfur formed the Sudan Liberation Army. They accused Sudan's government of arming Arabs and marginalising Darfur. They were inspired by Christian rebel groups in the south of Sudan, who were on the brink of gaining partial autonomy after fighting for two decades. In February last year Darfur's rebels launched their own insurrection demanding the same.
HIKMA: It's true our people were fighting the soldiers and attacking their camps, but this was only after they were sure the attacks on us were by soldiers working with the Arabs. That's why we attacked the soldiers¿ camp.
ANDERSSON: Sudan's President, Omar Al-Bashir vowed to crush the rebellion. But much of his army was made up of men from Darfur, men who might be reluctant to fight their own kin, so he decided to use the Arab tribesmen too. He said he would eliminate the uprising.
CAPTION: Source: Sudan Liberation Army
ANDERSSON: The ethnic massacres began. Twenty-one Africans were killed in this village, Salakoya. The Americans would later call this genocide. Britain has avoided defining it as such.
Killings are going on, thousands of black Africans have been killed and you're hesitating to call it genocide?
CAPTION: CHRIS MULLIN MP Foreign Office minister
CHRIS MULLIN: Well, genocide is not a word that I think should be bandied around lightly for fear of devaluing the term. No one doubts that there have been massive human rights violations, certainly crimes against humanity committed in Darfur.
ANDERSSON: We headed to the front line with the rebels. While Britain and the UN await the outcome of a long investigation into whether this is genocide the massacres go on. In this area Darfur south, the Janjaweed is eliminating anyone who survives. In a recent attack nearby they burnt 32 people alive. Darfur¿s north and west have already been decimated. If this goes on, it'll be the same here.
This is basically the front line, and the rebels who brought us here have in the last few minutes started fanning out all around the perimeters of this village for fear of attack. They've told us that the Janjaweed are right here in this area, and that they were here yesterday on a raid burning down the few remaining huts in this village.
CAPTION Source: Sudan Liberation Army
We didn't stay long. It wasn't safe. The Janjaweed had left devastation behind.
This place, Baraka, was a black African village, now there are just graves. We were handed a video taken by the rebels soon after one of the raids here. The villagers were tied up and executed. More than 30 were killed. We spoke to an eyewitness.
ADAM: They attacked us at 6 in the morning, about 100 Janjaweed horsemen surrounded the village. They chased the villagers, and if they caught them they tied them up and then shot them. I heard the horsemen, they said: "Kill them all, kill all of the slaves." If they caught 5 people at once they would kill them straightaway, but others they gathered in one place. They were chased down by the riders, captured, tied up, dragged to one place and shot in the head.
ANDERSSON: Thousands of civilians have been killed in Darfur, countless villages have been burnt down. Who has done this? Who has committed these atrocities?
CAPTION: Dr MUSTAFA OSMAN ISMAIL Sudanese Foreign Minister
ISMAIL: Yes, that's a good question. First of all the government never initiated this war. The rebels, who are not denying it, they are the ones who initiated this war and insist on continuation of this war.
ANDERSSON: But who burnt the villages down, and killed the people, that's what I'm asking. I'm not following your answer. It's extremely...
ISMAIL: That's what I am saying to you, that it is a tribal fighting. The rebels who are belong to specific tribes, fighting a militia who are also belong to specific tribes. The fighting between each other creates this chaos.
ANDERSSON: The world responded to the reports of killings by sending African Union troops to Darfur in August. They came to monitor a ceasefire agreement which both the rebels and the government were violating. After tens of thousands of black Africans had been killed, 300 men arrived, half of them from Rwanda.
Sudan's government, under diplomatic pressure, let them in but they didn't want them to act as peacekeepers. The world accepted this.
This was not what it looked like. The troops' mandate was to protect observers who would take notes on ceasefire violations. They were not allowed to protect the people who were being killed. So for all the talk, all the money, the troops have had little to do. They've spent months building their military bases and putting up tents.
CAPTION: Commander SETH APPIAH MENSAH African Union Ceasefire Commission
MENSAH: We do not have the capacity as at this time to go and act as a buffer force between the armed parties, but most of the times it happens before we know. At this level what we do is just respond to the complaints, investigate it and submit our report, but we cannot go and stop the fighting, no.
ANDERSSON: One hundred and twenty unarmed observers have been patrolling a region the size of France. The observers respond to reports of fighting after it's over. The representative from the government and the rebels has to come on each trip. It makes independent monitoring almost impossible.
MENSAH: A lot of these incidents when they happen surprise is the key. Now what do we see, before we go to an area the representative knows about it, he calls his commander, tells him the team is coming, so we get there and there is no evidence. This is a very unique arrangement. I have never seen it anywhere else in the world, where the parties are part of the monitors.
ANDERSSON: We arrived at a town called Duma where there had been reports of Janjaweed and government attacks the day before. The African population started gathering in the hope that help had arrived.
SOLDIER [AUCFC]: We are basically just monitoring the situation, just to see what is happening around, we can tell.
MAN: The Janjaweed were here today. There was an attack in the mountain. There was fighting today. Haven't you seen their camels and the horses?
ANDERSSON: The world's only force in Darfur flew away.
ANDERSSON: Do you, as a military man, feel that the mandate you're working under now is restrictive in any way in terms of protecting people here?
MENSAH: Highly restrictive. Highly restrictive because we are not even allowed to look into issues like rape and other things. High restrictive because it only gives us an ability to observe, verify and report, and like you rightly pointed out, that doesn't sound good enough or adequate.
ANDERSSON: With no one to rein in the notorious killers, the Janjaweed are at large. They're a highly secretive Arab militia force that Sudan's government denies it commands. The word 'Janjaweed' means 'the evil ones, the demons on horseback'. It's an insult referring to bandits who prey on civilians. No one will admit to fitting that description.
MENSAH: Generally we would say they are Arabic people, but when they get armed and when they get in uniform and when they go and adopt military operations, then they become the militia. The militia that is generally described as Janjaweed by the international community. But what gives them out, like I said, is their mode of transport, their age and the way they conduct the operations generally in the market, and when you see them they don¿t have the military bearing, a lot of them.
ANDERSSON: This man, who we spoke to anonymously, was called up to join the Janjaweed last year.
He was offered £60 a month and a gun. He spoke to us at the risk of his life.
CAPTION: Former Janjaweed militiaman
FORMER MILITIAMAN: They raid the villages and the small scattered hamlets to rob the people's possessions. Whey they say they're going to fight the rebels, they're lying. They're scared to go to confront them. They go to the villages, destroy them, and claim they fought the rebels. This is why there's been a massive flight of people from their homes.
ANDERSSON: This man, Musa Hilal, is at the top of the US State Department's list of suspected Janjaweed leaders. He's a 43-year-old tribal leader from Darfur's north. He's been accused of running one of the 16 known Janjaweed bases.
FORMER MILITIAMAN: In the beginning there was no security. Musa Hilal said he would arm us to be his bodyguards. He said that if we came across any villages with rebels in them, we should burn them down, burn them straightaway.
ANDERSSON: What indications do you have that Musa Hilal is in charge of these men?
CAPTION: Commander SETH APPIAH MENSAH African Union Ceasefire Commission
MENSAH: I have not heard it from him but my team visited the camp and they interacted with him. He joined them later during the meeting, and it was obvious according to the team that he was the man in charge.
ANDERSSON: Did Musa Hilal condone the attacks on civilians?
FORMER MILITIAMAN: Of course, he knows everything his soldiers do, he has seen it with his own eyes. He saw his soldiers looting and burning. He never questioned it.
ANDERSSON: We travelled hundreds of miles across Darfur to reach Musa Hilal's tribal territory on the north. We were heading into the Janjaweed heartland. The area we drove through had been utterly decimated. For mile after mile, not an African village was left standing. We'd set up a meeting with Musa Hilal's cousin, Harun Bakhit. We wanted him to take us to Hilal's men.
ANDERSSON: What kind of man is Musa Hilal?
HARUN BAKHIT :He is a leader, I think. You know leader? Leader of this tribe.
ANDERSSON: But a lot of people think that Musa Hilal is the leader of the Janjaweed.
HARUN BAKHIT: No, no, no. No, no, he is not the leader of the Janjaweed, he is just the leader of the Arab tribes. No, no, no, Janjaweed - here is no Janjaweed.
ANDERSSON: We reached the town of Mustariha. Everywhere we looked there were Janjaweed wearing unmarked government uniforms. The town itself acts as a camp for an estimated 900 fighters. Musa Hilal has armed many of his tribesmen. Amongst these men are some of the killers, men who've carried out documented atrocities in the area. Eye witnesses blame men from this camp for systematically burning down villages, massacring civilians and gang raping women.
ANDERSSON: There are a lot of people here¿
BAKHIT: A lot of people.
ANDERSSON: ... wearing military uniforms.
BAKHIT: Yes, people wearing...
ANDERSSON: Who are those people?
BAKHIT: These are people who follow the Abdul Wahed camp, it's people wearing uh...
ANDERSSON: So they're from the camp?
BAKHIT: Yes, yes. They came to the market in the evening and...
ANDERSSON: Right. So people like him?
ANDERSSON: People like him?
BAKHIT: Yes, he's one of them, yes. He is a security officer.
ANDERSSON: He's from the camp.
BAKHIT: Yes, from the camp.
ANDERSSON: Okay. And you know in the outside world people are saying that this is a base of the Janjaweed?
BAKHIT: No, no, other Janjaweed.. there is no Janjaweed here, these are only people live in this area. But Janjaweed, I know nothing about Janjaweed. This also soldiers.. government soldiers.
ANDERSSON: Where do they get their guns from?
BAKHIT: Yeah, the government give them the guns.
ANDERSSON: And their uniforms?
BAKHIT: Yes, the uniforms also from government.
ANDERSSON: He took me to meet the men so they could show me their official government identity cards.
ANDERSSON: So who is, um...?
BAKHIT: This just ah... yes, these are soldiers, yes, not policemen.
ANDERSSON: Are these men, are these Musa Hilal's men?
BAKHIT: Yes, these are soldiers of Abdul Wahed camp.
ANDERSSON: The field commander of the camp is called Abdul Wahed Saeed. We met him on the road. He was angry we were there. This is a closed military area. His men were heavily armed. After some time we persuaded him to speak to us. He wouldn't let us film. We recorded this secretly.
HILARY ANDERSSON: You have been accused of leading a force that is the Janjaweed and that has been carrying out atrocities here. What do you say about that?
ABDUL WAHEED SAEED: A force is called the Janjaweed when it carries out banditry. A Janjaweed is a thief, an accusation I completely deny because I am an army officer with 21 years' service. Sometimes we use horses and camels as transport, but the horses and camels belong to the government, the government provided them, just like these trucks.
CAPTION: Commander SETH APPIAH MENSAH African Union Ceasefire Commission
MENSAH: The Government of Sudan forces and the militia work closely together in that area. So it's difficult to distinguish who is who. If you get Gilgu, those villages, they complain about the Janjaweed attacking them, Janjaweed doing this, and they point fingers at the same brigade that we're talking about, so you realise that they're all working from the same unit.
ANDERSSON: The evidence that we have is that militias that you were operating with and giving orders to are killing people now in Darfur.
Dr MUSTAFA OSMAN ISMAIL: Your evidence is wrong. You have no credible evidence.
ANDERSSON: Where do they get their weapons from then and their uniforms?
MENSAH: Definitely from government because these weapons are G3, you know, AK47 and all that.
They are not the traditional weapons that anybody can lay hands on. So if they are coordinating with the government they must be resourced by the government, they must be supported by government.
ANDERSSON: There is overwhelming evidence that the government of Sudan led by President Omar Al-Bashir is arming the militias that are carrying out the atrocities in Darfur. Hundreds of eye witnesses have also said that the government has repeatedly bombed black African civilian areas in coordinated attacks with these armed Arab militias.
Under the 1948 Genocide Convention it's not just those who commit the killings who are guilty. It's also those who are behind the killers, those complicit with them, who are punishable.
ANDERSSON: The United States has called the events in Darfur genocide. You've been accused of complicity with the Janjaweed militias who have carried out the atrocities, that makes you directly responsible for an appalling crime against humanity.
ISMAIL: Our position is clear, that what is going on in Darfur is not a genocide. This is an American attempt to use a humanitarian situation for a political agenda.
ANDERSSON: Now Sudan's government has pumped thousands of police into the camps. The international community has been hoping this would help. The refugees are terrified of their new protectors.
MENSAH: They do not trust the police, and why, because the police that has been brought is being seen as the same Janjaweed that have been turned into police. That is some of the claims that we get, that some of them were used to perpetrate and persecute them, and now you change your uniforms to come and protect them. They say, how can the cat guard the mouse?
ANDERSSON: Before they deployed into the camps across Darfur Sudan's police force put on a show of strength for government dignitaries. They ripped apart a live chicken.
Now the police are in the camps and all around them, but the people aren't safe. Any African who dare stray into areas on the camp's fringes is in the gravest danger because there the Janjaweed, sometimes in police or military uniforms, are waiting. And so Darfur's camps have become giant prisons, holding almost two million people now. They've become semi permanent. In a feat of social engineering black Africans live crammed in pens of squalor where some starve, while many of Sudan's Arabs live outside untouched villages and towns outside.
At dawn there are those who risk getting out. It's the women who go. They leave the camps quietly, desperate to get firewood to cook with. Without firewood they can't eat their food aid. They go in the knowledge that if they're seen by the government's militia they may be attacked.
This is Khatra, she's fled to a camp called Kebkabiya. She showed us its perimeters. This dry riverbed marks the invisible boundary beyond which she can't safely go.
KHATRA: I'm frightened, I can't cross the riverbed by myself. The enemy is there with their horses and camels, they are there every day. I feel like I'm in prison, in a cage. This town is like a prison.
ANDERSSON: Is it people like those men crossing now?
KHATRA: Yes, those are the people who frighten me. They have no mercy in them. They beat us badly.
ANDERSSON: Why do people risk it if it's so dangerous?
KHATRA: What can we do? We have no choice, even though it's dangerous, we don't have any money to buy firewood, so we have to go get it ourselves. We need to cook to live.
ANDERSSON: Khatra fled here with her niece, Miriam, after their village was burnt down a year ago.
They do get food aid now, the government has let aid through, but she has to share her rations with another family. Khatra's other niece who is 8 is sick with malaria; they have no medicine. Now they're running short of firewood to cook with, but they vowed never to leave this camp again.
A few days ago Miriam and Khatra crossed the riverbed when five men surrounded them.
KHATRA: We went to get the firewood at 8 in the morning. Suddenly we were surrounded by men. They started asking us: "Where are you going Fur women?¿, and calling us donkeys. They asked where the rebels were. They started hitting us. We tried to resist and defend ourselves but they threatened us with knives.
ANDERSSON: How many men were carrying out the rape?
KHATRA: Four of them raped me and three raped the girl, seven men.
ANDERSSON: Miriam's attack was the most brutal. Her aunt said it was because she was younger. She's 13 years old. She can barely walk. The men tied her up. They took it in shifts to rape her. They also whipped her severely.
MIRIAM: It's painful if I move. It's hard to move.
ANDERSSON: Miriam also lost half her family when her village was attacked.
Vast numbers of women have been raped for leaving these camps. No one has counted but so many tell stories that it must be thousands and thousands. Gang rape is systematic in Darfur; it's often carried out in public or in front of family members. It's become a weapon of racial subjugation and control.
On top of that, a quarter of these women's children are malnourished, the same number as in June. Ten thousand people are dying a month.
CAPTION: 9th September
COLIN POWELL(US Secretary of State): The Janjaweed and Sudanese military forces destroyed villages, food stuffs and other means of survival. Third, the Sudan government and its military force has obstructed food, water, medicine and other humanitarian aid from reaching affected populations, thereby leading to further deaths and suffering. And finally, despite having been on notice multiple times, Khartoum has failed to stop the violence.
ANDERSSON: The 1948 convention says that inflicting on a group conditions of life calculated to bring about its destruction is an act of genocide.
ANDERSSON: Genocide could be occurring in Darfur, and if it is, if genocide is happening on your watch, you¿re failing in the fundamental moral imperative to recognise it and to act.
CHRIS MULLIN MP (Foreign Office minister): You're talking as though we actually run Darfur, that the British government somehow runs Darfur, and obviously that's not the case. Certainly the international community has responsibilities and I think we have lived up to our responsibilities. We've played a leading part, perhaps the leading part, in trying to deal with this extremely complex and difficult situation. It's not helped by reducing it to simplicities. We've made a huge contribution in terms of aid, we're providing logistical assistance to the African Union troops.
ANDERSSON: In your view, has Sudan's government taken any effective measures to ease the situation in Darfur?
MULLIN: Some. They have belatedly let in international agencies. They are, we judge, trying to co-operate with international community in stabilising the situation. The trouble is, having armed these militias, having allowed them to rampage as they have, as I say, it's extremely difficult to put the genie back in the bottle again, even with the best will in the world.
ANDERSSON: But it's hard to find real signs that Sudan's government wants to rein in their militia. In Sudan's capital, Khartoum, we went to find the men accused of being at the centre of the atrocities, Musa Hilal. No one is trying to arrest him, least of all the government that has been arming him. We found him living openly in a residential area.
MUSA HILAL: I'm not a military man. You should bear in mind that I have no military or training link with the base. My only relationship is a supervisory role. I am just like any other tribal leader or mayor.
ANDERSSON: You stand accused of mass killings, of ordering men to carry out atrocities including rape. What do you say to that charge?
HILAL: This is like every war. Every war has its repercussions. America itself has had wars and there are criminals from those wars. We are not angels or prophets or magicians so we can't arrest all the criminals and stop them from committing their crimes. Where are the graves and the bodies? Yet there is killing in this war, but it's exaggerated. During my time in Darfur I don't know of gang rape at the level that the leaders of the rebels claim. They say it to confuse the public. It's not true. The simple answer is there is no genocide. There are no mass rapes and killings in the numbers in the thousands that they claim.
ANDERSSON: There's virtually no African villages left standing in Darfur, and that's certainly true of your part of Darfur. So these are not ordinary killings, this is not an ordinary war, that's what it's been called genocide.
HILAL: My words are very clear, the war has its repercussions. The rebels started this war, they started burning and destroying many of the villages. They started destroying our villages first.
ANDERSSON: This is a hospital in the south of Darfur where the survivors of the most recent killings are flocking. In the last few weeks there have been fresh killings in the south and bombings. Fatima was brought in four days before we filmed her. The gunmen came while she was sleeping. She almost bled to death before she could get help. Today they'll be swabbing the holes from three bullet wounds.
FATIMA: They shot me in my shoulder and I started to run. They shot me in my hand and I fell. While I was lying there they shot me in the leg. My children gathered round me. I told them they shouldn't come near. I asked where their father was but nobody had seen him. I told them that if he was not here with us then he must be dead.
ANDERSSON: If this was just a war against rebels, then why are women and children being killed deliberately on many occasions, sometimes shot at close range?
Dr MUSTAFA OSMAN ISMAIL (Sudanese Foreign Minister): Women and children they have been affected by the fighting, the fear of the fighting create for them a situation where they have to move and to leave their village because rebels are using the village and the civilians as shelter and attacking the government. The government has no way but to respond.
ANDERSSON: The Americans have called this genocide but they argue that there's no legal imperative to act in the circumstance.
CAPTION: 9th September 2004
COLIN POWELL (US Secretary of State): Some seem to have been waiting for this determination of genocide to take action. In fact, however, no new action is dictated by this determination. We have been doing everything we can to get the Sudanese government to act responsibly, so let us not be too preoccupied with this designation.
ANDERSSON: The words of the convention call on signatories to prevent genocide and to punish it. The reality though is that the legal requirements can be interpreted as limited if the genocide is taking place on foreign soil. The moral imperative of the convention though is clear.
ANDERSSON: You've called it genocide and you're not stopping it. Isn't that a dangerous precedent?
CAPTION: CHARLES SNYDER Senior Representative on Sudan, US State Department
CHARLES SNYDER : I would argue that we are stopping it. We may not be stopping it as fast as you think se can stop it. But it's our judgment that what we are doing is saving the maximum number of people, and I think that's the standard to which I hold myself. What's the most effective thing I can do in the circumstances? I've made that judgment and I'm doing what I can as a government official in that context, to see that we carry that policy out. It may not be what some others would want but they don't necessarily have the same set of circumstances in terms of knowing fully what we can do and what we can't do.
ANDERSSON: Three thousand more African Union troops have just started arriving in Darfur. They'll monitor a new agreement on steps to end the fighting. Ceasefires here have long been ignored. They also have a new mandate to deploy in the camps and secure aid routes, but these are still not peacekeepers. They can only stop violence if it happens in front of them.
This week Sudan's police tear gassed a camp of thousands of refugees. They fired plastic bullets - this their attempt to force the people to move to another location. Here they're beating an old man. The people try to resist but it was futile. It's the second time it's happened in two weeks.
While this was going on African Union troops were just a few miles away, they did nothing. America and Britain have spent millions trying to improve the refugee camps but it's the violence that's at the root of Darfur's problem.
CHRIS MULLIN MP (Foreign Office minister): What we think is not an effective way of stopping the killings is the way that some people... is the suggestion that some people are urging upon us, that somehow there's some western force that could come riding over the hills and everything will be alright again, but it's not like that. And the odds are that if any western force did intervene it would become bogged down and that some new cause for all the Jihadists in the world would emerge and we'd find ourselves very quickly being shot at by all sides. Plus we would probably destabilise the whole of Sudan which is the size of Western Europe and the last thing we want is a failed state the size of Western Europe on our hands in Africa.
ANDERSSON: But for Darfur's African people, Sudan is already in anarchy. As we were leaving, women began descending on the African union observers. The Janjaweed had raped another group of women that morning. They wanted someone to do something about it.
WOMAN: They humiliate us all the time. Our blood is boiling and our hearts are broken.
ANDERSSON: How do you feel about the African Union, do you think they're helping the people of this town?
WOMAN: We just went there and we were told there was no way they could do anything.
ANDERSSON: The African Union told the women to come back the next day. For all the horrors, this is the best the world can do. The protestors lined up to watch us as we flew away. Genocide, the ultimate crime against humanity may be occurring in Darfur. But despite the lessons of history, we all allow it to continue. This is the world we live in. The people of Darfur, like Miriam, can only count their dead and pray.
You can comment on tonight's programme by visiting our website at www.bbc.co.uk/panorama where
you'll find links to charities working in Sudan, and you can join me for a live discussion on the crisis in Darfur about to start on BBC Radio5 Live.