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Page last updated at 14:01 GMT, Monday, 14 July 2008 15:01 UK

The New Killing Fields

Hilary Andersson
Panorama's Hilary Andersson heard stories of rape and murder

In November 2004 Panorama reported on the killings taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Correspondent Hilary Andersson travelled deep into the remote mountains of Jebel Mara, where local black Africans were being attacked by members of the Sudan government-backed Janjaweed Arab militia.

Mile after mile of rich farmland now lay empty, abandoned by its inhabitants who had left to escape the Janjaweed.

In Jebel Mara - the ancient home of the African Fur Tribe that lends its name to Darfur - hundreds of women had gathered to meet our correspondent, keen to tell the story of what they had been through.

Every single one of these women, all members of the Fur Tribe, had lost at least one family member - some of them children - in the violence.

Children slaughtered

The Panorama team were told that in the town of Kidinyir alone, at least 80 children were killed in five separate Janjaweed attacks.

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
Kalima, local resident

The locals said that in each attack the village was first bombed from the air by Sudanese government planes, then, as people tried to flee, the waiting Janjaweed militia moved in, systematically burning the houses and killing the residents.

One woman, Kalima, described what happened:

"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...

"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," she said.

Pattern of destruction

Having killed Kalima's three-year-old son, the men then raped her.

Five of the men surrounded me. I was paralysed with fear... they raped me one after the other
Hawa, local resident

"They raped me. There was nothing I could do. Nothing I could do."

One of the other women, Hawa, suffered the same fate as she ran home after hearing that her father and 10-year-old son had been killed:

"Five of the men surrounded me. I was paralysed with fear... they raped me one after the other," she said.

Sudan's government said that they had bombed the towns in Darfur to put down a regional uprising by African rebels.

But our correspondent reported that in the two years prior to the programme tens of thousands were estimated to have been killed and at least 400 villages scorched.

Notable was the repeated pattern of destruction in which planes bombed the ground then Janjaweed militia moved in to kill on the ground.

Genocide accusation

In past cases genocide has been proven by evidence of a repeated pattern of attacks on one ethnic group.

However, in 2004, when Panorama's The New Killing Fields programme was broadcast, the United Nations said that it still could not be certain whether genocide was occurring there.

In September 2004 the United States decided to take the lead, issuing a statement in which it called the killings in Darfur "genocide".

"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," the then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell said.




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