Living with Refugees
|Cbc News, 30 Janvier 2005|
The United Nations calls the conflict in Darfur, Sudan "the world's worst humanitarian crisis." Even the Asian tsunami has not changed that. Consider the numbers:
Over 300,000 have died in the violence and the hunger and disease that has followed.2 million refugees have fled their homes since the crisis in Darfur began in early 2003. That's about 1/3 of the area's population.
200,000 of Darfur's refugees have fled to neighbouring Chad.
Darfur refugees seeking a haven in Chad
Chad is where journalist Sorious Samura and his crew begin this documentary. Samura accompanies one family, led by Adam, for the long trek in search of refuge. They travel by foot and donkey for three days until they reach the Breidjing Refugee Camp - one family among the 42,000 refugees already there.
Samura spends the next three weeks at Breidjing, learning about the reality of life as a refugee. Even at this desperate level there are the have and the have-nots. And Adam and his family are the latter. As "spontaneous arrivals" they are last in line for everything. "We are not respected in our own country and here they are treating us like animals," Adam says. At first the only food and assistance they receive come from other refugees.
Adam's family fled when the government-backed militia, the Janjaweed, attacked their village. Adam and his wife, Fatima, tell Sorious that six family members were murdered, including their eldest son. "I had to jump over their bodies to escape. They shot at me many times," Adam says. (According to a US State Department survey of refugees in Chad, "Sixty-one percent reported witnessing the killing of a family member.")
Adam and his family are Masalit, one of the region's ethnic groups that, according to Human Rights Watch, "have been specifically targeted by repeated joint government-militia attacks in Darfur. Many of the abuses against these groups amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes, as the attacks are deliberately and systematically directed against civilians on account of their ethnicity."
On Monday, January 31, the UN released the report of its Commission of Inquiry on Darfur. The Commission "found that Government forces and militias conducted indiscriminate attacks, including killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement, throughout Darfur. These acts were conducted on a widespread and systematic basis, and therefore may amount to crimes against humanity." The Commission concludes that, "the crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur may be no less serious and heinous than genocide."
According to the UN, the violence continues in Darfur and civilians -- those that survive -- continue to flee.
Born in Sierra Leone, Samura is a filmmaker of international renown. His documentaries have been recognized worldwide, both for their photographic journalism and the impact of their message. Samura's debut documentary, Cry Freetown, was a brutal and gripping portrayal of atrocities committed during Sierra Leone's civil war. In Living with Hunger, he set out to understand the real stories of people living on the edge of starvation. He lived in a remote village in Ethiopia, where he survived on the same meagre diet as the rest of the villagers.