Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sheikh Musa Hilal Warns the United Nations Over Plans to Occupy the Darfur Region of Sudan

Darfur 'militia leader' warns UN

Sheikh Musa Hilal is accused by the US of "heinous crimes" against the people of Darfur

A Sudanese tribal leader accused of being at the centre of the conflict in Darfur has said that United Nations peacekeepers could face stiff resistance in the region.

In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera's Mohamed Vall, Sheikh Musa Hilal said that he would support the presence of UN troops if they are being deployed to stabilise Darfur, but things would be very different if they have what he calls a "colonial agenda".

"If those troops are coming with a colonial agenda, then they will face resistance, absolutely. The people will not accept that kind of humiliation," he said.

The leader of the Um Jalul tribe of Mahamid Arabs is wanted by the United States which says he is the leader of the Janjawid militia, accused of "heinous crimes" against Darfur's black population.

Witnesses have said that he personally led an attack on the town of Tawila in 2004, in which 500 fighters massacred most of the male population, raped woman and abducted or killed the children.

But at his remote camp in the north of the region, with little visible security around him, he said there is no truth to the claims.

"This is a false accusation. Fur [An ethnic African tribe] villages and Arab villages are right next to each other and sometimes mixed in the same village," Hilal said.

"There are no pure Arabs or pure Africans her, we are all mixed people, and that means we are not racists."

'Major mobiliser'

However, Alex de Waal, programme director at the US-based Social Service Research Council and the co-author of Darfur:A Short History of a Long War, told Al Jazeera that Hilal was one of the "major mobilisers" of the Janjawid militia.

"His personal role is at yet unsubstantiated, the US government accuses him of having command responsibility and having been personally present when a number of massacres were committed," he said.

"But the International Criminal Court has not yet issued any indictment against him."

Hilal admitted that his tribe has aligned with the predominantly Arab government and took up arms against the Darfur rebels, which he says are in the pay of the West.

"They are just instruments of foreign aims," he said. "They are carrying out a mission in which they are not the decision-makers."

The US state department has placed a travel ban on the tribal leader and ordered his assets frozen.

Hilal said that such sanctions against a man who does not even have electricity and running water are ridiculous. He laughed when asked how many banks had frozen his accounts.

"All the banks in the world, Swiss and American and all," he said.

International organisations estimate that 200,000 have died and more than 2.5 million have been driven from their homes in Darfur since mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against Khartoum accusing it of marginalising the remote region.

Khartoum, which puts the death toll at 9,000, mobilised militia to quell the revolt.

De Waal said that the UN forces, that will be deployed in the next few months to bolster 7,000 African Union peacekeepers already in the region, will have to deal with Hilal and other Arab militia leaders whatever crimes they are alleged to have committed.

"They cannot be excluded from a political settlement in Darfur, they cannot be either targeted by the UN for military action or ignored, they have to be part of the peace process," he said.

Source: Al Jazeera

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