Cablegate: Darfur: North Darfur Violence Against Women Campaign

Published: Sun 31 Dec 2006 06:14 AM
DE RUEHKH #2926/01 3650614
R 310614Z DEC 06
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Darfur: North Darfur Violence against Women Campaign
1. Summary: With the deteriorating security situation in Darfur,
women and children are increasingly the victims of rape and abuse.
Sudanese Government representatives admit the social and educational
marginalization of women, especially internally displaced persons
(IDPs), but deny the worsening situation. Despite a Darfur-wide UN
campaign with local government participation, called "16 Days of
Activism" to publicize gender-based violence (GBV), it is unlikely
to result in improvement in cooperation from local government or
police bodies. End summary.
North Darfur Violence against Women Campaign
2. Yousif Kibir, Wali of North Darfur, opened a two- week campaign
against GBV in late November. Kibir called for eliminating violence
against women and supporting women's organizations and associations
in North Darfur. He requested that armed groups shield women and
children from violent conflict. The Government of North Darfur and
the United Nations Population Fund coordinated the November 25
opening ceremony. The nearly 500 participants included women
leaders from El Fasher, Kabkabiya, Kutum, Um Kadada, and Mellit;
NGOs; legislative council members; and SLA representatives.
3. The Wali's advisor on Women's and Children's affairs, Fawzia
Abbass, noted that levels of GBV are higher in areas of Darfur with
violent conflict, as armed groups act with impunity against
civilians. She also noted the long-term physical and psychological
harm and damage to social structures resulting from GBV. Abbass
called for police, military, and government bodies to cooperate in
ending violence against women. She highlighted a campaign to take
place through December 10 that includes seminars, lectures, visits
to the IDP camps, and various awareness raising and training
Contrasting Viewpoints on GBV
4. Women in the three Darfur states lag behind the rest of Sudan in
literacy and education, Abbass told Poloff on November 28. She
urged the international community not to impose its cultural values
in sensitive areas such as reproductive health, but to accept
Darfurian women's specific requests for assistance.
5. Abbass noted that security was bad in the IDP camps, and the
risk of rape increased as firewood availability dropped around the
camps and surrounding villages and women ranged further in search of
firewood. Abbass said that the AU had originally cooperated with
local police to provide protection for firewood patrols at the three
camps around El Fasher, but these patrols had since ceased.
However, she noted that entrepreneurs were now bringing firewood
into the camps and fuel efficient stove initiatives were also
reducing the need for firewood patrols. Curiously, Abbass then
argued that the situation for women has improved, and the number of
cases of violence against women is decreasing. She said that the
number of cases reported in police stations in 2004 was
approximately 3500, while the number of cases reported in 2006 was
235 cases, indicating an improvement (Comment: These figures do not
correlate to any previously recorded. The decrease in reporting
cases to the police is perhaps more an indication of the lack of
trust in the willingness and/or effectiveness of the police to
respond, as opposed to an actual decrease in the number of cases.
End comment.)
6. In direct contrast, Zahra Muniem, Member of the Gender Expert
Support Team during the Abuja negotiations and currently working for
the Ministry of Culture, Information, and Sports, said, "The
security situation is deteriorating in the camps and the number of
gender-based violence cases is rapidly increasing." She noted that
the Sudanese Government "continues to deny the issue and hide the
facts." Zahra claimed that the Sudanese Government routinely
harasses local and international NGOs working on women and
children's issues and hampers assistance to victims of sexual
...and on Politics in Darfur
7. Abbass said SLM/M factions are highly committed to the
cease-fire agreement, and violent attacks are caused by the NRF,
which prevents IDPs from returning to their villages. Abbass
expressed hope that all armed groups reach a cessation of
hostilities, noting that she had heard that SLA/AW and SLA/AS had
been involved in negotiations towards signing the DPA. She added,
"women support peaceful settlement to the conflict, and do not
support the deployment of any additional troops of any kind to
Darfur." She urged the international community to play a
substantial role in convincing non-signatories to join the peace
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8. Muniem was skeptical of the Sudanese Government GBV campaign,
saying, "conferences aren't solutions." She noted that the North
Darfur government committee on the protection of women had not
investigated a single case of GBV over the past eight months.
During a speech at a November 30 conference, Muniem decried the
small percentage of women and opposition political parties in
government. Despite a 20-year career working on women's issues in
local government, Muniem, as an Umma party member, is excluded from
government-sponsored conferences and committees on Q{QQeQry6women IDPs' participation in the DPA
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