Posts Tagged ‘Janjaweed militias’

Darfur – International Day of Action: 2007

Thursday, September 16th, 2021

Sudan became independent in 1956 and ever since it has suffered civil wars and political instability. Since 1899 it had effectively been a British colony though Anglo-Egyptian in name, with British policy largely being directed at ensuring the Sudan did not become united with Egypt. Under British rule it was effectively administered as two separate regions, North and South Sudan.

After the 1952 Egyptian revolution Egypt and Britain decided to give both regions a free vote on independence but the country gained independence without an agreed constitution, and arguments continued among the political parties. These were resolved by a military coup in 1958, and the country was under military rule (with three attempts at further military coups) until civil disobedience in 1964 led to a return to civilian rule.

Stability of a sort only came to Sudan in 1989 when Colonel Omar al-Bashir carried out another coup and set up a one-party state with himself as President in 1993. Massive protests in 2019 eventually led to him being overthrown and to a new constitution with a transitional joint milatry-civilian government.

Although there had been previous conflicts in Darfur, a region roughly the size of Spain at the south-west of Sudan with borders with Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic and South Sudan it was only in 2003 that the War in Darfur began when rebel groups accused the government of oppressing Darfur’s non-Arab population.

According to Wikipedia, “The government responded to attacks by carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Darfur’s non-Arabs. This resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians and the indictment of Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.”

Estimates of the number killed “range up to several hundred thousand dead, from either combat or starvation and disease” and millions were forced to flee into refugee camps or across the border. Many seeking asylum in Europe are refugees from the Darfur war.

UN attempts to intervene were largely ineffective and the Sudanese government made clear its opposition to foreign involvement. Various peace talks and ceasefires failed to stop continuing violence and war crimes, but by 2009 the war had quietened down. Peace talks and donor conferences in Doha continued but so did attacks, with villages burnt and mass rapes by Sudanese soldiers in 2014. Sudan was accused of having used mustard gas on civilians in 2016.

Finally in 2019 a draft declaration was signed to make a peace agreement, and some deals were signed in 2020 with the UN and African Union peacekeeping mission coming to an end after 13 years. But deadly tribal clashes have continued in 2021 in Darfur, often fuelled by disputes over land, partly a legacy of the changes to the principles of land ownership from communal to individual imposed under British rule, and exacerbated by climate change.

More from 2007 on My London Diary at Protect Darfur


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


15th June 2019

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

Grenfell protest at Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Saturday 15th July was one of those days when my local station has no trains. I don’t think it used to happen, or at least only very rarely, before we privatised the railways, but it seems to be happening on quite a few weekends every year now. At first when these weekends began there was complete chaos, with unmarked rail replacement buses where the only way to find out if they were going the right way for you was to ask the driver, who usually knew, though often didn’t know how to get there and had to send a call out to passengers asking if anyone knew where the station was.

Closed Fire Station in Ashford

One one memorable occasion a passenger directed a double-decker down a road that, although it was the route I might have walked, narrows halfway down to rather less than bus width. After a very tricky and lengthy reverse we got back to the main road and drove on, past the correct turning. I and other passengers jumped out of our seats to tell the driver. He drove on, looking desperately for somewhere to turn the bus in busy narrow streets, finally doing a 3 or 4 point turn where the main road widened a little almost a mile on. This time as we cam back we made sure he turned left at the correct point.

Grenfell – 72 Dead and still no arrests How Come?

After a few such incidents, things did get sorted out more, but still too often the rail replacement bus arrived a couple of minutes late and missed its supposed connection – apparently no one had the authority to hold it for the bus. A journey that usually took 35 minutes often ended up close to two hours (and I’d face similar chaos on the way home.) So unless there was something really important to photograph I often stayed home.

Yvette Williams demanding the Truth and Justice For Grenfell

My alternative was to take a bus to Heathrow or Hatton Cross where I could join the Underground, and this became more viable once I could simply swipe a credit card to pay for the ride. It was still a slow journey, but more reliable than the rail replacement lottery. And on Saturday 15 June I took the bus and made a few pictures on the way from the upper deck.

It was the day after the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire in which 72 people died, and Justice For Grenfell had organised a solidarity march, starting and finishing at Downing St. After some speeches at Downing St, we marched to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government offices in the Home Office building to protest there, with a few more speeches before leaving to march back to Downing St for a final rally.

The event was supported by housing and building safety campaigners including Defend Council Housing and by branches of the Fire Brigades Union from around the UK.

As I walked through Parliament Square on my way to take the tube to another protest, I stopped briefly to photograph two events there. One was ‘We are the Love’ for Idlib inspired by the Black Eyed Peas song Where’s the love? to raise awareness about the massacre currently unfolding in the province of Idlib in Syria. Just along from this line of people holding large cards each with a letter of their message, and a drummer and a piper, was a small and quieter protest about the wrongful conviction of Brendan Dassey and his uncle, Steven Avery for the murder of Teresa Halbach in Wisconsin in 2005. The long and convoluted case which reflects badly on both the local police and the US legal system was the subject of a lenghty TV series.

By now I thought I would be too late to join the Hands Off Sudan march at its start at the UAE Embassy and guessed they might have got as far as the Egyptian Embassy, but when I arrived found just a few there waiting for the march. So I began to walk back on what I thought might be their route. I heard them before I could see them as I walked across Hyde Park corner, and the large and noisy crowd emerged from Grosvenor Cresecent as I turned down Grosvenor Place.

They were protesting after 124 peaceful protesters were massacred by Janjaweed militias (Rapid Support Forces) in Khartoum. Protests had begun in December and appeared to be causing a peaceful transition to democracy, removing corrupt president al-Bashir, until the heads of the ruling military council visited Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, all countries opposed to a democratic Sudan – and today’s march was going to each of their embassies.

The marchers seemed to be stopping every few yards around Hyde Park Corner and singing and dancing and shouting slogans. Half an hour after I met them they had only moved on a few hundred yards are were slowly making their way up Park Lane. I felt I had taken enough photographs and went back to Hyde Park Corner for the slow journey home via Hatton Cross.

Hands off Sudan march
‘We are the Love’ for Idlib
Grenfell Solidarity March
Staines, Heathrow, Bedfont


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.