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Livestock Looting Is Another Tragedy For Darfur Families

"The international community has got to hold the government responsible for what has happened. They have trained, equipped and deployed the Janjaweed forces," said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "If you talk about people ever returning to their normal lives, clearly this would be a key consideration. How can they go back without any of their principal assets? Obviously, these guys don't have Swiss bank accounts. I think the international community must remain focused on pressuring the government to get this done."

When Charles Snyder, the State Department's senior representative on Sudan, visited Khartoum last month, he pressed the government to start a reconciliation process for Darfur.

Stolen camels and other animals have flooded this market in Nyala, located in Sudan's Darfur region, since Arab militiamen began terrorizing African farmers. (Emily Wax -- The Washington Post)

_____Crisis in Sudan_____
Washington Post correspondent Emily Wax chronicles the genocide in the Darfur region of western Sudan.
Sudan's Ragtag Rebels (The Washington Post, Sep 7, 2004)
Wells of Life Run Dry for Sudanese (The Washington Post, Aug 22, 2004)
Targeting the Teachers of Darfur (The Washington Post, Aug 18, 2004)
In Sudan, 'a Big Sheik' Roams Free (The Washington Post, Jul 18, 2004)
Refugees Moved Before Annan Visit (The Washington Post, Jul 2, 2004)
'We Want to Make a Light Baby' (The Washington Post, Jun 30, 2004)
In Sudan, Death and Denial (The Washington Post, Jun 27, 2004)
Chad Broken by Strain of Suffering (The Washington Post, Mar 11, 2004)
Bittersweet Homecomings in War-Weary Sudan (The Washington Post, Jan 5, 2004)

"There is a major tear in the social fabric of Darfur," Snyder said. "There has to be a system set up to hold individuals responsible."

But so far, there are no signs that international pressure has stopped the livestock thefts. At this meat market in Nyala, Nemen Maki Fage, an Arab trader and butcher, attributed the abundance of animals to "spoils of war." He said he was unconcerned about tribal markings on the cattle.

Besides, he said, it was possible that the animals had not been stolen but had simply been sold.

"The police don't come here to investigate. And the prices of the cattle are cheap, and no one stops us," he said, proudly showing five head of cattle he bought for $30 each. "This is Darfur right now."

Days later, Rhani, the local tribal leader, read from stacks of police reports: April 16 in Nyala -- 12 people killed, 410 sheep taken. Two months ago, in a nearby village, 400 horses stolen, and on and on. In total, he said, he has reported 300 cases of stolen animals.

"But the government is quiet," he said. "I report them and keep the papers. If there is ever justice, I will use them."

Later that afternoon, Rhani again drove to the market. In one corner, Arab traders carrying cell phones prodded the cattle. Calls were made. Money changed hands quickly.

In another corner, the pungent smell of freshly slaughtered meat rose in waves as it was cooked over charcoal at dozens of tiny stands.

"They are roasting our wealth," Rhani whispered.

The stench of detritus -- a jumble of wrappings, stripped-clean bones and plastic soda bottles -- filled the dirt footpaths. Women carrying tomatoes, basil, onions and plastic bags of salt hawked their goods.

A hulking leg of goat rested on a donkey cart, flies swarming happily atop its pink skin. The meat was carried to the grill, where a long line of customers waited.

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