On 31 October, when most of our children were playing trick or treat, 200 women and girls (as young as seven) in Darfur were raped. According to locals, the perpetrators were the Sudanese Armed Forces. One month later, the victims of this egregious assault are no closer to justice.
Rape has been a weapon of war in Darfur for decades. The attack in the village of Tabit, however, is on an unprecedented scale. Despite numerous sources verifying it, the discredited hybrid United Nations/African Union force (Unamid) issued a press release that claimed: "None of those interviewed confirmed that any incident of rape took place in Tabit." What the release didn't say is that, according to a Unamid officer, military personnel accompanied the Unamid delegation so, "no one could speak freely".
Unamid's chicanery emerges at the same time as a UN investigation exonerated the force of previous allegations of cover-up. Despite finding instances in which Unamid officials withheld evidence indicating the culpability of Sudanese government forces in crimes against civilians and peacekeepers, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon concluded: "There was no evidence to support the allegation that Unamid intentionally sought to cover up crimes against civilians."
To the uninitiated, withholding evidence of crimes against civilians may sound like a cover-up. But in UN land, unless the scandalous event was the result of an intentional cover-up, and you can prove it, it doesn't count.
In pictures: South Sudan conflict
In pictures: South Sudan conflict
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Four-month old Haida Majzub was born in the Ajuong Thok refugee camp inside South Sudan. The camp, in northern Unity State, hosts thousands of refugees from the Nuba Mountains, located across the nearby border with Sudan
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A boy drinks water from a newly drilled well in an internally displaced persons camp in Aweng. The ACT Alliance is providing the displaced families a variety of support, including the drilling of this and other new wells
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A woman carries some of the food and non-food items that she and other displaced people received in Kotobi
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Anyuak Ring Deng and her five-year old daughter Arual sit under a tree in an internally displaced persons camp in Manangui
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Andiru Gordon rolls a bicycle tire. The three-year old boy lost his father to the fighting that broke out in his home town of Bor in December 2013, and along with his mother and five siblings moved to a camp for internally displaced people and then eventually to live with relatives in the town of Mundri
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Rachel Abduk holds dried grass she cut to use as a roof for a temporary shelter in a camp for displaced people in Melijo, near that country's border with Uganda. She fled fighting around Bor, in Jonglei State, in December 2013, during which her husband and five children were killed. Yet she and other displaced persons have not been warmly welcomed to this region of Eastern Equatoria State, where two earlier waves of displaced people in the 1980s and 1990s have left relations tense between the newcomers, who are Dinka, and the largely Ma'adi residents around the city of Nimule. The ACT Alliance is helping the displaced families and the host communities affected by their presence, and is supporting efforts to reconcile the two groups
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A girl fills a container with muddy water in the Ajuong Thok Refugee Camp
Where is the UK in all this? Instead of calling for an independent investigation into the mass rape in Tabit at the time, our government diverted attention away from it. Issuing a press release about food vouchers for displaced people in Darfur (440,000 beneficiaries over seven months) was, in my view, an act of either wilful obfuscation or gross ineptitude.
The cash/vouchers have been in place since 2011, but there's no evidence that I could find that anyone other than the government of Sudan benefits from the UK's £11m contribution. A local UN official told me he was unaware of the scheme. The three million Darfuris living in camps want reinstatement of the humanitarian organisations expelled by the genocidal regime in 2009. Not gimmicks.
Eight years ago, having visited Darfur, David Cameron said: "This is ethnic cleansing and we cannot remain silent in the face of this horror." He knows rape is a weapon of war and that mass rape constitutes a war crime. He is therefore obliged under international law to ensure that the perpetrators in Tabit are held to account. Ban Ki-moon once said: "When you witness violence against women and girls, do not sit back. Act." Here's Ban and Cameron's chance to put those laudable words into action.
Tess Finch-Lees is a specialist in ethics, discrimination and human rightsReuse content