Darfur Crisis Hits Home in Indiana

The low point for Kimo was when he found one of his friends shot dead and another sliced down the middle with nails driven into his knees.

Horrific scenes like these characterize his journey from the war-weary Darfur region of Sudan to his unlikely new home in Fort Wayne, Ind., the location of a small, yet significant enclave of about 300 Darfurians.

The journey began a little more than three years ago when Kimo's village was attacked. Men tied him, his father and the mayor together, and threw them into a car. They drove to a town about 100 miles south. Along the way, the mayor died. Kimo and his father were lucky, as 90 of 400 villagers were killed in an attack, Kimo said.

"They put me in jail and tortured me," said the 34-year-old illegal immigrant, who asked that his real name not be used to protect his identity. "They asked me about rebels and the leaders. When they know I don't know anything about that, they leave me and I walk back to my village."

He took his ailing father to a hospital but said he was turned away. The doctors were too afraid to treat him. They feared they, too, would become victims of Government Security Forces, the people Kimo said had abducted him. Kimo found refuge at the home of a relative where he and his father stayed for two weeks before walking home.

Kimo went to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, and reported everything that he had seen. Because he spoke out, Kimo said the government threw him into a prison where he was beat, burned, and hung from the ceiling. He endured this torture for 57 days. He escaped from prison when African rebel forces attacked the city and set him free.

One of Millions of Victims

Kimo is one of the millions of victims of the latest crisis in war-torn Sudan. Since 2003, approximately 400,000 Darfurians have been killed and more than 2 million have been displaced, according to savedarfur.org, a nonprofit group formed to raise awareness and mobilize an international response.

The violence began when African rebel groups attacked the Sudanese government. In response, the government has been tacitly sponsoring the Janjaweed, Arab men on horseback who attack the black African villages and rape, kill and destroy. The crisis comes on the heels of a recent truce in the Sudanese civil war between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south.

There is a glimmer of hope that an end is in sight. On May 5, the Sudanese government and the rebel factions signed a peace agreement, but it is not clear whether the agreement will be enough to stop the violence.

Kimo returned to his home and lived peacefully for a short time until October 2003, when the village endured yet another attack in which 67 people were killed. Bombs were dropped, and people were shot and chopped apart, including Kimo's two friends. Kimo found their mangled bodies on the ground. He and his family ran for the hills, but soon lost track of each other. Kimo then made his way to a refugee camp in Chad, which is just west of Darfur.

"They kill everything. Child, woman, animal," he said. "So we escape. We hide in the hills, the mountains."

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