Actress Mia Farrow warns that eastern Chad could become another Darfur
GOZ BEIDA, Chad, November 16 (UNHCR) - Acclaimed actress Mia Farrow has called for an international presence in this region of Africa after seeing first-hand evidence that the conflict in Darfur is spilling into eastern Chad.
Farrow, a goodwill ambassador for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), on Thursday began a three-day visit of the Goz Beida area organised by UNHCR. It forms part of a fact-finding mission she is undertaking with the United States-based Save Darfur Coalition.
"I came to Chad because of my deep involvement with Darfur, where I went in 2004 and most recently last June," said Farrow, adding: "I was eager to come here, to talk to the people." She wants to raise public awareness about the abuses and suffering that are taking part in the troubled region of western Sudan, where civilians are caught in the middle of deadly ethnic and tribal rivalries.
In the past two weeks, the violence has spilled over into areas of eastern Chad near this town. Armed men on horseback have attacked some two dozen villages and killed more than 200 people since November 4, according to UNHCR estimates. Hundreds of people have fled their villages and sought refugee near Goz Beida and other towns. UNHCR is trying to help these displaced people.
Farrow travelled on Wednesday from Abéché to Goz Beida, the main town in south-east Chad, where she visited the local hospital and was shocked by the injuries inflicted on villagers in the outbreak of violence.
"I saw a similar landscape to what I saw in 2004 in Darfur," Farrow said. "Wounded civilians; some of them have been burned in their huts, others with gunshots. In the hospital, there were three men who had had their eyes gouged out, something that I had never seen in my life before."
The American actress said she had seen people who had lost all their possessions and did not know what to do next. "I felt extreme suffering, I felt extreme anger because we did not prevent this situation. I had to remind myself that I was in Chad and not in Darfur. Darfur has completely arrived in Chad."
Farrow also on Wednesday visited the village of Tamadjour, which was torched and looted on November 8 by local and outside Arabs, according to inhabitants. The 600 villagers fled to the edge of Goz Beida, where many found shelter under trees.
"Three children were burned alive in their huts," one of the Tamadjour villagers said. "They attacked us with M14s and Kalashnikovs, we only have bows and arrows, but I managed to kill one of their horses," he added. The stinking carcass of the animal could be seen at the entrance to the devastated village.
Farrow said she wanted to alert the international community to the plight of people in Darfur and eastern Chad. "People in the USA are not aware that the Darfur crisis has been spilling over to Chad. I want to tell them, once I am back, about the horrible attacks here."
She called for an international presence in the region. "One solution for Chad is to get an international body in here in order to protect the people," she said, adding that UN peace-keepers should be deployed in Darfur, Chad and Central African Republic (CAR). In August, UN Security Council Resolution 1706 called for the deployment of a multi-dimensional UN presence to Chad and CAR.
Farrow, who praised the "courageous humanitarian workers" helping the displaced in eastern Chad, was due to visit displaced Chadians on Thursday and meet Sudanese refugees in Djabal camp near Goz Beida. She leaves the area on Friday.
The actress starred in such films as "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Great Gatsby." Her next film, "Be Kind, Rewind," by French director Michel Gondry, will be released soon.
With the recent displacements caused by the attacks, UNHCR estimates that 75,000 persons have been internally displaced in eastern Chad. The number is likely to be revised in the coming days.
There are also 218,000 refugees from Darfur in 12 camps in eastern Chad, including 15,000 in Djabal camp and 18,000 in Goz Amir camp in the Goz Beida region. Chad is also hosting 46,000 refugees from the CAR in the south.
By Hélène Caux in Goz Beida, Chad