"I am going to Homs," insisted Sudanese Gen. Mohammad Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, the head of the Arab League observer mission, telling reporters that so far the Assad
regime had been "very cooperative."
But Dabi may be the unlikeliest leader of a humanitarian mission the world has ever seen. He is a staunch
loyalist of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity for his government's policies in Darfur. And Dabi's
own record in the restive Sudanese region, where he stands accused of presiding over the creation of the feared Arab militias known as the "janjaweed," is enough to make any human rights
Dabi's involvement in Darfur began in 1999, four years before the region would explode in the violence that
Secretary of State Colin Powell labeled as "genocide." Darfur was descending into war between the Arab and Masalit communities -- the same fault line that would widen into a bloodier
interethnic war in a few years' time. As the situation escalated out of control, Bashir sent Dabi to Darfur to restore order.
This is an account of Dabi's impact on the bloody region and how he "restored order":
Governor Ibrahim Yahya describes the period as 'the beginning of the organization of the Janjawiid', with
[Arab] militia leaders like Hamid Dawai and Shineibat receiving money from the government for the first time. 'The army would search and disarm villages, and two days later the Janjawiid
would go in. They would attack and loot from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., only ten minutes away from the army. By this process all of Dar Masalit was burned.'
The janjawiid were notorious for their butchery. To discover that Dabi actually had a hand in their formation
makes him a curious choice to head up a mission to monitor human rights.
In addition to his checkered past in Dar Masalit, Dabi has to answer for his support for the war
Dabi's role in Darfur is only one episode in a decades-long career that has been spent protecting the
interests of Bashir's regime. He has regularly been trusted with authority over the regime's most sensitive portfolios: The day Bashir took power in a coup in 1989, he was promoted to head of military intelligence. In August 1995,
after protesters at Khartoum University rattled the regime, Dabi became head of Sudan's foreign intelligence agency -- pushing aside a loyalist of Hassan al-Turabi, the hard-line Islamist
cleric who helped Bashir rise to power but would be pushed aside several years later. And as civil war ravaged south Sudan, Dabi was tasked from 1996 to 1999 as chief of Sudan's military
Whatever hope was engendered in the Arab League's intervention has pretty well been smashed by the appointment of this thug to head up the monitoring group.