Those circles aren’t animal pens. They’re burned-down gottias, circular mud huts that had straw roofs, and they’re what’s left of Dalia, a village in Sudan’s Darfur region, one of hundreds of villages that have been destroyed by the Janjaweed in a program of depopulation that has killed perhaps 400,000 civilians since 2003.
Today, Google added recent high resolution imagery of Darfur to Google Earth, taken by DigitalGlobe in January-March 2006. It serves as an unequivocal indictment of the Janjaweed, and of the Sudanese government whose implicit support it has enjoyed, because in these new images each and every burned-out gottia is visible. This is the kind of evidence that puts paid to the claims still coming out of Khartoum that the ethnic cleansing is not widespead, and that accusations of genocide are a mere pretext to wrest sovereignty away from Sudan with the deployment of UN peacekeepers.
But this evidence also makes it harder for us remain complacent. We can no longer pretend we didn’t know. A number of humanitarian agencies have been documenting the tragedy of Darfur, mapping burned out villages and recording oral histories in the refugee camps. Some of these data will soon be published as KML — I used pointers from one draft version to highlight 15 of the destroyed villages visible in the imagery released today. Here it is. Zoom in close. This is just a minuscule subset of the devastation in Darfur.