It’s been just over a month now since the outgoing U.N. force commander in Darfur remarked that the war in Darfur is over, and reports continue to emerge that offer a bleak contrast.
A new report out today from Human Rights Watch bluntly stated: “The government should immediately end attacks on civilians in Darfur, charge or release people it has arrested arbitrarily, and end harassment of civil society activists.” The Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre, Geneva-based but with a close ear to the ground in Darfur, issued a useful update yesterday. Taken together, these reports and coverage from media sources provide a useful, if distressing, overview of insecurity in Darfur.
The Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre, or DRDC, detailed the renewed government-led offensives in Northern Darfur in the last month.
Violence is reported in Korma, Meliet, Jebal Moo, Jebal Mediob and eastern Jebal Marra in North Darfur State. Heavy military equipments including fighter planes and artillery are being used intensively during the last 4 weeks causing indiscriminate damage on civilian targets. Wide spread burning of dwellings and destruction of social facilities followed by organised looting of goods and livestock from the villagers were reported in many places.
DRDC reports that the Sudan Armed Forces, or SAF, and Janjaweed militia began a military offensive in the Ain Siro area of North Darfur in the first week of September. This was followed by an attack in the Korma area on September 18. Reuters reported that the Sudanese army, backed up by allied militias, launched ground and air attacks targeting the rebel group Sudan Liberation Army. The military announced days later that they had “purged the areas of the remnants” of the rebel group—a story picked up by the Associated Press.
The number of deaths varies across sources. The Associated Press reported 20 civilian casualties in the immediate aftermath of the attack. According to DRDC, two SLA rebels and five civilians were killed, with 12,000 newly displaced persons. Both the Sudanese army and the SLA denied the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force access to the affected areas following the attack. A UNAMID spokesperson told the Sudan Tribune they were waiting for the green light from the rebel group to enter the area.
Another government-led offensive took place in the Meilit area of North Darfur on September 28, this time targeting a splinter faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement. At least 20 civilians were killed and dozens others injured. In a Sudan Tribune article, the rebel group accused the government of killing 28 civilians and said the attack was carried out with 56 vehicles, 4 helicopters, and 2 military planes.
DRDC says thousands of soldiers and light military vehicles are being deployed to North Darfur around Kuttum and Kabkabiya, and the government continues to build up troops and military assets in various parts of Darfur. Armed Chadian rebels are reportedly stationed in parts of North Darfur and moving towards Ain Siro.
As prospects for increased fighting intensifies, the need for a robust, credible peacekeeping force to protect civilians is that much more urgent. U.N. member states must summon up the resources and the political will to make this happen.
Photo: SLA rebels (IRIN)