Tensions are rising among many internally displaced in Darfur, or IDPs, because of disagreements over peace talks for the region. In just the last week violence has broken out three times in two IDP camps—allegedly between groups in support of and those opposed to the peace process. News reports and sources Enough has spoken to cite several reasons for the recent clashes, including discontent among IDPs who feel they are not properly represented at the talks, attempted coercion by the Sudanese government and individuals already involved in the talks to pressure unwilling participants to join the Doha peace process, and rumors that retributive acts would be committed by both sides. The fighting coincides with the conclusion of the latest round of civil society consultations in Doha.
Hundreds of protestors took to the streets on Thursday, in Kalma IDP camp in South Darfur. The African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission UNAMID said that many of the demonstrators involved were armed with sticks and machetes; sporadic shooting was also heard throughout the camp. According to UNAMID, the violence prompted over 7,000 IDPs to seek protection at the mission’s local police center. UNAMID said its security measures have been tightened in response while other reports say that UNAMID told the many fleeing residents that they were unable to protect them.
Demonstrators were peacefully protesting the peace talks in Doha and were on their way to present a petition to the UNAMID center in Kalma camp when fighting broke out with IDPs in support of the talks, reported Radio Dabanga. Sources on the ground say that the violence was instigated by pro-Doha forces. Reuters reports five were killed, while Radio Dabanga says there were up to seven.
Thursday’s protest was the second time in a week that Kalma camp was hit with violence, following shootings in the camp last Saturday. In its first statement UNAMID reported that gunmen identifying themselves as members of a rebel group led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur, known as SLA-AW, shot indiscriminately into the camp. In an update days later, UNAMID said the fighting was between “IDP representatives who attended the latest round of Doha talks and those who did not participate.” It also reported that five IDP leaders fled to UNAMID after receiving threats for opposing the negotiations. Al-Nur, who has refused to participate in the peace negotiations, told Sudan Tribune that his group was not party to the violence:
These are government elements that infiltrated the camp with the consent and knowledge of the UNAMID people. They are trying to intimidate the people there and pressure them to join the Doha talks under El-Sissi [Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) chairman].
Al-Nur is referring to civil society leader Tijani el-Seise, who heads the Liberation and Justice Movement, or LJM, a group comprised of many splinter rebel factions that lacks considerable popular support or firepower. LJM signed a framework agreement for peace talks with the government in March, but Seise’s leadership has not inspired confidence among observers or many Darfuris hoping to achieve a sustainable and comprehensive peace deal.
According to sources on the ground, rumors played a big role in the escalating tensions among IDPs. One rumor is that representatives at the civil society consultations were returning with large sums of money from the Sudanese government to encourage IDPs to support the peace talks. Another rumor said that Al-Nur’s men were planning to target the IDPs who went to the peace talks, as well as their family members.
A third incident took place Wednesday, in Hamadiya camp in West Darfur. According to UNAMID, clashes broke out between supporters of LJM and SLA-AW, leaving three LJM members dead.
Photo: Road through Kalma Camp (OXFAM)