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SUDAN: Darfur risks descending into anarchy - observers

سودانيزاونلاين.كوم
sudaneseonline.com
9/14/2005 9:51am

NAIROBI, 14 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - Darfur risks sliding into a perpetual state of lawlessness even as the Sudanese government and the main rebel groups in the war-torn region discuss the possibility of peacefully resolving the conflict there, observers have warned.

Banditry and continuous attacks by armed groups on humanitarian workers, Arab nomads and villages in Darfur have increased significantly over the past weeks and threaten to destabilise the fragile ceasefire in the volatile western Sudanese region.

"The month of September, so far, has not been a good month. There has been quite an increase in both the number and the scale of attacks," Radhia Achouri, spokeswoman for the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), said on Tuesday.

"Overall, there have been at least 10 serious attacks on humanitarian workers in the past 30 days - for the purpose of looting - particularly in West Darfur," Achouri added. "The situation in South Darfur is not better."

"These type of occurrences are happening all the time and all over," Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, head of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), said on 6 September, expressing his worry about the widespread nature and frequency of recent attacks.

In the latest reported incident on Tuesday, Abdel Wahed Mohamed al-Nur, chairman of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), accused the Sudanese government of killing 10 SLM/A of his soldiers and 10 civilians during attacks on their positions west of Sheng al-Tobei village, about 65 km south of El-Fasher, capital of North Darfur, Reuters news agency reported.

An armed forces spokesman, however, denied government forces were involved in any attacks in Darfur.

"I can confirm that the fighting is going on in that area. We have an AMIS presence on the ground, but yesterday it was too hot [with hostilities] to do any investigation," Nourreddine Mezni, spokesman for AMIS in Khartoum, said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, preparations for the sixth round of the Abuja peace talks between the government and the two main rebel groups - the SLM/A and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) - have been completed, and the peace negotiations are expected to resume in the Nigerian capital on Thursday.

Mezni warned that any incident would have a negative impact on the talks: "That is why Ambassador Kingibe made an appeal on all parties to refrain from hostilities on the eve of the resumption of the talks."

In the past, fighting has tended to increase among the parties prior to the resumption of peace talks. The alleged intension of this display of military power was to strengthen parties’ respective bargaining position at the negotiating table.

Observers on the ground in Darfur, however, warned in August that the SLM/A chain of command was disintegrating and that "warlordism" was increasing in the region.

"The conflict in Darfur started as a counterinsurgency campaign that lasted a few months, with huge humanitarian consequences, but it has now transformed into a low-intensity conflict which is likely to evolve into a situation of chronic instability," Alexandre Liebeskind, head of Darfur operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said.

On 25 August, a rebel group entered a village near Turba, some 50 km north of the South Darfur capital Nyala, and abducted children belonging to the Arab nomads living in the area.

According to AMIS, the rebels also stole over 2,000 camels and killed three civilians and three government solders.

In an unconfirmed incident on 8 September, armed men attacked the village of Abujidal in North Darfur, reportedly killing 12 villagers.

On Friday, shooting erupted in the town of Tawilla, also in North Darfur, forcing many people to flee. Three persons were reported dead and an estimated 25 people injured, among them 11 police officers.

On the same day, fighting took place between roughly 80 armed tribesmen and an unknown number of SLM/A troops at Kunjo, in East Jebel Marra in South Darfur. The armed tribesmen allegedly attacked the village and looted a number of cattle, leaving three tribesmen dead and four wounded.

"Although at this point we can't certify all of the incidents, as a general trend the situation is concerning," Achouri warned.
UNMIS had asked the government of Sudan to secure the areas where there was no rebel activity, she added, while AMIS had promised to do what it could in providing escorts for humanitarian convoys.

The conflict in Darfur pits Sudanese government troops and allied militias like the Janjawid - accused of terrorising the region's non-Arab tribes - against two main rebel groups, the SLM/A and the JEM, who claim to be fighting against the marginalisation of their region by Khartoum.

Over 2.9 million people continue to be affected by the conflict, of whom 1.85 million are internally displaced or have been forced to flee to neighbouring Chad.

[ENDS]

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