Juan Mendez, the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide
KHARTOUM, 27 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - The Janjawid, a militia group allegedly allied to the Sudanese government, must be disarmed if peace is to return to the country's western region of Darfur, a senior UN official said on Monday.
"The disarmament of the Janjawid would help the government reach a peaceful solution," Juan Mendez, the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, said in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
"Without disarmament of the Janjawid, there is no possibility of reaching a positive solution to the Darfur crisis," he added.
Since the start of the conflict in February 2003, the Janjawid militiamen have been accused of the massacre of the region's non-Arab inhabitants.
Despite the US stating in September 2004 that genocide had occurred in Darfur, a UN-appointed commission of inquiry concluded in January that violence in the region did not amount to genocide. Instead, it said, mass killings of civilians had occurred.
Mendez said violent attacks against Darfur's internally displaced persons (IDPs) continued - particularly the rape of women who left the camps to collect firewood - and that most IDPs had lost trust in the Sudanese judiciary.
"The new government of national unity has the responsibility to address the past and reinstate trust in the people of Darfur," he said. "The international community has placed high hope in the government of national unity, and hopes that it will play a great role to resolve conflicts in Darfur."
President Umar al-Bashir appointed a new government of national unity on 21 September in accordance with a peace agreement that ended the country's 21-year north-south war.
Mendez said according to the IDPs, "the disarmament of the Janjawid militia is a priority for them to return to their homes".
Appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2004, Mendez said his mandate did not qualify him to decide whether genocide had taken place in Darfur. Instead, he said, his mandate was preventive and designed to offer recommendations to Annan in order to avoid massive violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law which, if not stopped, could lead to genocide.
The conflict in Darfur pits Sudanese government troops and allied militias like the Janjawid against two main rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, which claim to be fighting the marginalisation of their region by the Khartoum-based government.
The UN says more than 2.9 million people continue to be affected by the conflict, of whom 1.85 million are internally displaced or have fled to neighbouring Chad.