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Posts Tagged ‘South Darfur’

Armed group releases five soldiers

Posted by African Press International on November 7, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 6, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – Five Sudanese soldiers held in Darfur were released today by the Sudan Liberation Army – Ali Karbino (SLA-AK), an armed opposition group. The International Committee of the Red Cross facilitated the operation in its capacity as a neutral intermediary.

“The Sudanese authorities and the SLA-AK asked us to facilitate the transfer and provide logistical support for this operation,” said Jean-Christophe Sandoz, head of the ICRC delegation in Sudan. The regular dialogue the ICRC maintains with the government authorities and various armed opposition groups allows it to play its unique role as a neutral intermediary.

ICRC delegates accompanied the released soldiers as a helicopter flew them to Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, where they were placed in the care of the Sudanese authorities. Prior to the transfer, the delegates spoke privately with the soldiers to make sure they were being transferred of their own free will.

Similar operations in Sudan this year involving the ICRC have resulted in the transfer of five South Sudanese prisoners of war released by the Sudanese government and of 32 Sudanese armed forces personnel and 36 civilians released by armed opposition groups.

The ICRC has been working in Sudan since 1978. In 2003 it extended its operations to Darfur, where it helps people suffering the effects of armed conflict and other violence.



International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)


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The Killing of Seven UN Peacekeeping Personnel in Darfur

Posted by African Press International on July 23, 2013

All evidence to date strongly suggests that the armed force responsible for the killing of seven Tanzanian members of the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is a Khartoum-allied militia force led by Hamouda Bashir (seventeen peacekeeping personnel were wounded, some very seriously).  Radio Dabanga reports today (July 18, 2013), on the basis of a series of interviews with witnesses on the ground, the following (all emphases have been added; there are a few very small edits for clarity, chiefly punctuation):


• The UN says the identity of the armed group that ambushed a UNAMID patrol in South Darfur on Saturday morning “has not yet been established”; however, witnesses have told Radio Dabanga that “UN vehicles” were spotted in the area being driven by members of a known government militia.

• During his daily press briefing in New York on Monday, spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Martin Nesirky…said that “the peacekeepers were attacked when they were undertaking a routine confidence-building patrol. The peacekeepers were outnumbered four to one by their attackers who numbered between 100 and 150.  [The attackers] had trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns. Nesirky said the “the UN is conducting its own investigations and calls on the Government of Sudan to identify and bring to account those responsible.”

• Various witnesses from South Darfur have reported to Radio Dabanga that “two UN cars were spotted on Saturday being driven by members of the government Central Police Reserve, nicknamed Abu Tira.”

• “The soldiers driving the cars were dressed in uniforms with the distinctive ‘eagle insignia’ on their shoulder,” they said. Apparently, the vehicles had “at least five uniformed members of the Central Police Forces of Sudan on each side of the back.”

• Observers say that the vehicles were driven from Hamada Forest (Khaba Hamada), through the area of Manawashi, across the bridge of Musko (Wadi Abu Hamra) in the direction of Shengil Tobaya. “When they reached Shengil Tobaya, they turned west towards one of militia’s bases in Jebel Afara, just cross the border in North Darfur.” The UN vehicles are now reportedly parked in the fenced base in Jebel Afara. The witnesses also confirmed that “nine Abu Tira vehicles” were at the market of Manawashi early on Saturday early morning to buy food. [The UN reported] that about ten vehicles were involved in the attack on the Tanzanian force—ER]

• “They bought meat before driving off in the direction of the Hamada Forest, a bush area that lies a few kilometres off the main road connection between El Fasher and Nyala.”

• Over the past few days, several people have reported in detail to Radio Dabanga that the local Abu Tira commander, Hamouda Bashir, was recognised.  Bashir is the right-hand man of Ali Kushayb, one of the main commanders of the Abu Tira [and who] has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes.

• The local population of the villages who testify to the presence of Abu Tira on Saturday morning mainly consist of Arab tribes and people from the Birgid, Barno and Tama tribes. They confirmed to Radio Dabanga that no SLA-MM troops were present.

Only several furgan (tent encampments) of traditional nomad camel caravans of the three main Arab tribes of Irigat, Awlad Beni Mansour, and Itifad roam this area.

• UNAMID has confirmed that the ambush occurred about 25 kilometres north/northwest of the Mission’s Khor Abeche base [i.e. a few kilometers off the main Nyala/el-Fasher road (see above)—ER]. “The UNAMID patrol was a relatively small one. It was ambushed by a large group, so we were completely outnumbered. We came under heavy fire from machine guns and possibly from rocket-propelled grenades,” a spokesman told Radio Dabanga. Several UNAMID vehicles, including armoured patrol vehicles and Land Cruisers had to be towed from the scene. The wheels of the patrol vehicles were all blown.


This account comports with previous reports I have received from the region, which have made the same claims about responsibility for the attack.  And yet the story of this outrageous crime is about to disappear into the abyss of UN expediency.  For the simple fact is that neither the UN nor the AU has any interest in an investigation that clearly establishes Khartoum’s responsibility.  For all the vigorous rhetoric that has come from various UN officials and others, it is merely rhetoric (an exception may be Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete).  Past behavior makes clear that neither element of the UNAMID “hybrid”—the UN and the AU—has any stomach for confronting Khartoum.  This was made especially clear following the deadly attack on a UNAMID convoy traveling to Hashaba in North Darfur last October, a mission that had as its task the investigation of a civilian massacre in the Hashaba area.  The attack was clearly the work of Khartoum-allied militia, as a great deal of evidence made clear (see “Violence in Hashaba, North Darfur: A brutal portent, another UN disgrace” at  To date, there has been no assignation of responsibility, and the rhetoric of the moment has proved entirely empty. 

There is a compelling historical precedent here.  For the same failure to assign responsibility for a deadly attack defined the response of the UN Secretariat and Security Council following an extraordinarily fierce attack on a UNAMID patrol on July 8, 2008 by what were clearly Khartoum-allied militia forces.  During a three-hour fire-fight near the village Umm Hakibah, North Darfur (approximately 100 kilometers southeast of el-Fasher), seven UNAMID personnel were killed and 22 wounded, some critically (see  This remains the highest casualty total among the many attacks on UNAMID over the past five and a half years.  The head of the UN peacekeeping at the time, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, was explicit about responsibility in his July 11, 2008 briefing of the Security Council (we have had nothing comparable from the current head of UN peacekeeping, Hervé Ladsous):

[1] Guéhenno told the Security Council that the attack on UN-authorized peacekeepers “took place in an area under Sudanese government control and that some of the assailants were dressed in clothing similar to Sudanese army uniforms. He also said the ambush was ‘pre-meditated and well-organized’ and was intended to inflict casualties rather than to steal equipment or vehicles” (Voice of America [UN/New York], July 11, 2008). The peacekeepers who were attacked reported seeing approximately 200 fighters, many on horses—a signature feature of the Janjaweed (often translated as “devil [or spirit] on horseback”).

[2] Agence France-Presse reported: “Guéhenno was quoted as saying that the ambush was designed ‘to inflict casualties’ and was carried out with ‘equipment usually not used by (rebel) militias'” (UN/New York], July 11, 2008). Separately and confidentially, a UN official went further in confirming to me that some of the arms used, including large-caliber recoilless rifles, have never been seen in the arsenals of the rebel groups. This official said that Guéhenno, who is retiring, had rarely been so explicit in assigning responsibility for attacks in Darfur.

There was additional conviction that the Janjaweed—armed and in this case almost certainly directed by Khartoum’s military command—were responsible for this attack on 61 Rwandan soldiers, 10 civilian police officers, and two military observers, who were returning to their el-Fasher base after investigating the killing of two civilians:

[3] Agence France-Presse reports from Khartoum on the views of UN and African Union officials on the ground in Darfur: “Officials in the African Union and UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, said on Wednesday [July 9, 2008] that suspected Janjaweed militia, who have fought with the state [i.e., Government of Sudan], were behind the attack that killed seven peacekeepers” (July 10, 2008).

Why, then, is this UN-authorized peacekeeping force so intimidated by Khartoum?  Why has the regime not been directly confronted over these brutal, criminal attacks?  For the same reason that the UN has deferred on so many other occasions to sensibilities of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party: because a direct accusation of Khartoum would likely prompt a crisis in which the regime, particularly the more militaristic elements, would demand that UNAMID withdraw.  And with an environment that had suddenly become “non-consensual,” UN instincts would almost certainly be to use this as an excuse for abandoning a mission that has failed and has been targeted for “draw-down” on the basis of supposedly improved security “conditions on the ground” (this was Ladsous’ assessment this past April).

This in turn would almost certainly lead to wholesale withdrawal by international non-governmental humanitarian organizations, and UN security regulations would restrict all UN agencies to exceedingly small areas of Darfur.  Nearly all the displaced persons camps would be beyond reach.  Without strong support from international actors such as the U.S., the EU, and individual African nations, this scenario would play out with a grim relentlessness.

This is why the UN and AU—despite the rhetoric—wish for nothing so much as that this story disappear and that some suitably ambiguous report be accepted as “definitive.”  Its most likely form will be to acknowledge the fact of Khartoum’s claiming that the Minni Minawi faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA/MM) is responsible—but that there is “other evidence” on the ground that contradicts this claim.  The language of the report (if in fact one is issued) will be as irresolute, as ambiguous, and as non-confrontational as possible.

This is the UN and AU tribute to the courage of the seven Tanzanian personnel who lost their lives, and the seventeen who were wounded in the attack of July 13, 2013.


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Is the Situation in Darfur Today “Alarming”?

Posted by African Press International on May 5, 2013

  • by Eric Reeves

Khartoum’s deputy ambassador to Norway, Mr. Onour Ahmed Onour, dismisses my recent account of Darfur as “alarmist.” This would suggest that Mr. Onour sees no “alarming” facts to be reported, no soul-destroying accounts from Darfuris to be trusted, and no worrisome humanitarian reports of significance. I defer for the moment questions about the honesty of National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime in its public statements—on conditions in Darfur and elsewhere—and focus simply on what has been very recently reported by the most authoritative sources to which the international community has ready access.

Displacement has been extremely high over the past year, exceeding a quarter of a million people. The UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), one of the best sources of news about Sudan, reported on April 19, 2013:

“An estimated 2.3 million people remain displaced by Darfur’s decade-long conflict. A number of peace agreements – most recently the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur—have failed to halt the intermittent clashes between the government and rebel groups in the region…. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (, more than 150,000 people were displaced by renewed violence in Darfur in the first three months of 2013.”

The displacement of 150,000 people in three months I regard as highly “alarming.” These civilians are in addition to the many tens of thousands who have been displaced in North Darfur, especially in Jebel Amer and the Hashaba region in the months following August 2012; they are also in addition to the very recent and accelerating displacement in various regions of South Darfur (Darfur’s most populous state), and there is yet further recent displacement into eastern Chad from West Darfur.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported from Tissi, eastern Chad (April 26, 2013):

“Violent clashes in Sudan’s Darfur region have driven approximately 50,000 people across the border into southeastern Chad since early March, where a lack of food, water, shelter, and basic services is developing into a humanitarian crisis, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.”

While reports from humanitarian organizations are regularly dismissed by Khartoum, MSF in particular has a reputation for scrupulous statistical accuracy. Such a refugee flow I find distinctly “alarming,” given the conditions into which these people are fleeing.

On the question of mortality in Darfur, the Khartoum regime continues to insist that “only” 10,000 people have died during the ten years of conflict in Darfur. According to the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED; Brussels, Belgium), the figure in late 2009 was approximately 300,000. This is also the figure promulgated by the UN, but the CRED report—while lacking key data on violent mortality—is a thoroughgoing professional estimate. (Olivier Degomme and Debarati Guha-Sapir in “Patterns of mortality rates in Darfur conflict,” The Lancet, January 23, 2010 (pages 294-300, )

I find a figure of 300,000 dead—overwhelmingly civilians from the African tribal populations of Darfur—”alarming” in the extreme. My own estimate—indebted to the CRED report but based in part on data available only subsequent to the appearance of the CRED report—is approximately 500,000.

Rape is reported by Radio Dabanga on a virtually daily basis; indeed, it is clear that an avalanche of sexual violence continues to sweep across Darfur, affecting women and girls of all ages. Khartoum has always denied the existence of rape in Darfur, and the regime’s record of non-prosecution is consistent with this view. But the epidemic was reported early on, in detail, by MSF-Holland; and for their labors, two senior officials of the organization were arrested by Khartoum (the offending report? “The Crushing Burden of Rape: Sexual Violence in Darfur,” MSF-Holland, March 2005). In March 2009, the French and Dutch sections of MSF were expelled on charges of “espionage.”

So how seriously are we to take Khartoum’s word, its denials, its various assertions? There are so very many statements that are demonstrably false that it’s difficult to know which to cull out. But the assertion that I am an “alarmist” over Darfur might be usefully judged against such claims as made by Khartoum following the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) bombing of Yida refugee camp in Unity State (South Sudan) in early November 2011; there could hardly be a better demonstration of the regime’s capacity for mendacity:

“Sudan Armed Forces spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad vehemently denied any links to the raid. ‘This information is completely false. We didn’t bomb any camps or any areas inside the borders of South Sudan,’ he told the AFP news agency. ‘What is going on in South Sudan belongs to the southerners. We don’t have any links to this.’” (Agence France-Presse, November 10, 2011)

Khartoum’s ambassador to the UN was equally mendacious:

“Sudanese Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman told journalists after a Security Council meeting on the matter Friday that the reports were ‘fabrications’ and ‘there was no aerial bombardment.’” (Associated Press [UN/New York], November 11, 2011)

And yet the details of the bombing attack were fully confirmed. There were, in fact, several journalists present in Yida at the very time of the bombing, including those of the BBC and Reuters, as well as representatives of the nongovernmental humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse, with a long history in Sudan. All confirmed that the refugee camp was hit by four bombs, one of which did not detonate: that bomb landed just outside a school where some 200 students were present. The UN High Commission for Refugees also condemned the bombing attack on Yida in unequivocal terms, on the basis of its own separate investigation (November 11, 2011).

How can we take seriously any claim by a regime capable of such outright lies? such demonstrable falsehood? And these lies have been countless, including about Darfur. The international community is well aware of this, but chooses expediently to ignore such outrageous behavior.

Certainly if we really want to know about conditions in Darfur we would do better to rely on Radio Dabanga—based in The Netherlands—which has established itself as a highly credible journalistic source, with an extraordinary number of contacts on the ground, including sheiks, omdas, nazirs, camp leaders, humanitarians, and rebel leaders. With able assistance from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), it has become without question our most reliable source of information about what is occurring on the ground in Darfur. Many of their recent headlines are deeply “alarming,” and any honest reckoning of Darfur’s realities must take these dispatches seriously. The following are just some of those that have appeared in the past week alone:

•2,200 families fleeing Sudan army, rebels battles arrive in camp
(KALMA CAMP, April 26, 2013)

•Deadly air strike ‘hits area south of Nyala’, South Darfur
(NYALA, 29 April 2013)

Camp residents protest against repeated attacks and lack of protection, N. Darfur
KABKABIYA (28 April 2013)

Militants rape and beat two women near Kabkabiya, N. Darfur
KABKABIYA (28 April 2013)

Camp market closed ‘indefinitely’ after attacks by militants, W. Darfur
SIRBA (28 April 2013)

‘Abu Tira’ forces loot displaced inside Central Darfur camp
BINDISI (25 Apr.)

300 people fleeing South Darfur’s battles ‘attacked’ by militias
NYALA (24 April 2013)

Militias ‘from Umm Dukhun’ loot police, citizens in Darfur
BINDISI (22 April 2013)

40%’ of Umm Dukhun’s population fled Sudan to Chad
UMM DUKHUN (24 April 2013)

‘Abu Tira’ forces shoot dead sheikh of Darfur camp
TAWILA (23 April 2013)

Two rape attempts in one day near North Darfur camp
KUTUM (22 April 2013)

10 West Darfur camps without food rations for 2 months
EL GENEINA (22 April 2013)

Pro-government militia ‘kill 18 civilians’ in Muhajeriya and Labado, East Darfur
MUHAJERIYA / LABADO (21 April 2013)

The tenor of these dispatches has not changed for several years, though their number is increasing; and this is what should “alarm” anyone who truly cares about the people of Darfur. My own most recent and detailed account, using the reports of Radio Dabanga and a wide range of other credible sources, can be found at: Yes, Mr. Onour, my “alarm” could not be greater.





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