The failed UN/African Union “hybrid” Mission in Darfur (UNAMID)—which has shamelessly and with gross inaccuracy celebrated its success for the almost ten years during which it has been charged with protecting civilians and humanitarians—continues (per its most recent reauthorization by the UN Security Council | June 2017) to draw down its forces on a scale ensuring that what exceedingly limited protection the Mission has offered will be greatly reduced. 44 percent of military personnel are now deploying out of Darfur and 30 percent of the policing personnel. The knock-on effects of withdrawing this hopelessly misconceived, demoralized, ill-equipped, and badly led Mission are many.
Some of the greatest consequences will be a reduction in humanitarian access; for example, since the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) flies only to areas militarily protected, locations abandoned by UNAMID troops will no longer be accessible. This is especially perverse since a condition for the permanent lifting of U.S. economic sanctions by the Trump administration was the improvement of humanitarian access in Darfur. The UN’s current estimate of the number of people in Darfur in need of humanitarian assistance is 3 million.
The recent kidnapping of a Swiss aid worker, thankfully released, is a reminder of how vulnerable humanitarians are in Darfur—and the reason that 97 percent of all personnel for international nongovernmental humanitarian organizations (INGOs) are Sudanese nationals—who face reprisals and arrest by the vindictive Khartoum regime for their work in Darfur. They have repeatedly been labeled “criminals,” “spies,” “Zionists,” and “thieves” by Khartoum.
Tragically, the greatest consequence of UNAMID’s deployment out of Darfur are the continuation, and in some places acceleration, of daily ethnically-targeted attacks on civilians throughout Darfur, primarily by Arab militias controlled or sanctioned by Khartoum. Non-Arab (African) civilians continue to be—as they have been for more than fourteen years—subject to murder, rape, displacement, and loss of property and goods.
There is good reason to believe that we will see in the reports from Darfur (conveyed primarily by Radio Dabanga) continuation, even expansion, of these attacks. Only the fact of previous vast destruction of African villages and the violent expropriation of farmlands, and the massive concentration of displaced persons (some 2.7 million in Darfur itself,another 320,000 in eastern Chad refugee camps) limits the scale of attacks. Moreover, we should remember that some 600,000 people have been killed as a direct or indirect result of violence over the past fourteen years: this approaches ten percent of the pre-war population in Darfur (see | http://sudanreeves.org/2017/01/05/quantifying-genocide-darfur-mortality-update-august-6-2010/).
As a crude barometer of the scale of violence, I have been assembling a brief bi-weekly compendium of foreshortened dispatches from Radio Dabanga and Sudan Tribune (all with sources on the ground). For surveys covering more extensive periods the violent expropriation of African farmlands (November 2014 – November 2016) and the rape of girls and young women (for the years 2014 and 2015), see:
Herewith the fourth (bi-weekly) compendium of violence reported from Darfur during the withdrawal of UNAMID. Particular emphasis has been given to reports bearing on the “disarmament” policy of the Khartoum regime, which is entered its “forcible collection” stage with ominous implications for the IDP camps, most notably Kalma camp near Nyala. Other dispatches with broader and long-range implications have been put at the beginning of the compendium:
• U.S. urges Sudan and rebels to reach permanent ceasefire | Sudan Tribune | November 17, 2017 (KHARTOUM)
The visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan has demanded the Sudanese government and the armed groups to reach a permanent and general ceasefire in Darfur, the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. The Sudanese army has been fighting Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N) rebels in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, also known as Two Areas since 2011 and a group of armed movements in Darfur since 2003.
[Sullivan offers no specifics, nor any criticism of the corrupt and incompetent leadership of the AU’s Thabo Mbeki in the futile “peace process”—or the imperative (as Khartoum sees it) of a disarmament campaign in Darfur that will inevitably lead to massive new violence in the region—Sullivan is simply offering diplomatic boilerplate—ER]
Following six days of talks in Addis Ababa in August 2016, the armed movements and the government failed to conclude a deal on the security arrangements and humanitarian access in Darfur and the Two Areas prompting the African Union mediation to suspend the talks indefinitely. Since two years, the two sides continued to declare a unilateral cessation of hostilities in the conflict areas.
[Khartoum’s strategy in accommodating U.S. conditions for lifting economic sanctions has been to shift to a policy of starving the Two Areas into submission. AU inability to secure humanitarian access over more than six years is an apt measure of its diplomatic incompetence and unwillingness to confront Khartoum—ER]
Speaking in a lecture at the University of the Holy Quran in Khartoum Friday, Sullivan called on the Sudanese government to stop its military attacks in the conflict zones and declare a permanent ceasefire to achieve peace and stability in the country. He also demanded the SPLM-N to accept the US proposal to deliver humanitarian assistance to the affected civilians in the Two Areas.
[Predictably, given previous disingenuous pronouncements by the senior U.S. diplomat in Khartoum, Charge d’Affaires Steven Koutsis, Sullivan makes no mention of the scale or length of Khartoum’s humanitarian embargo on rebel-controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. No “U.S. proposal” has been put forward that is remotely adequate to the critical needs for food and medicines in these areas. This is more shameful U.S. posturing, from which only Khartoum benefits. More disingenuous U.S. posturing on this human catastrophe is a terrible disgrace—ER]
• Displaced set strict rules for camp searches by Sudan forces | Radio Dabanga | November 17, 2017 | ZALINGEI
[The weapons collection at the relatively small Hamidiya camp in Central Darfur (near Zalingei) occurred with only minor violence (“three soldiers troops assaulted displaced people in the market and seized a number of telephones”)—and of course there was no cache of weapons to be found. The conclusion to this dispatch is what is of most importance in looking forward—ER]
In a statement this month, UNAMID called on the Sudanese authorities to coordinate the search of illegal weapons in camps for the displaced with the peacekeepers. The mission immediately reacted to the “show of force” by heavily armed government forces in Kalma camp on November 1, which caused panic among the displaced people.
[We can expect to see a great deal more of this as the forcible phase of the disarmament campaign continues—ER]
[Hussein Abusharati of the Displaced People’s Association said], “At the top of the conditions for the inspection is the formation of a tripartite committee, comprising of the camp administration, UNAMID, and the government, for supervision. Secondly, the inspection should be conducted by UNAMID. “Thirdly, the purpose of the inspection should be only for arms without the exposure of the displaced to questioning or holding their leadership. Fourthly, the government forces must immediately depart from the camp after the inspection.”
[Reasonable as these demands may seem, they will not be met by Khartoum as camp searches continue with less attention from the UN and international community—ER]
In August, the Sudanese government launched a large-scale campaign to disarm civilians and collect illegal weapons and vehicles in Darfur and states of Kordofan, in its attempt to improve the security and stability in these regions. The campaign has entered the stage of compulsory collection of weapons by reinforcements of Sudanese military and security forces.
The compulsory arms collection is feared to lead to new conflict and internal fighting between militias in Darfur. The RSF captured Ali Rizgallah ‘Safana’, leader of a recently defected faction of the paramilitary Border Guards, after several clashes in North Darfur on 10 November. Also Musa Hilal, militia leader and chief of the Mahameed clan, strongly opposes the planned integration of the Border Guards into the RSF, as part of the disarmament campaign.
[These fears are all too well justified, and major violence is only a matter of time, with civilians caught in the middle, especially in North Darfur—ER]
• Weapons collection campaign increases risk of armed clashes in Darfur: Enough | Sudan Tribune | November 9, 2017 (KHARTOUM)
The ongoing weapons collection campaign in Darfur region does contribute to bringing stability in the region but could increase the risk of armed confrontation, as the government target only the tribal gunmen who threaten the regime’s hegemony, says Enough Project in a report released Thursday.
[This report by Suliman Baldo of the Enough Project is both timely enormously important: it gives us the clearest account to date of the catastrophic potential of Khartoum’s “disarmament” campaign; see | https://enoughproject.org/blog/new-report-ominous-threats-descending-darfur-2/]
• Sudanese government faces challenges in Darfur perilous exercise of arms collection | Sudan Tribune | November 5, 2017 (Nyala/El Fasher)
According to identical sources in different parts of the western Sudan region of Darfur, the collection of weapons campaign launched by the government is facing a series of difficulties, due to the lack of needed funds and the resistance of the Musa Hilal-led Border Guards Forces militia. Since the middle of last August, the Sudanese vice president has inaugurated the campaign to collect weapons from citizens, militias and tribes in a two-stage process, voluntary and coercive. However, South Darfur arm collection committee decided at the end of last October to postpone the campaign of forcible phase indefinitely due to lack of funding.
A military source in South Darfur state told Sudan Tribune that the higher committee for the collection of weapons did not meet its commitment to provide the needed funds for the forcible weapon collection. Therefore, this phase which was supposed to be launched in the state in mid-October has begun only early November. The military official did not disclose the amount of money allocated for the campaign. “It is a big figure, but it should be provided to finance the fuel, per diems, and incentives to cope with emergencies and injuries if there are problems during the inspection and forcible collection.”
The official statements say 30,000 arms have been collected in the five states of Darfur region during the voluntary process which started in August, while official figures estimate at 700,000 the number of illegal weapons in Darfur.
Until now, the government collected weapons from the Popular Defence Forces (PDF), the Popular Police, but the Border Guards led by tribal leader Musa Hilal refused to hand over their weapons or to join the Rapid Support Forces led by Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, (aka Hametti). Hilal announced his readiness to confront government forces militarily, if they attempt to disarm his militia forcibly.
To prepare for any eventuality, the government dispatched over 10,000 RSF militiamen to North Darfur state where Hilal forces estimated at 2500 fighters are based. The tribal leader and former Jajaweed leader sought to rally some armed groups like Savanna led by Abdallallah Rizqallah and others saying he has the money, weapons and ammunition just needs men to confront the government.
After tolerating for long time his activities in the gold mines of Jabal Amir, the government dispatched RSF forces to control the area. In a show of force, the militiamen confiscated motorcycles in the mines. Also, on Friday morning, an additional RSF armoured regiment composed of tanks and armoured vehicles arrived in El-Fasher in reinforcement of the weapons collection force.
[The scale of violence suggested by this dispatch should be terrifying: civil war in Darfur will have different actors, different ambitions—but the civilians of the region will inevitably be caught in the middle, and humanitarian relief efforts could be interrupted on a massive scale—ER]
• Sudanese forces briefly surround Darfur Kalma camp | Sudan Tribune | November 2, 2017 (NYALA)
In a show of force before to launch the compulsory arms collection campaign on Friday, Sudanese government forces surrounded South Darfur largest camp for displaced people on Thursday for some time before withdrawing. Sudanese government officials point to the presence of arms in the restive Kalma camp located outside Nyala. [The Khartoum regime provides no evidence, and ignores its previous murderous assaults on defenseless civilians in Kalma—ER]. Also, they speak of the presence of rebel supporters in the camp, saying they are connected to the rebel leaders. “More than 140 four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicles loaded with arms and soldiers, armoured vehicles and tanks, surrounded three blocks in the southern part of Kalma camp, but left after a quarter of an hour,” Adam Abdallah the deputy chairman of displaced persons and refugees association told Sudan Tribune on Thursday. Adam said the encirclement of the camp with the military, armoured vehicles and tanks caused fear and panic among the camp residents.
• North Darfur security: Swiss aid worker released, kidnappers held | Radio Dabanga | November 16, 2017 | EL FASHER
[The kidnapped woman], Margaret Schenkel, who speaks fluent Arabic, has been a humanitarian activist for more than 20 years, providing assistance to children in North Darfur, running a centre for undernourished children.
[Khartoum, during 15 years of genocidal violence in Darfur, has created an environment of lawlessness and impunity that puts all civilians and humanitarians at acute risk—ER]
• Small Arms Survey report: ‘UN Peacekeepers have lost thousands of weapons in sub-Saharan Africa’ | Radio Dabanga | November 15, 2017 | NEW YORK
UN-backed peacekeepers have lost enough guns and ammunition in sub-Saharan Africa over the past two decades to arm an army, according to a study by the Small Arms Survey. The shocking figures contained in the report are highlighted in an analysis by James Reini for Al Jazeera news this week. The research group’s director, Eric Berman, said peacekeepers have lost “at least thousands of weapons and millions of rounds of ammunition” this century, often handing them over to local fighters without putting up a fight.
Losses range from pistols and bullets to heavy machine guns, mortars, recoilless guns and grenade launchers, which can be military game-changers on the battlefields of Somalia, Democratic republic of Congo, and Sudan, Berman told Al Jazeera. “Peacekeepers are losing arms and ammunition that are going to be used against them and against civilians that they’re asked to protect, and prolonging conflicts that they’re asked to help resolve,” Berman said.
The 75-page study, called Making a Tough Job More Difficult, identifies 20 forces operating under the UN, the African Union or some other international coalition that have lost guns and ammunition from 1993-2017. Most losses occurred in Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Mali and the Central African Republic.
[UNAMID in Darfur is Exhibit A in this horrific account, which speaks directly to UN and African Union incompetence in Darfur, where the Mission has served largely as a fig-leaf, obscuring the absence of a vigorous, committed mission to protect civilians and humanitarians. The international community as a whole has been complicit in accepting a fig-leaf instead of a meaningful peacekeeping and civilian protection mission—ER]
• More Sudan forces deployed for Darfur arms collection | Radio Dabanga | November 6, 2017 | KHARTOUM
The commander of Sudan’s main militia, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), announced on Sunday that Khartoum decided to deploy more forces for its disarmament campaign in Darfur. He ruled out a confrontation with his cousin, former janjaweed leader Musa Hilal, whose fighters refuse to hand in their arms. In a press conference held at the RSF base in Teibat El Hasanab near Khartoum on Sunday, Commander Mohamed Hamdan (aka Hemeti) said that the forced collection of illegal weapons and unlicensed vehicles in Darfur will soon be expanded with “more armed forces”. He stressed that his forces “will not leave any weapon in the hands of civilians [..] in all areas and villages of Darfur.”
In North Darfur alone, more than 12,500 RSF troops have been deployed to disarm civilians.
The campaign is to be followed by a reform of “the supporting forces of the army,” by which the various government militias will be dissolved. The members are to join the RSF.
The collection of firearms from the Popular Defence Forces and the Central Reserve Police militias happened as planned, but the government forces so far failed to collect weapons from the paramilitary Border Guards, affiliated with Musa Hilal.
[And beyond the organized paramilitary forces indicated here are the countless smaller, often unnamed militia groups that prey on travelers and engage in brutal extortion schemes targeting African farmers and IDP camp residents. The whole region is awash in weapons, a tremendous number from Libya following the demise of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011—ER]
• Clashes as RSF, Border Guards tensions erupt | Radio Dabanga | November 10, 2017 | KORMA / EL FASHER
Large clashes took place between two of Sudan’s paramilitary forces, the Rapid Support Forces and the Border Guards, near Korma today. Their leaders have not revealed the casualty number. Eyewitnesses in Korma in North Darfur told Radio Dabanga that fighting broke out in Amar Jadeed, Eshbara, Kela and Niro. They heard explosions and gunfire coming from these areas from morning until after the Friday prayers ended.
The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) spokesman, Col. Abdelrahman El Jaali, confirmed the clash in Korma, which is 12 kilometres west of El Fasher. In a statement to the official Sudanese news agency (Suna) he said that they managed to arrest nine Border Guards members and seized their military equipment. He said that a number of militiamen were killed when the RSF pursued them up to the outskirts of Kutum. The RSF still give chase to the Border Guards members who managed to flee. “We will work to clean up all Darfur states from the infiltrators, especially those in the cities.”
[Darfur’s new nightmare of violence, which will certainly spread during the so-called “disarmament” campaign—ER]
• Ex-rebels chase away militants near North Darfur camp | November 13, 2017 | KABKABIYA
A clash broke out between former rebel fighters and a group of militants, east of camp Sortony in Kabkabiya, on Saturday. Residents of the Sortony site, adjacent to the base of the AU-UN peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) reported to Radio Dabanga that the fighting was caused by a group of militants, riding horses and donkeys, who beat displaced people on the farms of Teo, two kilometres east of the camp. The attackers forced the displaced farmers to leave. UNAMID peacekeeping soldiers were unable to confront the attackers, “on the grounds that there were not enough troops to move,” the mission replied to the victims who reported the case. One of the camp residents said that the people then requested El Sadig El Fakkah to come to their aid, a former rebel movement which signed an internal peace agreement with the Sudanese government. El Fakkah’s troops stationed themselves southwest of Sortony on Saturday afternoon and clashed with the militant group, forcing them to leave the farms. One man was wounded and another of El Fakkah’s force went missing during the fighting. There are no details yet about the other party. According to the UN, their number has reduced to 21,500 people who are registered and currently reside at the site.
[The implications of this fighting are enormous and give us a sense of why some armed groups, even those nominally part of a “peace” with the Khartoum regime, will simply not give up their weapons peacefully. The incompetence of UNAMID, highlighted here, gives every incentive to men such as Sadig El Fakkah to keep their weapons—ER]
• Sudanese gov’t militia clashes with rebels in North Darfur | Sudan Tribune | November 10, 2017 (EL-FASHER)
Bloody clashes have occurred on Friday in Korma areas, North Darfur state between government militia, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudan Army Movement-Revolutionary Forces (SAM-RF) of Abdelallah Raziqallah aka (Savanna), reliable sources told Sudan Tribune. A source at the Korma administrative unit in the locality of El-Fasher, North Darfur capital said sounds of weaponry and fire exchange were heard from Amari Gadid, Kaila, Niro and Abshara areas. He added gunmen have arrived in the abovementioned areas from Kabkabiya and Kutum several days ago, saying they clashed with the RSF on Friday afternoon.
Later on Friday, an RSF source told Sudan Tribune that their fighters managed to defeat outlaws belonging to the SAM-RF in Jaga area which lies between Tawila and Kabkabiya localities. He disclosed that dozens of the SAM-RF fighters have been captured and two four-wheel-drive Land Cruiser vehicles were seized. Also, the official news agency SUNA has quoted the RSF spokesperson Abdel-Rahman al-Ga’ali as saying they captured 9 SAM-RF fighters, stressing several rebels have been killed while the rest of the rebel force have fled the battlefield. He underscored the RSF would clean Darfur’s five states of the outlaws and end their presence, particularly in the major towns.
[Yet another source of violence in Darfur—ER]
• Four children die in South Darfur ammo storage explosion | Radio Dabanga | November 13, 2017 | NYALA
•Five Darfur children injured in grenade blast | Radio Dabanga | November 9, 2017 | NYALA
[Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) and the huge storage sites for ammunition will pose threats to the children of Darfur for many years to come—ER]
• Darfur camp residents, farmers wounded in attacks | Radio Dabanga | November 10, 2017 | GIREIDA / SIRBA
Militiamen wounded three students in a camp for displaced people in South Darfur on Thursday, where a fire destroyed a number of houses three days ago. In two separate incidents, armed men with livestock attacked groups of farmers. One of the victims, all higher secondary school students, told Radio Dabanga that armed men injured a group of young men in Gireida [South Darfur] camp who gathered building materials from the Abola area, east of Gireida. The material would be used to re-construct the buildings that were burned on Tuesday. The attackers opened fire into the air, wounding students Fathi Idris Siyam, Mohamed Adam Ali, and Saeed Adam Ali. “Fathi Idris was seriously wounded and taken to a hospital in Nyala.” On Tuesday a fire broke out at a camp in Gireida in South Darfur and damaged 25 houses and a quantity of crops.
[All fires are potentially arson in the current climate of assaults on IDP camps—and the particular violence described here continues to confront non-Arab/African Darfuris on a daily basis—ER]
On Thursday, armed herdsmen opened fire on a group of farmers and wounded two of them south of Gireida. A witness informed this station that they attacked the farmers when they attempted to chase away cattle that the herders released onto the farms.Mohamed Eisa and Ibrahim Daoud were injured. “The herders’ livestock has destroyed large areas of agricultural crops south of Gireida,” the witness reported, adding that the areas which were affected the most are called Sennar, Banaya, Ous and Joghana. Local police has been informed about the incident, the witness said, but has not moved to drive the livestock out of the farms. On Sunday, armed men also attacked farmers in Gireida. An activist in the area reported that the men were herders and wore military uniforms. Two women were injured.
A group of armed men attacked four displaced women from Abu Suruj in Sirba, West Darfur, on Thursday. The men attacked the farming women reportedly to assault and rape them. The coordinator of the Sirba camps told Radio Dabanga: “When they resisted, they beat the women and caused them varying injuries. Two of the women were taken to Abu Suruj hospital.” The victims are Hawa Abdallah Abakar, Maryam Mohamed, Kaltoum Abakar and Aisha Abakar El Nur.
• Young farmer raped during South Darfur harvest | Radio Dabanga | November 9, 2017 | MERSHING
A young woman was raped was raped by militiamen as she harvested crops in Mershing locality in South Darfur on Monday. The victim’s brother, who is a soldier of the Sudan Armed Forces, told Radio Dabanga that on Monday three militiamen attacked his 16-year-old sister while she was harvesting groundnuts at her farm, and raped her at gunpoint.
He said that he took his sister to Mershing Hospital, but the hospital officials did not examine her for a whole day. This prompted him to put on his military uniform and go to the doctor’s house. He says “the doctor examined her after a long argument and confirmed the rape, but no one has moved to hunt down the perpetrators.”