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Another Massacre in South Darfur: Old Tactics, New Strategies

Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) expresses a grave concern regarding an attack on Monday, March 9th, that has killed at least 12 people and wounded more than 17 people in South Darfur. We would like to repeat our urgent calls for the effective provision of security and well-being for Darfuri residents, as well as for the apprehension and prosecution of the individuals who have carried out such violent crimes. The security status of Darfur is a cornerstone in the peaceful transition and sustainable development of the entire nation of Sudan, and thus cannot be ignored. Justice for the victims of this most recent attack, likewise, cannot be foregone.

Reports from the civilians on the ground and the local news source Radio Dabanga were able to ascertain the details of the attack on Dewana village in Beleil locality. Community leader Omda Nureldin Ishag testified that tensions were sparked by an initial dispute between a resident farmer and a herder. Others furthermore confirmed that the farmer acted in self-defense in stabbing the herder to death. Even though the farmer had surrendered himself to the police afterwards, other herders gathered and stormed the area in retaliation. They surrounded Dewana village and indiscriminately opened fire, killing and wounding innocent civilians as well as burning several homes to the ground. The final casualty total of 12 killed and more than 17 injured has yet to account for some missing individuals.

This attack was neither random nor isolated. We must note the provoked recurrent nature by which herders, many of whom are Janjaweed militia members affiliated with the Rapid Support Forces, have been killing farmers in Darfur. DWAG’s December-January event report highlighted several instances – most notably in El Geneina and Kerending refugee camp in West Darfur – where similar patterns of violence have erupted with villagers and farmers coming under attack. It is additionally worth noting that the people who are coming under attack are from the same indigenous tribes – the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa – as those targeted for genocide by the former regime’s forces and proxy militias. The Interim Government of Sudan must therefore take proper steps in redress of the malicious farmer-herder dynamic, as well as take precautionary measures for the behalf of Darfuri residents who are just seeking to make their own livings in the face of longstanding crises.

This is not to say that the local South Darfur government has not responded. Major General Hashim Mahmoud, the governor of South Darfur, has issued a tentative statement on the attack. Mahmoud claimed that government security forces have been deployed to Dewana village in order to contain the situation, and furthermore that a committee of inquiry has been formed to investigate the perpetrators and motivations behind such incident. These measures, albeit a step in the right direction, are too little too late. The bodies of victims have already been buried in Dewana and Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.

The Interim Government of Sudan, and actors of local governance by extension, have been woefully inadequate in dealing with attacks such as the one in South Darfur. Major General Mahmoud’s words, despite being strong, only fall upon skeptical ears jaded by the government’s previous unfulfilled promises for action. The government must be willing to learn some lessons if they are actually serious in their calls. They must understand that reactive policies of protection cannot guarantee the security and well-being of Darfuri residents. Security forces must do more than merely arrive at the scene of the crime after the perpetrators have already fled. Rather, the Interim Government of Sudan (as well as the UN Security Council) must take proactive steps in protecting civilians if the is to be a lasting peace in Darfur. Herders, for instance, should not be allowed to carry automatic assault rifles with impunity. Deproliferation of arms and demilitarization campaigns ought to be continued, if not escalated, in these areas. Economic woes must be redressed so that resource conflicts are mitigated. Continuing to tolerate such persistent problems are irresponsible given the systematic tensions in the region already.

In the event that the interim government is unwilling or unable to protect its people, the international community led by the UN Security Council must intervene to help the Darfuri people whom have been victimized for two whole decades.

DWAG thus issues the following calls to action to demand protection, accountability, and an end to these heinous and recurrent acts of violence:

1.) The UNSC must prioritize civilian protection throughout the Darfur region as a whole, with a particular emphasis on the proactive apprehension of militant groups of herders and the de-escalation of tensions among the plurality of Darfuri residents.

2.) An internationally monitored investigation must be rendered in the aftermath of the Dewana village attack. This is crucial to reinforce South Darfur governor Mahmoud’s local committee of inquiry for investigation of the attack and subsequent pursuit of fleeing suspects.

3.) UNSC must aid Sudan in conducting the process of disarmament of Janjaweed/other militant groups and in withdrawing military forces from civilian inhabited areas.

4.) All actors must rally for criminal accountability and an end of impunity for the past and present crimes committed in Darfur and all across Sudan.

The people of Darfur have suffered for far too long and today they must not continue to be victims. The interim government’s claim to legitimate authority must be judged solely on its ability to provide security, welfare, and justice to its people. We must hold such government accountable to its mandate and demand the calls to action above.

The actions of the Interim Government of Sudan hold both the legacies of the Dewana attack victims and the futures of the survivors at stake.

There is no peace without justice and no justice without accountability.

About: Darfur Women Action Group:

Women Action Group (DWAG) strives to empower and amplify the voices of women, the victims of genocide, and the historically excluded Sudanese. DWAG ultimately aim to enable them to fight for their rights, to achieve justice, and to equally participate in the transformation of their society.

Niemat Ahmadi, President

Norrie Kurtz, Board’s Chair

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