April 16 - 2021 EL GENEINA
EL GENEINA Masalit tribesmen (File photo)
The Displaced People and Refugees Gathering of the Masalit in West Darfur rejects the decisions of the mediation between their leaders and those of the Arab tribes in the region. They hold the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces responsible for the attacks.
Fierce fighting between Masalit tribesmen and members of various Arab tribes erupted in the West Darfur capital El Geneina* on April 3. According to the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, the conflict started when two Masalit tribesmen were killed on a road separating an Arab neighbourhood from a Masalit one. The failure of authorities to investigate the murders led to retaliatory violence. Armed groups from both tribes took to the streets and heavy fighting erupted, that could reportedly continue without any intervention from the security forces. At least 144 people were killed.
On Monday morning, April 12, a high-level delegation chaired by the president of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council, Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, arrived in the West Darfur capital El Geneina for a two-day visit to investigate the situation in the region.
The mediators, including the Minister of Interior Affairs Lt Gen Ezzeldin El Sheikh and Director of the Intelligence Service Lt Gen Jamal Abdelmajeed, conducted two separate meetings with leaders of the Masalit and of the Arab tribes. The next day, the Interior Minister briefed the press on the decisions of El Burhan, “related to the security and humanitarian situation”. They were issued in consultation with all parties, he said, and explained he would remain in El Geneina until the directives have been enforced.
Yesterday however, the Dar Masalit Displaced People and Refugees Gathering announced their rejection of the outcomes of the mediation in a press statement. They criticised the Khartoum delegation for not meeting their Committee of Victims of the Jebel Districts and Abuzar camp for the displaced, or other affected Masalit. The Victims Committee said in a press statement that they consider the Sovereignty Council’s visit “unsuccessful” and “a provocation to the victims”, which may lead to a re-ignition of the clashes.
The victims further declared their rejection of “the policies of reconciliation and bargaining carried out by native administration leaders appointed by the government”. As the problem is “not tribal”, but “a criminal case”, the Rule of Law must be applied.
The Masalit committee accused the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) government militia of supporting the recurrent attacks by gunmen “from across the border”, on the camps near El Geneina. The RSF paramilitaries should be immediately removed from West Darfur, as they are “the main cause of the violence”.
The decisions issued by El Burhan at the end of his visit, include the digging of a trench be dug around El Geneina to control the entry and exit of traffic into the West Darfur capital.
The RSF guesthouse in El Geneina is to be evacuated. Members of the regular forces (Sudan Armed Forces, the RSF and other paramilitary groups) are prohibited to move inside the neighbourhoods and markets, except for official assignments. They should keep their heavy weapons in the military depots.
Former rebel fighters should be removed from the residence of the Masalit Sultan. They are not allowed to wear military uniforms and carry weapons in the state.
The government delegation as well instructed a review of the town’s security plan, the formation of a reserve force to face emergencies, and the reinforcement of the Central Reserve Forces.
Suspected neighbourhoods in El Geneina, including camps for the displaced, are to be searched for arms and people accused of having joined the fighting. Members of the regular forces, whose names were mentioned in previous events, are to be investigated.
Those accused of being involved in the fighting should stand trial immediately, prosecutors should be appointed to handle “information crimes”, increasing, and the police stations in the area should be strengthened.
As for the social axis, El Burhan ordered the formation of community committees in coordination with the West Darfur security forces, the return of the newly displaced to their villages, where the necessary security should be provided.
The Interior Minister also reported that he discussed the provision of urgent humanitarian aid to those affected with UN agencies and aid organisations in El Geneina.
The Sudanese Humanitarian Aid Commissioner added that humanitarian aid items will be sent from Khartoum in the coming days.
* Darfur has a long history of strife between Arab herding tribes and non-Arab African herders or sedentary farmers. Arab tribesmen were recruited by the previous regime of dictator Omar Al Bashir to join the Janjaweed militias. Al Bashir employed these militias, largely made up of Arab nomads, to repress a revolt over ethnic marginalisation in the region, mainly targeting non-Arab African farmers. According to UN figures, by 2008, the conflict had left at least 300,000 people dead, and displaced more than 2.5 million. However, more recent counts published by Small Arms Survey from 2011 suggest a “conservative estimate of 500,000 deaths from direct and indirect consequences of violence”; a figure prominent Sudan and Darfur commentator Prof Eric Reeves revised to 600,000 in 2016 based on new evidence and extrapolation from previous data. West Darfur is home to the Masalit, a non-Arab sedentary tribe. The governor and local government employees belong to this tribe. In January, more than 160 people died in attacks on El Geneina and adjacent camps for the displaced as Arab herdsmen targeted Masalit people.
** The RSF militia was set up by the ousted Al Bashir regime in August 2013 to make an end to the insurgency in Kordofan and Darfur. Many RSF members have been recruited among Arab tribes in Darfur and Kordofan. Officially, the paramilitaries were integrated into the Sudan Armed Forces in August 2019. At the same time however, the militia stayed a force unto itself, commanded by Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’, deputy president of Sudan's Sovereign Council.
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