For the Darfur region of western Sudan, the new year has begun without the joint peacekeeping mission of the United Nations and the African Union. Unamid had been created in 2007 to bring stability to the war-torn region while peace talks on a final settlement took place. After 13 years of presence, the interim Sudanese government is now responsible for security and peace in the still troubled region.
In many places in Darfur, the population demonstrated against Unamid’s withdrawal. Residents fear that they are now even more vulnerable to violence, despite the peace agreement. This is the order of the day: just last week, 15 people died in a conflict between two population groups over water resources.
Amnesty International also expressed deep concern about the withdrawal in a report in early December. The human rights organization counted at least 70 deaths in clashes between different population groups in three areas in Darfur between July and September. These areas were already under the control of Sudanese security forces.
The Sudanese government, composed of civilians and military officers after the overthrow of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 2019, had called for Unamid’s withdrawal after negotiating a peace deal with a coalition of rebel groups in different parts of the country. The largest rebel group in Darfur, however, did not sign. This wing of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLM), led by Abdul Wahid al-Nur, does not want to participate until the government disarms the Arab militias in Darfur. There are still reports of the so-called Janjaweed on horses, camels, and motorcycles attacking villages with non-Arab residents.
Distrust of Sudanese security forces.
The civil war in Darfur began in 2003 with the uprising of non-Arab rebels against the government in the capital, Khartoum. They felt neglected by central authorities. Bashir mainly used the Janjaweed militia to suppress the uprising. Widespread atrocities occurred in the process. At least 300,000 people were killed and more than 2.5 million displaced.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague indicted Bashir more than 10 years ago for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. He is currently in prison for corruption in Khartoum. Under the peace agreement, the government is in talks with the ICC about establishing a possible special war crimes court to hold Bashir and others accountable.
Many people in Darfur have great distrust of the Sudanese security forces because part of them, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), emerged from the Janjaweed. Although the RSF is part of the army, it regularly acts autonomously under the leadership of the feared Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hametti, who was also the leader of the Arab militia in Darfur.
Violence in the region is often over land ownership. Displaced people, mainly non-Arab farmers, want to return to their fields that others have taken possession of over the past 17 years now that there is a peace agreement. This sometimes leads to deadly confrontations. In addition, farmers regularly come into conflict with Arab pastoralists over grazing land and water sources.
by Basit Abbasi – AN