Human Security in Darfur, Year’s End 2012: South Darfur

Intolerable human insecurity and threats to humanitarian operations in Darfur remain largely invisible; an overview in three parts: South Darfur (Part 2)

By Eric Reeves

January 11, 2013 (SSNA) — In assessing human security in West Darfur (December 27, 2012,, I began by invoking testimony of the distinguished Gambian jurist Fatou Bensouda, who took up her appointment as Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court in June 2012.  Since she has brought with her a startling honesty and authority in speaking about Darfur, it seems appropriate to recall here what she said to the UN Security Council just one month ago:

"The words of the Government of Sudan representatives, promising further peace initiatives, are undermined by actions on the ground that show an ongoing commitment to crimes against civilians as a solution to the Government’s problems in Darfur."

"It should be clear to this Council that the Government of Sudan is neither prepared to hand over the suspects nor to prosecute them for their crimes."

"There are no words to properly express the frustration of Darfur’s victims, which we share, about lack of any meaningful progress towards arresting those indicted by the Court. The failure of the Government of the Sudan to implement the five arrest warrants seems symbolic of its ongoing commitment to a military solution in Darfur, which has translated into a strategy aimed at attacking civilian populations over the last ten years, with tragic results. [ ] Victims of Darfur crimes can hardly wait for the day that fragmentation and indecision will be replaced by decisive, concrete and tangible actions they expect from this Council."

"I must reiterate that these alleged ongoing crimes, similar to those already considered by the Judges of the International Criminal Court on five separate applications, may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide." (UN News Centre, December 13, 2012)

Associated Press reports (December 13, 2012):

"Fatou Bensouda told the UN Security Council that crimes continue to be committed under Sudan’s ‘government-avowed goal of stopping the rebellion in Darfur.’  She said the incidents under investigation include bombings and bombardments, the blocking of distribution of humanitarian aid and ‘direct attacks on civilian populations.’"

And Reuters reports further (December 13, 2012):

"The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court accused the United Nations Security Council on Thursday of doing too little to bring Sudanese genocide suspects to justice. [ ] Addressing the Security Council in New York, Fatou Bensouda, the court’s prosecutor, said similar crimes continued to be committed in Darfur. She said her team had identified an ‘ongoing pattern of crimes committed pursuant to the government-avowed goal of stopping the rebellion in Darfur.’" (all emphases in quotations have been added)

Her words found an unexpected echo in the departing observations of U.S. special representative for Darfur, Dane Smith.  Smith was expediently assigned an impossible task: implement the wildly unpopular Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (July 2011), and improve security and humanitarian conditions in Darfur with only the assistance of UNAMID.  Smith acknowledged the failure of his mission in words that could not be clearer in implication:

"’My biggest disappointment, a year and a half after the signature of the Doha agreement, is that we have seen very limited implementation, particularly of those provisions that bring tangible benefits to the IDPs (internally displaced people) and refugees,’ he said. He pointed to the lack of money for a fund set up for reconstruction and development in Darfur, and the government’s lack of action to disarm militias as the treaty requiresMilitias were ‘more and more seemingly out of control,’ particularly in North Darfur, Smith said, although other ‘disturbing’ incidents had occurred in Nyala in South Darfur and Misterei in West Darfur this month. The Doha treaty suffered another blow last week when the Liberation and Justice Movement [the small and unrepresentative rebel group that is the sole signatory to the DDPD] accused the government of attacking its forces and spreading false reports about the assault."

"’We have to say, quite honestly, that the rule of law is absent from Darfur,’ Smith added. The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other senior Sudanese officials on charges of war crimes and genocide in the region—accusations the officials dismiss as politically motivated fabrications. Smith said attacks on the African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID) had also hindered efforts to bring peace to the region. The government had shown ‘very little interest’ in seriously investigating the crimes and bringing perpetrators to justice, he added. ‘For some lawless elements of the population this means there’s a perception that it’s open season on UNAMID.’" (Reuters [Khartoum], December 12, 2012)

The evidence at hand makes clear that when perpetrators of attacks on UNAMID can be identified—for example, those who participated in the powerfully armed and well-planned attack on a large UNAMID investigative convoy as it moved toward Hashaba (North Darfur)—they are pro-regime militias.  We should not be surprised: this is the same Khartoum regime that has for years constrained, abused, and harassed UNAMID and its predecessor mission AMIS (African Union Mission in Sudan).  Notably, there has never been a prosecution for any attack on UNAMID forces, even as 43 courageous soldiers have lost their lives since the mission began January 1, 2008.  As Smith puts it, "the government has announced investigations, but ‘there never are any results.’"

Smith also notes what has long been the case but which he highlights at a critical moment: "[international humanitarian relief] donors, including the United States, face an ‘increasingly difficult’ time getting staff into Darfur to assess and supervise their aid projects, Smith said."

Here, unfortunately, Smith understates the gravity of the situation: aid organizations are already withdrawing from Darfur, and many are right now deciding—on the basis of a deteriorating security situation and increasing regime restrictions on movement—whether to stay.  An email from a senior and experienced worker for an important humanitarian organization communicated to me his highly informed assessment (email received December 18, 2012):

"It now looks like our work [in Darfur] may not continue. The government restrictions on us are increasing by significant leaps again for the future and we are in the process of deciding whether we can live with them. My vote is ‘no’ but I’m not sure what the NGO will decide.

"The Sudanese government is deciding who we can hire (especially foreigners, but also to some extent locals), where we can work (no rebel areas), what we can do, and [imposes] controls on our daily movements. This is unacceptable and we can no longer be ‘neutral and independent.’ There are many ethical issues to process. If we are only allowed to do what they want, I think we are in some ways being complicit with helping them achieve their ends. I want no part of that."

Despite such authoritative accounts—from those directly involved in negotiations, assessing the evidence for prosecution of atrocity crimes in Darfur, and humanitarians on the ground—the UN as a whole, including UNAMID and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), has failed to respond to or even report these grim realities that come so regularly and authoritatively from Radio Dabanga.  But rendering Darfur’s realities invisible doesn’t change them; and the ignoring, deception, and statistical sleights-of-hand by which these realities are "diminished" are deeply reprehensible.  As a preface to this chronicle of very recent violence in South Darfur, I offer a short history of OCHA’s figure for the number of displaced persons in Darfur.  This history reflects many issues, including loss of access; but most conspicuous are the efforts to diminish the scale of violence and displacement in Darfur (the two have always been intimately connected).  And those who have been statistically elided from this figure are of course those typically most insecure.

In its current report on Darfur (the  Sudan Bulletin of January 6, 2013), OCHA declares that the number of Internally Displaced Persons in camps who are receiving food aid is 1,430,000.  In sharp contrast, in its last comprehensive and thoroughly researched report on humanitarian conditions in Darfur—Darfur Humanitarian Profile No. 34January 2009)—OCHA found that there "were nearly 2.7 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Darfur" and that "an additional two million residents continued to be directly affected by the conflict."  Neither figure for displaced persons includes the more than 280,000 Darfuris who are refugees in eastern Chad, most having been there for many years, some from the very beginning of major conflict in 2003.  Just as importantly, neither OCHA figure for displacement includes those who have been displaced not into camps but rather to live with host families and villages.  This is a very large number, though no effort has been made to establish a credible census.

But how do we get from "2.7 million IDPs" (January 2009) to "1.34 million IDPs receiving food aid in camps" (January 2013)?  How is the displaced population so dramatically reduced in years in which OCHA and UN High Commission for Refugees were themselves reporting huge numbers of newly displaced persons? There are several answers, none of them reflecting well on the UN agencies or UNAMID. 

There may well have been an over-estimate of the number of IDPs in January 2009; a new census was certainly in order.  But even before the research was completed, the former chief UN humanitarian official in Darfur, Georg Charpentier, was citing a study supposedly justifying a reduction in the total figure for displaced persons to 1.9 million.  But the footnoted source for this figure in its first publicly promulgated form (authored by Charpentier) was to this incomplete research and a non-existent report.  In fact, no report on the methodology or findings about IDPs in Darfur was ever publicly released, even as it resulted in a reduction of 800,000 in the figure for displaced persons in the midst of continuing acute violence.

As most would acknowledge, there is little chance of conducting an accurate census at this point in Darfur’s brutal history.  Access is routinely denied to both UNAMID and UN agencies as well as to international humanitarian NGOs.  Following Khartoum’s expulsion of 13 distinguished and critically important INGOs in March 2009—roughly half the total humanitarian capacity—data, surveys, studies, and analyses have been dismayingly difficult to publicize.  Khartoum’s threat of further expulsions, which have in fact occurred, has had a profoundly chilling effect on all reporting about Darfur’s realities.

So it is troubling to see offered, without qualification, the figure of 1.34 million displaced persons "receiving food aid in the camps," as if this implicitly represents more extraordinary progress in returns—a further reduction of almost 500,000 in the number of displaced.  But does this really tell us the truth about the total number of displaced persons in the camps?  about the number of those who have returned to their lands and homes?  Is this the result of refined research?  Or does it instead tell us more about the consequences of the lack of access to various camps, and thus more about people who no longer are recorded in the OCHA census of displaced persons in the camps because they are no longer being fed?  This is an extremely serious question, given the precipitous drop in the figure for IDPs: 2.7 million in January 2009; 1.34 in January 2013.  And what do we know about the interim four years hardly makes this extraordinary decline seem more plausible.

The data provided by OCHA, UNHCR, and NGOs indicates that the total for newly displaced persons during the period 2007 to January 2011 was roughly 1.2 million—900,000 since the beginning of 2008.  In the intervening two years, well over 200,000 people have been newly displaced.  More than 100,000 were displaced in Darfur in 2011, mainly in Khor Abeche and particularly Shangil Tobaya, where one especially well-informed source on the ground in Darfur estimated that 80,000 were displaced Radio Dabanga has estimated that 70,000 were displaced in North Darfur in the early days of August 2012 alone, as violence against civilians in North Darfur continued its explosive increase.  (This brings the figure for civilians newly displaced since UNAMID took up its civilian protection mandate—January 1, 2008—to over 1 million.)

OCHA itself gives an implausibly low figure of 90,000 – 100,000 newly displaced persons in 2012, but even this is a very substantial number if we are trying to account for a reduction of 1.35 million in the number of displaced persons. Something is clearly deeply wrong with this statistical assessment; at the same time there is a great deal of evidence that calls into question OCHA’s claim that there were 120,000 – 130,000 "returns" in 2012 (see below).  Many of these nominal "returns" have been subject to intolerable violence, murder, rape, pillaging, and the loss of crops to nomadic Arabic herders.  But even if we accept this figure at face value, the net decrease in the number of people displaced is at most 40,000, possibly only half that.  This does not offer much evidence of how the overall figure for displacement has been so dramatically reduced. Ironically, the title to the cover story in this current issue of the OCHA Sudan Bulletin is "Over 30,000 displaced in Jebel Marra, Darfur."

The much more likely explanation is that a great many Darfuris are now simply invisible to a deeply constrained OCHA and the humanitarian community more broadly; both have long been under immense pressure from Khartoum to reduce the figure for displacement.  But as this census is reduced, so too is the urgency of the need for increased humanitarian capacity—and this, too, is precisely what Khartoum wishes: if there is less humanitarian need, there is less need for the presence of obtrusive and all-too-observant foreign relief workers, who are a very small cohort now in any event.

For an ongoing chronicle of UN manipulation of the figure for Darfuri displaced persons, see: 

• "How many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are there in Darfur?" Dissent Magazine (April 28, 2011)

• "The Seen and the Unseen: Recent Reporting on violence, insecurity, and resettlement," (February 29, 2012)

• "The New York Times vs. Radio Dabanga: What is the truth about returns to Darfur from eastern Chad?" (April 2, 2012)

• "Darfur: UN Failure and Mendacity Culminate in an Avalanche of Violence" (August 13, 2012)

Khartoum for its part continues to celebrate, often in perversely rapturous terms, the success of its program of returns.  But what Radio Dabanga establishes beyond reasonable doubt is that in fact returns to original homes and lands and villages are in a great many cases extremely dangerous, as claims to these lands have been made by armed Arab groups who show every intention of making these claims stick, whatever level of violence is required.

Darfur delineated

As preface, I again offer here a summary account of some key features of Darfur’s geography. I should emphasize that I preserve in this account the old administrative division of Darfur into three states, instituted in 1994 by the National Islamic Front as a means of weakening the Fur politically (the non-Arab, or African, Fur are the largest ethnic group in Darfur).  These states are West Darfur, North Darfur, and South Darfur. Khartoum’s further administrative division of Darfur in 2011—creating an "East Darfur" and a "Central Darfur"—has no basis in history or logic.  It is wholly expedient, the administrative version of "divide and conquer."  Areas in this factitious "Central Darfur" were essentially carved from the old West Darfur, and in speaking about areas and locations of this notional "Central Darfur" I have consistently preserved the older state designation of West Darfur.  The same is true for those parts of "East Darfur" that were formerly part of South Darfur.

In addition to State administrative boundaries, there are Locality and Rural Council boundaries.  These are best represented in what is unquestionably the most comprehensive extant set of Darfur maps and place names, produced by the Humanitarian Information Centre for Darfur in 2005.  These three "Field Atlases," one for each state, are indispensible, both cartographically and as gazetteers with latitude and longitude data (available at West Darfur,  North Darfur, and South Darfur).

Still, there is ambiguity and confusion: sometimes the wide range of transliterations from Arabic makes it difficult to identify specific locations in the Field Atlases; sometimes places that appear in the Atlas gazetteers do not appear on the maps, and sometimes appear on one map but not another (there are a dozen or so maps in each atlas). Sometimes locations are not mentioned at all and can only be estimated on the basis of proximity to a known location.  Sometimes there are repeated uses of the same name (e.g., there are six "Hashaba’s" in South Darfur alone, and a great number of names used twice for very different locations).  Sometimes the definite article (al- or el-) appears, sometimes it does not, sometimes it appears one way and other times another way.  There are a great many errors in the data for latitude and longitude, and even in identifying locations.  Still, the detail of these comprehensively researched Field Atlases permits sufficient accuracy that we may gain a clear sense of where most events are occurring and thus see patterns emerging.

One such pattern is the determination of Arab militia forces and armed groups to seize land previously owned and farmed by non-Arab/African tribal groups.  This is especially obvious in the nature of recent violence in South Darfur, which is clearly accelerating. Crops are burned, farms themselves are burned, farmers attempting to return to their lands are murdered, women and girls from their families are raped, and intimidation in various forms makes clear that the violent seizure of arable and pasturable land is far from over, and that the armed groups allied with the Khartoum regime continue to have an overwhelming advantage in land disputes.  This can only fuel further fighting by rebel groups.  Thus despite a decade of conflict, the dynamic of violence is largely unchanged.  The failure of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur adds a grim emphasis to this basic fact.

A second pattern emerges from the growing number of attacks by Arab militia forces and heavily armed bandits on local police forces, even the judiciary (see below), a few of which have been more responsive to the needs of local people than Khartoum’s SAF or Military Intelligence. The impunity that allows such brazen attacks on police stations to continue—resulting in loss of life, as well as the heisting of arms and valuables, even prisoners—is largely condoned by Khartoum and the Sudan Armed Forces.  No serious effort has been made to halt this highly consequential threat to regional security, and the sense of impunity only grows.

A third pattern evident is the relentlessness of the aerial assault on civilian life, particularly in Eastern Jebel Marra, a populous region of Darfur where the three Darfur states converge. In turn, the international community has simply refused to hold Khartoum accountable for its continuing and egregious violations of international law—the targeting or indiscriminate bombing of civilian sites—and the demands of UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005), which prohibit all military flights over Darfur—flights of the sort chronicled relentlessly by Radio Dabanga on the basis of eyewitness reports.

The reports on South Darfur below, all from Radio Dabanga (except for one from Sudan Tribune) and almost all from the past three months, are identified by Locality and Rural Council location; I have also highlighted peripheral villages, camps, and towns that are identified by name within the Radio Dabanga dispatches.  A good overview map of Darfur, with nearly all these major geographical markers, can be found in a UN planning map (PDF).  This map will allow a reader of the dispatches below to see clearly just how widespread violence and acute humanitarian distress are, and where civilian insecurity is greatest.

There is one other large issue here that must be noted in offering any overview of South Darfur. UNAMID and the international community have finally found it impossible to continue accepting the rosy picture of Darfur as painted by the likes of former UN/AU special representatives to UNAMID Ibrahim Gambari and Rodolphe Adada. International actors of consequence now also find it untenable to accept claims by the former chief UN humanitarian officer in Darfur, Georg Charpentier, viz., that Khartoum does not interfere at all with humanitarian access and that security is actually improving.  But in moving away from this wholly unwarranted optimism, indeed outright distortion, the face-saving strategy has been to emphasize only violence in North Darfur.  Thus, for example, as recently as mid-September 2012, Dane Smith declared: "West Darfur is relatively stable although there are some problems with criminality there" (Interview with Radio Dabanga, September 21, 2012).  This is utter nonsense and absurdly understates the level of violence in this part of Darfur (see West Darfur survey, December 27, 2012).

While events since late July justify a particular concern for North Darfur—especially in the areas near Kutum, Mallit, Hashaba, and Tabit—this should not work to obscure the obscene violence that continues in both South and West Darfur.  Complete impunity for Khartoum’s regular and paramilitary forces reigns everywhere in Darfur.

South Darfur has nine Localities (Nyala, Kass, Adayla, Al Deain, Buram, Tullus, Shearia, Edd al-Fursan, Rehed al-Biridi); each of these has several Rural Council  areas, which are sometimes important identifiers in the accounts that follow (Radio Dabanga frequently uses "Rural Council" and "Locality" interchangeably, which can be a source of some confusion; I have consistently followed the nomenclature of the Darfur Field Atlases).  All this information can be found on the "Administrative Units" page of any one of the Darfur Field Atlases. 

Despite its obstruction of journalists, human rights investigators, humanitarian assessments, as well as its intimidation of UN and nongovernmental relief organizations, Khartoum has found no way to silence Radio Dabanga, and those few courageous individuals on the ground who can speak authoritatively to current security and humanitarian conditions in Darfur (the two have always been inextricably linked).  

And again it should be noted that central to the violence in South Darfur is the determination of Arab militia forces and armed groups (some not from Sudan) to seize land previously owned and farmed by non-Arab/African tribal groups.  Those attempting to return—and no doubt included in UN figures for returns—are often at particular risk and ruthlessly intimidated. 

NB:  By "herders" Radio Dabanga is typically referring in the following dispatches to nomadic Arab groups, often heavily armed; these "herders" have been the mainstay of the Janjaweed, and often of successor paramilitary groups.  "Militants" and "pro-government militia" are also terms used frequently by Radio Dabanga to identify former Janjaweed, elements of the Central Reserve Police (Abu Tira), and other primarily Arab paramilitary groups.

Most dispatches have been edited for length; what have again been most often excised are comments about the ineffectiveness of UNAMID and desperate pleas for international assistance.  They are excruciatingly repetitive.

• Armed herders "severely injure" 2 teenagers in Gereida

GEREIDA (7 January 2013): Armed herders severely injured two displaced teenagers as they were leaving the UNAMID headquarters in Gereida, South Darfur, on Sunday, 6 January, sources told Radio Dabanga. Mohamed Adam Ibrahim, 15 years old, and Mohamed Dahiya Hiima, 16 years old, are in critical condition and were reportedly evacuated to a hospital in Nyala for treatment. A displaced from Gereida said that both teenagers, who live at camp Foriyka, had been visiting UNAMID’s headquarters where they were given some food and other goods. On their way back home, they came across a group of three armed herders, who had spent the day shopping in Gereida and tried confiscating the belongings of the victims, the onlooker informed Radio Dabanga. When the teenagers refused handing in their possessions to the herders, the alleged perpetrators opened fire on both of them, a displaced recounted.    

According to the onlooker, the incident happened about 100 meters west of the headquarters of UNAMID. He asserted the mission’s forces "simply sketched the crime scene" while explaining that the victims’ families had contacted the police.

• South Darfur villagers denounce government evacuation plans

KOLMALAYA (9 January 2013): Residents of the Kolmalaya village, located near the Kalma camp in South Darfur, are denouncing plans by the state’s government to evacuate them and transform the area into an industrial zone. The sheikh of the community, Musa Abdullah Teeyrab, told Radio Dabanga last week that South Darfur authorities have assessed the farmlands in order to divide them into smaller properties which would be sold to investors. "This is an example of the policies of the National Congress Party (NCP): to push people out of their lands and bring new residents to the area," the sheikh declared. Teeyrab rejects the decision by the NCP and asserts the land belongs to the current villagers. Residents and the sheikh appealed to the UN to revert the situation, adding that several people from Kolmalaya are being forced to move to the Kalma camp for displaced.

• Gunmen open fire on displaced: 1 killed, 1 injured

GEREIDA (6 January 2013): Four gunmen allegedly opened fire on two displaced men in the area of Nabagaya, close to Gereida in South Darfur on Saturday, 5 January. The incident resulted in the death of displaced Ibrahim Mohamed Ibrahim and the injuring of Adam Moussa. A displaced woman from Gereida told Radio Dabanga that four gunmen opened fire on the two men in the area of Nabagaya, near to Gereida, on Saturday morning at around 11 am when they were collecting firewood.

• Gunmen kill displaced inside his home

SILO CAMP (1 January 2013): Three gunmen believed to belong to a pro-government militia reportedly shot and killed a resident from camp Silo, in Mershing locality, South Darfur on Monday, 31 December. A relative of the victim told Radio Dabanga that Suleiman Ibrahim Yassim was attacked inside his home at about 11pm. According to him, the alleged perpetrators shot the victim five times before raiding his properties and stealing four of his donkeys. Residents from camp Silo told Radio Dabanga about the increasing number of attacks and violations they have been suffering by pro-government militias in the last few days.

• Two displaced men shot in Gereida

GEREIDA (16 October 2012): An armed group shot two displaced persons from Gereida camps in South Darfur, a source told Radio Dabanga. Both men were shot on Saturday night, 13 October and got seriously injured, it was added. According to witnesses, Hussein Hasabo from the Babanusa camp was shot inside the camp and suffered serious injuries on his head and shoulder. They explained that the same group shot another man, Osman Mohamed Osman al-Hadid also on Saturday night, when he was on his way home at camp Abyed.

• Central Reserve Forces (CRF) element rapes 3-year-old girl

KASS (14 October 2012): An element from the Sudanese Central Reserve Forces (Abu Tiraraped a three-year-old girl in Kass, South Darfur on Friday October 12, Radio Dabanga has learned. One of the girl’s relatives told Radio Dabanga that an element of Abu Tira troops kidnapped the girl from her home in the neighborhood of Ardeeba, north Kass. The girl’s mother was absent at the time of the abduction, she was in a neighboring shop. The family member added that they found the girl in a very bad state at a few kilometers outside of Kass.

• Central Reserve Forces (CRF) elements kill primary school pupil

TOOR (29 October 2012): Elements of the Sudanese Central Reserve Forces (Abu Tira) allegedly murdered a primary school pupil, Abdul Khaleg Zakaria Saleh, on Saturday evening October 27 in the area of Toor in South Darfur, Radio Dabanga has learned. Onlookers told Radio Dabanga that in addition to killing the young pupil, Abu Tira elements arrested both Abdullah Zakaria Saleh, brother of the fatal victim, and Abkar Yousef. The onlookers said that Rahma and Waleed, Abu Tira elements, came to the home of Abdul Khaleg Zakaria Saleh, on Saturday evening. According to witnesses, the gunmen knocked the door until the boy came outside and shot him dead on the spot.

As a result, Toor residents took to the streets to demonstrate against the behavior of Abu Tira troops. When the demonstrators arrived to the town’s market, Abu Tira troops fired in the air to disperse them. After which the troops burnt a number of coffee shops in the market and looted its properties. [ ] Abdul Khaleg was killed for preventing the two Abu Tira elements from kidnapping a girl on Friday night, the witness added to Radio Dabanga.

• Manawashy residents complain about attacks

MANAWASHY (30 December 2012): Residents from Manawashy locality in South Darfur have complained about attacks by "pro-government" militants stationed on the roads around the locality since last Wednesday, 26 December. A witness told Radio Dabanga that the "pro-government" militants came from the direction of East Jebel Marra in about 80 Land Cruiser vehicles and were stationed near the garrison east of Manawashy market. He claimed that they assaulted women inside homes and markets, as well as looting of shops and cars along the roads. Besides, the militants fired shots in the air sparking fear and panic among citizens. 

• Displaced killed, 4 injured when returning from farm

KALMA CAMP (4 January 2013): Pro-government militias are accused of killing a displaced man and of injuring four others in Kalma camp, South Darfur, on Friday, 4 January. Sheikh Ali Abdelrahman Taher told Radio Dabanga that several members of a pro-government militia group riding camels opened fire on the displaced as they were heading back from their farms.  The fatal victim is Ali Mohamed Ezzedine and the four injured are Abakar Yaqoub Abdullah, 35 years old; Abdul Rahim Khalil Khater, 35 years old; Isaac Abduzid Ahmed, 40 years old; and Mohamed Mahmoud Ahmad, 44 years old, according to the sheikh. 

• Displaced camps raided by militias, sources

MERSHING / MANAWASHY (12 December 2012): Sources report that alleged pro-government militias have attacked displaced camps and several villages in the localities of Manawashy and Mershing in South Darfur for two consecutive days. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga on Monday, 10 December, that pro-government militias on horses and camels raided the camps of Tom Kitir, Hashaba, Tello and Hillet Shumen in the localities of Manawashy and Mershing localities. They claim that citizens were beaten and their money, cell phones, food and cattle were looted. Lastly, the witnesses said that the militias left the area on Tuesday morning in the direction of Netaiga while firing heavily in the air.

• Herders allegedly kill man in voluntary return village

HUJAIR SAMBO (17 December 2012): Herders allegedly armed by the government killed one man, wounded two others and burned 15 huts at the voluntary return village of Hujair Sambo, in Bilel locality, South Darfur, according to a source. Hussein Abu Asharati, spokesman of association for displaced and refugees, told Radio Dabanga that herders stormed the village and forced their livestock into the farms on Sunday midday, 16 December. When the displaced tried speaking to the herders, the alleged perpetrators shot them, burned the huts and looted the surroundings, according to the spokesman.

He said the attack left Adam Ahmed Gomaa dead and Adam Abdallah and Hussein Ali injured, adding that they come from the Kalma camp.

[NB: In this instance it was a "voluntary return village" that was assaulted; it is critical that the international community understand how dangerous "returns" remain in Darfur, for all the eagerness of the UN and Khartoum to celebrate these sites.]

• Attack on voluntary return village leaves man dead

BILAL (11 December 2012): Pro-government militias launched an attack on a voluntary return village located in Bilal locality, South Darfur, killing one man, the local commissioner told Radio Dabanga. The attack occurred at 11pm on Saturday, 8 December, on the area of Hujair Sambo, the commissioner asserted. He added the militiamen burned 10 houses and killed a citizen after "heavily firing gunshots in the air," stressing the properties losses are "substantial."

• Pro-government gunmen ambush women in Mershing

MERSHING (8 November 2012): A group of displaced women from Mershing camp in South Darfur were allegedly ambushed by pro-government gunmen, on Monday November 5, leaving two of the women seriously injured, witnesses told Radio Dabanga. One of the witnesses added that the gunmen attacked a group of six women while they were harvesting grain in the area of Kringa, west of Mershing locality. The gunmen allegedly attacked the women with the purpose of raping them. The women were beaten with rifle butts and whips when they tried to resist, the witness stated. [ ] Two of them were severely injured and taken to a hospital in Mershing for treatment.

• Gunmen enter Nyala court, beat judge and release defendants

NYALA (10 December 2012): A group of armed men in four Land Cruiser vehicles allegedly raided the headquarters of the Nyala special court for crimes in Darfur on Saturday, 8 December, and kidnapped three defendants after shooting at the court’s police and severely beating the judge. The defendants are on trial for looting 450 thousand US dollars and 45 million Sudanese pounds belonging to UNAMID, approximately three months ago. The police commander of South Darfur, Major General Taha Jalal al Deen, said in a press statement that ‘a known armed movement acted immediately after the judge read the sentence of the fourth defendant and attacked the court’. The fourth defendant was sentenced to death, he added. [ ]

‘Dramatic escalation’

Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that armed forces with different types of arms arrived in six Land Cruiser vehicles during the sentencing session. The situation escalated ‘dramatically’ after the verdict was read by the judge, they added. The militants stormed the court and randomly fired in the air. They severely beat the judge with whips, as well as seizing the guards’ weapons. Lastly, they abducted three of the defendants and took them to the neighbourhood of Al Tadamon near the neighbourhood of Fallujah in the east of the city where several other vehicles were waiting. According to sources, the militants shortly celebrated their victory expressing joyous chants and heavily firing in the air. Then the militants moved in an unknown direction, accompanied by the defendants.

[It is difficult to imagine a more revealing moment of impunity in Darfur’s recent history than this brazen assault on the judiciary itself—ER]

• Boy injured, 700 cattle stolen in Gereida

GEREIDA (6 December 2012): An attack carried out by pro-government militias in the city of Gereida, South Darfur, left one boy critically injured, local witnesses told Radio Dabanga. The boy Saber Hashim was reportedly hurt after the perpetrators, riding horses and camels, stormed Gereida’s neighborhoods of Saadoum, Al-Rahman east and west, and Wahaya Al-Wadi at 6pm on Wednesday, 5 December. According to eyewitnesses, militiamen fired several shots in the air, wounding the boy. Afterwards, sources continued, the perpetrators looted 700 heads of cattle that were being brought back to Gereida after grazing outside the town. The assaults allegedly occurred in front of the police and armed forces, sources asserted, expressing their discontent and anger that the perpetrators were not chased or arrested. 

• Herders rape 2, injure 5 in series of attacks

MERSHING (6 December 2012): Armed herders wearing military uniforms have reportedly raped two girls and beat five farmers, two of them female, in Mershing area, South Darfur, eyewitnesses told Radio Dabanga. They said the herders let their livestock graze in the victims’ farms during the attacks that happened between Saturday and Tuesday, 1 and 4 December. Sources claimed that three herders were responsible for the assaults, adding they were riding camels. The next day, the perpetrators allegedly assaulted a farmer called Jibril and tried raping his daughter, Asmaa, while they were exiting their land. When the victims resisted the attack, the herders beat them with rifle butts causing Asmaa a serious head injury, a source told Radio Dabanga.  Maryam Mohamed Kouso, who is nine months pregnant, and her aunt Fatima were assaulted on Monday while returning home from their farm, an eyewitness recounted.

The last attack occurred on Tuesday, when herders shot in the direction of farmer Ali Toussa, who was not injured, sources said.  A farmer told Radio Dabanga he notified the police on time about the incidents, but they did not do anything about it.   He stressed that ‘a state of terror prevails now in the region’ and asked UNAMID, the state and local authorities to protect them and put an end to the attacks.

• Militants allegedly kill two and rape three

GEREIDA (27 November 2012): Two displaced persons were killed and another four injured when an alleged pro-government militia opened fire on them in the village of Kobe at approximately four kilometers from Gereida in South Darfur on Monday morning, November 26, sources told Radio Dabanga. In addition, the militants reportedly raped three girls, after killing and injuring a group of displaced persons. Witnesses, who fled the scene, described the militia as ‘loyal to the government’ and added that the group consisted of about 18 gunmen on camels and horses. The militants crossed the group of displaced persons, who were working at their farms in the village of Kobe near to Gereida, and randomly opened fire on the displaced without any warning. The witnesses explained that the random firing resulted in the death of Omer Abdel Kareem and Ali Abdel Kareem, both residents of Sabi camp. Additionally, the firing resulted in the injuring of Mariam Dawood Hamad, Haleema Dawood Hamad, Abdullah Abdel Kareem and Nimeiri Abdel Kareem from Gigi camp.  They added that the gunmen raped three girls between 18 and 25 years old, after randomly shooting at the group of displaced.

•Militants open fire against displaced persons

UMM MAGAR (2 November 2012): An armed group of seven militants opened fire against a number of displaced persons, injuring one man, in Umm Magar, South Darfur, witnesses informed Radio Dabanga. The displaced persons were attacked on Tuesday, 30 October, as they were collecting firewood in Umm Magar, located about 10 kilometers from Gereida, they added. According to witnesses’ accounts, the displaced man Ibrahim Adam got injured on his foot as a result of the shootings. Sources also pointed out that five of the seven militants were riding camels and horses and that they stole three donkeys from the displaced.

• Sudan: Gunmen Attack Displaced – One Killed, Two Injured

GEREIDA (31 December 2012): A displaced man from Gereida camp in South Darfur has allegedly been killed by pro-government militiamen and two others were wounded in the same incident on Wednesday, 26 December. A female camp activist told Radio Dabanga that around 30 militiamen on camels shot three displaced people who were collecting hay in an area about 3 kilometers south of Gereida. She added that Yasser Osman Ahmed died on the spot and that both Abbas Abdul Rahman and Dugush Suleiman were seriously wounded in the attack. She revealed that the Gereida hospital administration charged an amount of 1400 Sudanese pounds for operating Abbas Abdul Rahman and Dugush Suleima; which the victims cannot afford.

Meanwhile, displaced people from Gereida have described their living and health conditions as ‘tragic’. They added that they are not able to leave the camp to make a living or even to go shopping out of fear for attacks and other repeated violations by ‘pro-government’ militiamen. They disclosed that 12,000 Sudanese pounds had been paid to the Popular Defense Forces commander of the area to recover the livestock and large amounts of money looted by pro-government militiamen, however he has not returned any livestock nor returned any of the 12,000 pounds so far. Furthermore, the displaced have complained that Gereida hospital only executes surgical operations if the procedure is paid in advance. They added that many sick and wounded displaced died as a result of their inability to pay the fees in advance.

• Farmers warn about harvest failure in South Darfur

SOUTH DARFUR (25 December 2012): Widespread unemployment and high harvesting costs will probably lead to the "failure" of the current harvesting season by the end of January, South Darfur farmers warned. They told Radio Dabanga that the likelihood of herders grazing their livestock on farms might also negatively affect the crops. In an interview with Radio Dabanga on Monday, 24 December, Dr. Ibrahim Aldikheiri, minister of agriculture of South Darfur, suggested that conflicts between farmers and herders may continue if harvest is not completed by the end of February.

• Daily gunmen assaults in Bilel

BILEL (2 October 2012): Residents of the Gudd Alhaboub area, in Bilel locality east of Nyala, in South Darfur, have complained about daily assaults by gunmen in the area, on Monday, 1 October. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga the last attack happened on Sunday, 30 September, in which five women were whipped and beaten in five separate incidents. They added that one of these women was stabbed and that two others had their heads shaved by the perpetrators. According to witnesses’ reports, gunmen riding horses and camels, often attacks residents from the area on roads and farms, adding that especially women are targeted. Residents told Radio Dabanga that only last week more than 10 assaults against them took place.

• Gunmen kill three

DARFUR (22 October 2012): Gunmen killed three people in North Darfur, on Saturday October 20, Radio Dabanga has learned. Onlookers told Radio Dabanga that an unknown armed group killed three people in the area of Khazan Wada’a (Wada’a dam), North Darfur. They added that the attack left residents in panic and the perpetrators fled towards South Darfur. According to witnesses, local militias hunted down the perpetrators and killed one of them in the area of Karam Ji, east of Netega locality, South Darfur, and arrested the three other gunmen. The witnesses added that the situation is ‘very tense’ in the area. They expect the situation to escalate at any time as both armed groups are currently gathering crowds of supporters.

Large-scale violence between rebel forces and Khartoum’s regular and militia allies has also accelerated not only in North Darfur but in South Darfur as well:

• Rebel attack on Nyala el-Fasher Convoy (from Sudan Tribune)

KHARTOUM (10 November 2012): Two Darfur rebel groups said they destroyed a Sudanese military convoy after an ambush held on Friday in the road linking the capitals of North and South Darfur states. The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement led by Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) said they attacked a convoy of the Sudanese troop riding nearly two hundred vehicles of different types and sizes in Al-Fasher Nyala road at Lmmaina village near Shangil Tobaya in North Darfur. The SLM-MM said the bulk of the convoy was destroyed and 20 vehicles full weapons were seized, while JEM military spokesperson Badawi Moussa Al-Sakin said they captured a tank. The Sudanese army spokesperson was not reachable to comment on these statements about the joint attack. SLM-MM spokesperson Abdallah Mursal, accused in a second statement the hybrid peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) of rescuing the Sudanese forces who escaped the attack to Shangil Tobaya.  Mursdal said UNAMID dispatched two helicopters to Shangil Tobaya to transport Sudanese soldiers wounded in the attack to Al-Fasher hospital "The SLM-MM condemns in the strongest terms the UNMAID for disregarding its principal mandate, protection of civilians, Mursal said (…), accusing the mission of taking part in the conflict by protecting the regime’s forces and providing different types of support to the Sudanese army.

As in West Darfur, humanitarian conditions—especially in camps for the displaced—continue to deteriorate:

• Health and educational services ‘deteriorating’ in Gereida camps

GEREIDA (10 December 2012): Displaced residents from Gereida camps in South Darfur claim to be suffering from a significant deterioration in health and educational services as well as a lack of food and security. Displaced from Gereida camps revealed to Radio Dabanga on Friday, 7 December, that there is one doctor available in the clinic for 30 camps. They added that the camps accommodate around 131,000 families. The camp residents are suffering from a lack of medicine and health care facilities. They pointed out to Radio Dabanga that the clinic charges 700 Sudanese pounds for a Caesarian section procedure and added that the charges are caused by the extortion of health organizations by authorities.

Food rations

Also, the camp residents revealed that the food rations have been reduced; for example a plate of grains is distributed once a month instead of three times a month, besides the reduction in the amount of oil, salt and wheat. Furthermore, the displaced claim that the camps are suffering from a significant lack of teachers at the twenty schools in the camps, as well as a shortage of textbooks. They have appealed to international organizations and the World Food Programme to "offer a helping hand to the displaced of Gereida camps." At the same time, the displaced of Gereida camps have complained about the lack of security in and around the camps. They pointed out that "pro-government militiamen" storm the camps at night, looting their belongings and sparking fear and panic among the residents. The displaced stressed that they are confined to the camps in fear and anticipation of assault, rape, beating and looting by militants. It was added that they repeatedly reported incidents to the police and local authorities as well as UNAMID, but to no avail. 

• Darfur citizens: government secrecy about yellow fever

DARFUR (6 November 2012): Citizens from [ ] West and South Darfur complained about the secrecy of the government of Sudan regarding information about the spread, level of incidence and cause of the yellow fever, Radio Dabanga has learned on Monday 5 November. They also denounced the scarcity of medicines, vaccines, preventive guidance and ambulances for citizens in the most affected regions. In addition, residents demanded that governors of Darfur declare the region a ‘disaster area’.

Four dead in Jebel Ahmar

Residents from the village of Goz Miti in Jebel Ahmar, Central Darfur, told Radio Dabanga that 20 people were transferred from Jebel Ahmar to the Nyala hospital on Sunday, adding that four of them died so far. The others, they said, remain in critical condition. They criticized the government saying it does not care about the health of its citizens nor does it seek to treat them. Lastly, the citizens appealed to health international organizations led by the World Health Organization (WHO) to rush to the affected areas and provide them with urgent medical aid and health care.

West Darfur: nine dead

The Minister of Health from West Darfur, Ahmed Ishag Ya’goub, announced that nine people died and another 36 got infected with yellow fever as of Sunday.

According to him, these numbers refer to one death and 18 infections in Mornei, Krenik locality; to six deaths and 10 infections in Habila locality; and to two deaths and eight infections in El-Geneina locality. The minister stressed that yellow fever is emerging in a number of localities in West Darfur.

Nyala hospital: 37 new patients

At the same time, Dr. Ali Merghani, director of epidemiology from the Nyala hospital in South Darfur, revealed to Radio Dabanga that 37 new patients infected with yellow fever arrived at the hospital on Sunday. The director said that 19 of these people come from Central Darfur and 18 come from South Darfur. Merghani added that on Monday, the hospital received six cases from new localities in Darfur.

• Half of Darfuris lack access to health care

KHARTOUM/EL-GENEINA (19 October 2012): The Sudanese federal ministry of health and its partners from the international community on Khartoum revealed that half of the population in Darfur do not have access to primary health care, Radio Dabanga has learned on Thursday, 18 October. As a result, the ministry announced it will work to improve the health sector in all of the five states of Darfur together with its partners, and include relief and emergency initiatives.

[This is the most obscene disingenuousness: the reason that only half the population of Darfur has access to primary health care is because Khartoum has deliberately targeted for expulsion the organizations most effective in providing such care, including Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (France and Holland sections), Médecins du Monde, and a number of others; those organizations remaining are all contemplating withdrawal because of the regime’s continuing harassment, obstruction, and denial of access—ER]

• Deteriorating security conditions in Dreige camp

DREIGE CAMP (25 September 2012): Residents from the Dreige camp in South Darfur, are complaining about the deteriorating security conditions, a camp’s representative told Radio Dabanga on Monday, 24 September. He explained that residents are suffering repeated attacks from Sudanese Central Reserve Forces troops (Abu Tira) stationed near the camp. The camp’s youth representative said Abu Tira forces often assault the displaced persons, explaining that looting and random air shootings are common practices.

Khartoum has also been active in exacerbating ethnic tensions along the border between South Darfur and South Sudan (Northern and Western Bahr el-Ghazal).  This may pose the greatest threat to renewed violence in the region, and on a scale that will create many tens of thousands of newly displaced civilians.

• Rizeigat blame Khartoum for border conflict with South Sudan

KHARTOUM (29 December 2012): The Rizeigat tribe, living on the border between Sudan [South Darfur] and South Sudan blames the Khartoum government for the recent border clashes in the Samaha area, also known as Warguet.  Rizeigat chief, Nasr (king) Mahmoud Moussa Madibo, told Radio Dabanga and Radio Tamazuj in a joint interview that his tribe was not involved in the attacks on the south Sudan army (SPLA) on Wednesday 26 December. In retaliation for the attacks, the SPLA shelled the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), causing several casualties also among the Rizeigat tribesmen, the leader explained.

The Rizeigat leader said: "The government of Khartoum is responsible for the attack. But the Rizeigat want to restore the relationship with the Dinka Malual and the government of the Republic of South Sudan. We as Rizeigat emphasize that we don’t have any connection to this attack. We have not at all been involved in any of these actions. The government of Sudan mobilized all of its troops and attacked the SPLA-positions along the river Bahr al Arab (Kiir) to fight the SPLA (South Sudan)."  He added: "They accuse South Sudan of supporting and building the Darfur rebel movement and the SPLA-North [in South Kordofan]. But we as Rizeigat do not want to be blamed for this. As a tribe we will not fight another country. We understand that the government of South Sudan has the right to defend itself and to open a case against Khartoum if they want."

On Thursday the Sudan Armed Forces blamed the SPLA of South Sudan of shelling the Rizeigat tribe and denied having started the border conflict. The South Sudan government accused SAF of carrying out two air strikes, in which several civilians were killed. The area along the river is a disputed territory between Sudan and the new republic of South Sudan. It is currently controlled by the South Sudan army.

Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College, is author most recently of Compromising with Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012; 

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