Sudan’s government promised to protect Darfur. Instead scores are dead | Middle East Eye29 Gennaio 2021
The United Nations withdrawal from Darfur should have been a moment for Sudan to turn the page on a bloody and bitter period of its history.
Instead, deadly violence broke out once again, severely undermining the Sudanese transitional government’s promise that it could protect its citizens in the war-torn southern province.
On the ground, Sudanese are scared. Clashes so soon after the 31 December withdrawal have sowed doubts about the peace agreement signed with some factions in the region in October, and suspicions are high that armed groups now reconciled with Khartoum will seek to increase their status.
‘The mid-January attacks on civilians in West Darfur were the Sudanese government’s first big test of its readiness and ability to protect Darfuri civilians. It failed miserably’
– Mohamed Osman, HRW
The recent clashes between Arab nomads and members of the Masalit ethnic community began in the city of Geneina in West Darfur state, near the border with Chad.
But very quickly they spread to the entire state and extended to South Darfur and other areas, killing more than 200 people and wounding of over 300 others, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors.
Mohamed Osman, Human Rights Watch assistant researcher for Africa, said the violence in Geneina has immediately exposed the transitional government’s capabilities on the ground.
“The mid-January attacks on civilians in West Darfur were the Sudanese government’s first big test of its readiness and ability to protect Darfuri civilians. It failed miserably,” he told Middle East Eye.
For 13 years Darfur, the scene of a devastating 2003 conflict between non-Arabs and Arab-dominated militias backed by then-President Omar al-Bashir, has been presided over by a joint United Nations and African Union peacekeeping force (UNAMID).
Some 300,000 people were killed in the conflict, with Bashir, who was ousted in a 2019 pro-democracy uprising, wanted by the International Criminal Court over war crimes and genocide charges.
However, the UNAMID mission ended last month, to the distress of many Darfuris, who suspected that the 12,000-strong peacekeeping force sent by Khartoum as a replacement would not be adequate protection.
It took just 16 days for deadly violence to erupt. On the ground, Darfuris believe old enemies and shadowy powers lie behind that violence.
Mohammed Adam, who witnessed the clashes first hand, believes security organs close to Bashir’s regime played a part in the violence.