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Darfur War - 2017

In the internal conflict areas of Darfur and the Two Areas, security forces, paramilitary forces, and rebel groups continued to commit killings, rape, and torture of civilians. Local militias maintained substantial influence due to widespread impunity. There were reports of both progovernment and antigovernment militias looting, raping, and killing civilians. Intercommunal violence spawned from land tenure and resource scarcity resulted in high death tolls, particularly in East, South, and North Darfur. Between January and October, there were 34 reports of intercommunal clashes, up from 24 in 2016. Abduction was also seen as a lucrative business by both militias and various tribes in Darfur. In Abyei tribal conflict between Ngok Dinka and Misseriya was at the root of most human rights abuses. Reports were difficult to verify due to restricted access. In October the government launched a disarmament campaign beginning with a voluntary disarmament phase and then a forced disarmament phase. There were no known investigations of or prosecutions related to human rights abuses.

Darfur reportedly hosted an estimated three million persons in need of humanitarian assistance, of whom 1.6 million were in 60 IDP camps, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). Nonetheless, the government continued to push for a reduced role for the international humanitarian community. Certain parts of Darfur, including rebel-held areas in Jebel Marra, largely remained cut off from humanitarian access. During the year UNAMID also substantially reduced its presence in Darfur due to budgetary constraints and government requests. UNAMIDs mandate, however, remained largely unchanged, with a continued emphasis on the protection of civilians, facilitation of humanitarian assistance, and conflict mediation.

All states in Darfur were under varying states of emergency. Between January 1 and November 10, UNAMID police received 1,737 reports of criminality and banditry, which included 1,029 persons killed. This represented an 8.1-percent decrease in crime from 2016. Police confirmed 1,146 of these cases and made 179 related arrests. North Darfur had the highest crime rate, while South Darfur had the only crime rate that increased from 2016. The attacks included rape, armed robbery, abduction, ambush, livestock theft, assault/harassment, arson, and burglary and were allegedly carried out primarily by Arab militias, but government forces, unknown assailants, and rebel elements also carried out attacks.

During the year 2017 military personnel and paramilitary forces committed killings in Darfur and the Two Areas. Most reports were difficult to verify due to continued prohibited access to conflict areas, particularly Jebel Marra in Darfur and SPLM-N-controlled areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States. Only one major clash between rebels and the government was reported, although there were other smaller skirmishes. In May a joint force of the two Darfur armed movements of Sudan Liberation Movement/Minni Minnawi and Transitional Council (SLM/TC) clashed with government forces, including the RSF, while entering from South Sudan and Libya. The clashes resulted in numerous unconfirmed deaths on both sides. A joint statement released by the groups on May 22 confirmed the killing of SLM/TC general Mohamed Abdul al-Salam, in addition to the arrest of its chairman, Nimir Abdel Rahman, and several others. While there were no reports of RSF violations following clashes in East Darfur, there were reports of attacks and looting by progovernment militias on villages in the Ain Siro area in North Darfur.

In August, Vice President Hassabo Mohammed Abdelrahman, accompanied by the High Committee for Arms Collection on a visit to Darfur, announced a six-month nationwide campaign for the collection of arms with a focus on the conflict areas of Darfur and Kordofan. The announcement followed official government directives to collect arms. According to the government, arms would be collected from forces including the RSF, BGs, and Central Reserve Police, in addition to tribes and individuals. The campaign began in mid-September with a month-long voluntary disarmament phase, followed by forced disarmament. The government trained and deployed additional RSF militias to support the campaign. Vice President Hassabo stated the campaign was a follow-up to the recommendations of the National Dialogue and was key to the stability of the region with regard to both the security and economy. Both West and East Darfur announced they had already begun receiving weapons from BGs and Native Administration. Meanwhile South Darfur had established committees mandated to tour the state to raise awareness and sensitize communities of the campaign. Vice President Hassabo stated no compensation would be offered for weapons, saying, We do not want the campaign to turn into a business, giving the security forces full power and force to disarm individuals. Since the August campaign announcement, the government reported a visible decline in civilians carrying weapons.

The initiation of the mandatory stage of the weapons collection campaign across Darfur and its launch in the camps for internally displaced persons created new dynamics. In addition, the start of the migration season continues to generate violence among communities, although at lower levels than in previous years. No tangible progress was noted in the Darfur political process, nor in the implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur. The level of displacement remained the same, with the number of returnees insignificant, while the number of refugees from South Sudan to Darfur reached 192,826, with over 89,000 arriving in 2017 to East, North and South Darfur.

The armed groups of the Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi (SLA/MM) and the Gibril Ibrahim faction of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM/Gibril) remained largely inactive in Darfur, while the area of operations of the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid (SLA/AW) continued to be limited to pockets of the Jebel Marra amid reports of further fragmentations and involvement in acts of banditry. UNAMID reported clashes between a suspected dormant cell of JEM and Sudanese Armed Forces/Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Birkat Saira area, 25 km east of Saraf Omra, on 22 November, in the context of the weapons collection campaign, which resulted in the capture of 16 rebels. A clash also took place in Feina, north-east of Kass, on 21 October, when SLA/AW reportedly encroached an area controlled by a splinter group.

Amid continued disagreements on reaching a permanent ceasefire, SLA/MM, JEM/Gibril and Sudan Liberation Movement/Transitional Council (SLM/TC) extended their unilateral cessation of hostilities until 31 January 2018.

The initiation of the second phase of the mandatory collection of weapons as of mid-October de facto strengthened the control of RSF over the security situation in Darfur, while expanding the scope of the campaign to the camps for internally displaced persons. In this context, Government forces defeated the Savanna militia group, composed mainly of Southern Rizeigat, after clashes in Kutum, North Darfur, on 23 October, then in Shearia, East Darfur, on 30 October, and finally in Korma area, North Darfur, on 10 November, where they captured its leader, Abdallah Rizkallah, and nine militia. On 26 November, 14 RSF and nine border guards were killed, following a reported ambush against RSF by the border guard units under the command of Musa Hilal. RSF eventually arrested Musa Hilal in his stronghold of Misteriya, North Darfur, and transferred him to Khartoum.

In the same context, the Government reasserted control over the camps for internally displaced persons, including settlements that, to date, had been considered out of their reach. On 2 November, in an apparent show of force, its security forces entered parts of the Kalma camp in South Darfur, with dozens of gun trucks and anti-personnel carriers. Subsequently, the Joint Special Representative held two meetings with the Second Vice-President of the Sudan and with the Governor of South Darfur, on 9 and 14 November, which resulted in the establishment of a trilateral committee composed of the internally displaced persons, the state government and UNAMID, to oversee the collection of weapons in Kalma camp as of 10 December. No incidents have been reported.

On November 25-26, fighting in North Darfur State between the RSF and tribal members loyal to Musa Hilal, a Rizigat tribal leader and former Janjaweed militia commander, resulted in several deaths, including some RSF soldiers. A report from a credible source that government forces killed 193 persons, including 34 women and 39 children, during the clashes could not be verified by years end, as the government impeded UNAMIDs access to the location following the clashes. The deadly clashes reportedly resulted from a government-run weapons collection campaign in the area, which Hilal opposed.

In several camps for internally displaced persons in Central Darfur, namely, North and Straina camps in Nertiti area, and Hasahisa, Hamidiya Khamsa and Dagayeg in the Zalingei area, and surrounding areas comprising of Orokom Fatnakaral and Tamar Boljimail villages, the communities expressed concern about the involvement of RSF in the disarmament campaign and requested UNAMID presence during the conduct of the exercise.

The start of seasonal migration in October was marked by a higher number of fatalities and an increase in criminality, notably in North and West Darfur. During the period under review, three intercommunal clashes occurred, resulting in 45 fatalities, compared with eight clashes, resulting in 19 fatalities, reported during the previous period. All the clashes were attributable to disputes over livestock, criminality and revenge attacks. Some farming communities requested protection from RSF to prevent potential clashes with migrating herders. In October, following clashes between the Maaliya and the Rizeigat in East Darfur, the Sudanese Armed Forces were withdrawn and replaced by RSF in the buffer zone between the two groups.

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Page last modified: 16-04-2019 18:48:33 ZULU