Human Displacement in Western Darfur


Photo source: Guardian

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Upfront

There has been a wave of killings in the western Darfur region of Sudan, where around one hundred sixty-five people were dead in April 2022. It led to the displacement of a hundred thousand people, which has been a cause of great concern.

The human rights situation in Darfur is ugly and goes back  long. Al-Bashir, who has been in prison in Khartoum since he was overthrown in 2019, was indicted more than ten years ago by the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity perpetrated in Darfur.

Although attacks in Darfur have intensified since 2019, this time around war spread out beyond communal militias into a wider battle between rebel groups, soldiers, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Amid a global funding crunch for aid agencies, it has been hard for aid workers to alleviate the suffering. According to Jairo Gonzales, deputy operations manager in East Africa for Medecins Sans Frontieres, Sudan is on nobody’s radar, as it doesn’t pique the same interest as it used to in the past. In fact, NGOs working in the region and other parts of Sudan are facing increased taxes and bureaucratic hurdles since the coup, according to various reports by New Humanitarian.

There was also the withdrawal of the UN-led African Union Darfur peacekeeping mission amid a national political crisis in 2021. According to a report by Philip Kleinfeld in New Humanitarian, ‘there was a peace agreement struck in late 2020 in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. That deal’s signatories include rebel movements from Darfur and other parts of the country.’ Although, a peacekeeping force mandated by a 2020 peace agreement has yet to be deployed widely.

Since joining the transitional government in 2021, the Darfuri rebels allied themselves with the military and Hemedti rather than with civilian political parties, whom they considered less powerful and not interested in Sudan’s peripheries. But, the armed war has continued, sadly.

Some Darfuri rebel groups lacking the means for even basic subsistence have deserted their movements. Also, signatory groups of the Juba deal have also recruited and trained thousands of new fighters, hoping to boost the numbers for absorbing them into the security forces or be given demobilisation windfalls in the future. Although, the Darfuri rebel leaders face particular pressure from their old operational fighters who returned to Darfur after the Juba deal following mercenary stints in Libya, who expected to be demobilised or merged into state security forces as well. That’s why the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, a coalition of rebel groups from Darfur and other regions, is running out of support from its constituents if these attacks keep happening in Darfur.

According to local residents and aid workers, the presence of returned rebels in Darfur’s urban centres has further militarised the region and increased levels of criminality and banditry.

It is also difficult to conclude who is escalating the recent attacks, and what their real motives are. Local residents believe that there are plots to control resources and land, which is polarising the transitional process. But, some experts believe that the infightings are mainly due to the withdrawal of the UN-led peacekeeping mission, as the transitional authorities failed to fulfil their promise to protect civilians better than the international force. That’s why the war could lead the region to its darkest period. It is because a prolonged war could directly impact farmers who would be unable to cultivate, as the agricultural seasons would fail.

While conflict triggers from place to place, there is a clear trend of Arab militias attacking non-Arab civilians – of whom large numbers have been living in camps since the violence of the 2000s. It also seems that the armed Darfuri fighters have divided loyalties, making the war in Darfur even more complex.

In April 2022, the worst violence happened in west Darfur, while the Kreinik attack was one of the deadliest there until yet. Kreinik hospital had received one hundred forty-two bodies. Its local residents had fled to camps in main towns and had been surviving on unripened mangoes. Many analysts also conclude that as long as the Rapid Security Forces and military maintain political power in Khartoum, the Darfur crisis won’t improve.

The situation for refugees is also critical in west Darfur’s El Geneina, where more than one hundred twenty thousand people are living in overcrowded sites located in government ministries and other municipal buildings.

A local NGO called Coordinating Committee for Refugee and Displacement Camps, also said that the Zamzam refugee camp was encircled by militias, and the Donki Shata area of North Darfur was also attacked. It shows how revengeful and unmerciful the attacking rebel groups are.

There has been more to this recent spate of violence. According to a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the violence in Jebel Moon alone has displaced more than 10,000 people, with 2,000 fleeing across the border into Chad. Between January and September 2021, displacement has been about seven times more than during the whole of 2020, constituting the highest number of displacements in at least six years.






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