11 February 2016

Sudan: 'Tens of Thousands Trapped in Darfur's Jebel Marra'

Golo / London — The Sudanese Air Force has destroyed at least 20 villages in the area of Golo in Jebel Marra since the start of a major offensive on rebel strongholds in the area on 15 January. Tens of thousands of people are reportedly still hiding from the ongoing air raids. According to a Darfuri scholar, the Sudanese government continues to target the population as it plans to change the demography of Darfur.

Sources that contacted Radio Dabanga on Tuesday from the vicinity of Golo said that "at least 20 villages were entirely destroyed by barrel bombs".

"The humanitarian situation of about 60,000 villagers who sought protection high in Mount Marra is extremely bad," they reported.

"The most important thing that must happen now is an immediate halt to the air raids, so that these people will be able to descend, and aid organisation will be able to have access to them."

"The newly displaced are still hiding from the ongoing bombardments in caves and under trees near the peak of Mount Marra. They do not dare to strike a match to light a fire for fear of attracting the attention of an Antonov.

"The most important thing that must happen now is an immediate halt to the air raids, so that these people will be able to descend, and aid organisation will be able to have access to them," they said.

One of the sources urged the UN Security Council to send "an international force to protect the Darfuris, especially in Jebel Marra, and to restore security and peace, so that the displaced can return to their villages".

Demography

In an interview about the attacks on Jebel Marra on Wednesday, Ahmed Hussein Adam, a scholar from Darfur and visiting Fellow with the Cornell Institute for African Development, confirmed to the BBC World Service that the civilian population is being bombed by government aircraft.

"Sadly I confirm Radio Dabanga's statements. It is the only radio covering the situation in Darfur and the unfolding humanitarian situation," he said.

"This is not about counter-insurgency. This is not about rebels... Yesterday President Al Bashir said 'we ended the rebellion in Darfur'. If they ended the rebellion, why do they continue bombing the civilian population right now in Darfur?

"These clashes are happening because the government of Sudan right now wants to change the demography of Darfur, in particularly the area of Jebel Marra," the scholar explained.

"I am very worried that Jebel Marra could be one of the strongholds for some extremists from some regional countries like from Mali, from the Central African Republic... It is the objective of the government to drive away the population from Jebel Marra because they want to occupy the Jebel Marra and they actually want the janjaweed to be in that area."

"This is not about counter-insurgency. This is not about rebels... Yesterday President Al Bashir said 'we ended the rebellion in Darfur'. If they ended the rebellion, why do they continue bombing the civilian population right now in Darfur?"

Dr Hamid Eltigani, economist and head of the Department of Public Policy and Administration at the American University in Cairo said in an interview with Radio Dabanga on 24 January, that the government playing with the geographical borders of Darfur for purely political and security reasons.

"The Darfur referendum is the result of a promise by Khartoum to certain Sudanese ethnic groups that committed gross crimes during the war in order to obtain large parts of Darfur land," he stated, and predicted that the name of Darfur may be changed after the referendum.

The people currently residing in Darfur will be able to determine the permanent status of Darfur in a referendum scheduled to take place in April. They can opt for a continuation of the five Darfur states or for a return of the region to one administrative unit.

Sudan

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