21 May 2018

Sudan: UNAMID Head Concerned Over Fighting in Darfur's Jebel Marra

El Fasher — The African Union-United Nations Hybrid Mission in Darfur (Unamid) Joint Special Representative (JSR) Jeremiah Mamabolo has expressed his concerns about the situation in Jebel Marra after a two-day visit to the area.

Unamid reported in a press briefing on Saturday that Mamabolo travelled by road to Golo in the centre of the Jebel Marra last week, to oversee progress on the establishment of the Mission's temporary operating base in the area.

On arrival, Unamid personnel working on the ground briefed him on the security situation and the challenges faced, including rough terrain, the upcoming rainy season and recent clashes between Sudanese government forces and combatants of the Sudan Liberation Movement under the leadership by Abdelwahid El Nur (SLM-AW) elements in the greater Jebel Marra area.

The JSR commended the Chinese and Pakistani engineering companies for setting up the base and improving the road between Golo and Kabkabiya in North Darfur, "which has eased movement and significantly reduced travel time between these locations, thereby facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance".

Mamabolo also extended his appreciation to the commander and members of the Rwandese Battalion who took charge of both protecting the new base during the construction phase, along with implementing protection of civilians tasks in and around Golo, as mandated by the UN Security Council resolution 2363 and the AU Peace and Security Council communique of June 2017.

Clashes

The JSR expressed concern about the recent clashes between Sudanese government forces and SLM-AW fighters. He urged both sides to exercise restraint and consider the impact of renewed fighting on vulnerable civilians.

"Unamid appeals to all parties involved to exercise restraint and resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue and the peace process. A political solution is the best way forward to satisfy the interests of the people of Darfur," he said.

"We particularly regret the new displacements and the burning of villages such as Gobbo, Kawara, Kimingtong in South Darfur as well as other villages in the Rokoro locality in Central Darfur," he added.

In this regard, he commended the UN Country Team for swiftly responding to and assisting those affected by the ensuing humanitarian situation.

At the end of his visit, the JSR and his delegation paid a courtesy call on Golo Commissioner, Col. Jafar Abaker and discussed cooperation regarding progress on the temporary operating base, as well as community projects that Unamid is implementing in the locality.

Military offensives

In the past years, government forces have made various attempts to eliminate SLM-AW bases in the Jebel Marra region during the dry seasons (roughly between January and May). In 2016, more than 80,000 people were displaced by a major military offensive against the holdout rebels in the area.

This year in March, government forces, consisting mainly of paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, attacked rebel sites in East Jebel Marra in South Darfur. In April, areas in north-western Jebel Marra were targeted. At least 13 villages burned to the ground. Tens of thousands of people reportedly fled their homes. The US Department of State expressed its serious concerns about the renewed violence. This month, again thousands of villagers were newly displaced by fighting in the southern part of Jebel Marra in Kass in South Darfur.

'Absent'

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch criticised the Unamid peacekeepers for not being able to protect Darfuri civilans in Jebel Marra.

In a statement on May 10, the international human rights watchdog said that the "UN-AU peacekeepers and other international actors do not know the full scale of the death toll and destruction being wrought on civilians in Jebel Marra - or across Darfur - because they are largely absent.

"Sudan has restricted access and the peacekeeping mission has been under pressure to quickly downsize," the team leader of the HRW Africa Division said. "While Jebel Marra was recognised as a trouble area over a year ago, construction on a temporary operating base for Unamid is only just beginning and peacekeepers still face access problems."

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