Dr Neil Partrick, senior fellow at the Next Century Foundation, reports on renewed violence in the Darfur region of Sudan, that has led to scores of deaths since the start of this year. Stories of targeted assaults echo early episodes of violence between Arabs and non-Arabs in the Darfur region at the start of this century, and like then, the source of the violence seems to stem from the government, the only difference being the geopolitical actors now involved.
Marred by genocide in 2003, the brutal violence by Janjweed forces against non-Arabs in the Darfur region was reportedly supported by the then government of President Bashir. The violence led to hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees fleeing across the border to Chad, and the indictment by the ICC against the then President. Despite the peace agreement signed in 2010, and the change in government through the removal of the then President Bashir in a coup, Sudan’s history continues to haunt her people.
The signing of the Juba peace agreement in October 2020 by the new political leadership in North Sudan and a majority of the Sudan Revolution Front (SRF) – the amalgamation of Darfar rebel groups, was supposed to end the years of horrific violence. One of the groups of the SRF that rejected the peace agreement was the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), whose leader, Abdul-Wahid Al-Nur, argued the agreement didn’t address systematic and structural inequality that drives secessionist pressure and discontent.
Wahid Al-Nur’s reservations to the agreement are confirmed as resentment of this agreement comes to the surface in Darfur, where non-Arab Darfurians see the SRF tied up to Khartoum and no longer protecting the people. The protection pledged in this agreement to Darfurians was through the creation of a joint 12,000 security keeping force made up of RSF and SRF Darfuri forces. The establishment of the security keeping forces would have triggered the end of the UNAMID (UN Africa Union Mission) mandate on January 1st 2021, a peacekeeping force deployed in Sudan since 2003. Although no joint force has been established, the UNAMID forces withdrew at the end of the 2020, even though efforts by key JPA signatories urged the US charge d’affaires not to do so. The decision to end UNAMID’s mission was agreed by the UN Security Council as an expression of faith in the Sudanese authorities, to establish accountable state structures and elected civilian government. The absence of a security force and/or outside observers has permitted the escalation of violence and hostilities in Western Darfur region since the start of the year.
Neil recounts the untimely death of Majed Hassan on January 2021, a British National who was shot in the neck, brutally beaten before being shot dead when visiting Sudan’s IDP camps in El-Geneineh, Western Darfur. The brutality was allegedly carried out by the Rapid Support Force (RSF), the state armed militia – distinctly different to Sudan’s state armed forces headed by General Abdul-Fattah Burhan. The RSF are known to support and supply weapons to Arab tribes, and whose members include former Janjweed militia leaders. Neil describes the powers the RSF has over the current nominally combined military and civil leadership as dominant, and parallels them to former Baathist Iraq.
Dr Partrick explains how RSF’s warfare involvement exceeds beyond Sudan’s borders, as it has outsourced its forces, with its mercenaries taking part in wars in Libya and Yemen on behalf of UAE and Saudi Arabia, and generously paid by these states for their services. The financial support for the RSF extends to his head, General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo (AKA ‘Hemetti’), who analyst believe these Middle East sponsors want to promote to the head of state. Hemetti’s strategy to send his militia to the Emirati-Saudi frontlines exceeds beyond the financial incentives, as it also opens the door to arms supplies from these wars to the Darfur region, through Chad’s porous border.
As Neil clearly explains “With the power of their patronage and the importance of their relationships with key Sudanese neighbours, or key actors within those neighbouring states, the Emiratis and Saudis are pivotal to both what happens inside Sudan and in terms of its foreign policy.”
Neil insists greater scrutiny and political pressure by Western government is needed to prevent the repeat of genocide in Darfur. Neil feels the silence of the UK Government over the murder of the British subject, Majed Hassan, targeted in a premeditated fashion by state militia is unacceptable, and urges a rethink in UK policy from its wilful naivety about the nature of an unchanged government.
The photo above shows Krinding camp after the burning and killing. Picture c/o African Centre for Justice & Peace Studies. FOR THE FULL ARTICLE CLICK ON THIS LINK