An estimated 600 people died in fighting in Darfur, Sudan in May 2010, marking a two-year high in violent fatalities since the arrival of the UN peacekeeping force (UNAMID) in January 2008. The sharp increase in deaths — about five times higher than the monthly average for the last year — results from fighting between Sudan Armed Forces and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the Darfur rebel group, which withdrew from the Doha peace talks last month. As Julie Flint reports, the new fighting has, once again, targeted civilians:
UNAMID is investigating reports of ‘gross’ human rights violations by government forces and militias in the battle for Jebel Mun, with many civilians (including women) reportedly ‘assaulted and tortured’. JEM, on the run, has stolen fuel and other commodities from civilians. There are reports that, before being driven from Jebel Mun, JEM’s men engaged in extortion and destroyed wells as a ‘retaliation measure’–presumably for support given to the breakaway Justice and Reform Movement of the local Missiriya Jebel community.
Humanitarian access is obstructed and constrained by insecurity and kidnappings. More than 60,000 displaced people have been cut off in Jebel Mun for months now.
As of May 2010, at least 4.9 million people were internally displaced throughout the country — some for over two decades. In southern Sudan, over 400,000 people have been newly displaced since January 2009, as a result of intercommunal violence and attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
The recent violence and displacement casts a shadow over the fast approaching referendum for southern independence that is scheduled for January 2011 and the many fundamental logistical and political issues left to resolve. Thirty-three constituencies in Sudan still need to conduct or re-run elections, including the Southern Kordofan legislative assembly. Without these elections, Southern Kordofan cannot conduct its popular consultations, which will address land rights and self-determination in the border region. Questions around voter eligibility remain unanswered in the oil-rich region of Abyei, whose inhabitants are expecting to vote on a separate referendum in 2011 and whose borders — like the North-South border — have yet to be completely demarcated.
Meanwhile, after three years of inaction by the Sudanese government on the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrants, the ICC sent a formal finding of non-cooperation to the UN Security Council, the first in the history of the court. In April 2007, the court issued warrants for Ahmed Haroun, then Sudan’s minister for humanitarian affairs and now governor of Southern Kordofan state, and Ali Kosheib, a Janjaweed militia leader. In March 2009, the court issued a warrant for Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president, newly reelected in a widely criticized process.
Unrelated to the non-cooperation finding, two Darfur rebel leaders surrendered to the ICC on June 16, 2010, following summonses to appear before the court. Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus are charged with three counts of war crimes allegedly committed during an attack in September 2007 against the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS). The attack killed 12 AMIS soldiers and severely wounded eight others.