The South Darfur state government says it has arrested 14 tribal militia leaders accused of attacking displaced people who had returned to Marla village in Bielel locality two weeks ago.
A number of displaced people who had returned to Marla were attacked by militiamen. Five were seriously wounded. The militiamen beat and stabbed an unknown number of people.
In total, 600 displaced people had left Kalma, Dereig, and El Salam camps in South Darfur to return to Marla in Bielel locality.
One of the injured told Radio Dabanga that “militant tribal members” attacked them after arriving in the area on February 13. “They beat us with rifle butts and robbed us of our possessions.
“The militia members told us that our return here is not welcomed,” the victim said. Reports vary whether the majority of the people have returned to the camps or were able to stay in Marla.
A government official in the state said that weapons were seized when the militia leaders were arrested.
Reports indicate that more than 16 villages of voluntary repatriation have been subjected to attacks by militia which refuse the return of the displaced to their lands and homes.
The return of displaced people and refugees to their areas of origin in Darfur remains a challenge for both the Sudanese government as the displaced themselves. Insecurity caused by roaming militias and the abundance of weapons, as well as the danger of running into armed new settlers in the home areas has kept at bay many of the displaced people living in camps.
Early January, Radio Dabanga received reports from other returning displaced people in South Darfur that a paramilitary force prevented them from leaving again. About 300 displaced people had returned from the Shangil Tobaya camps in Tawila locality to their home villages in El Malam in northern South Darfur.
When they discovered that militiamen and other gunmen are still roaming in the area, dozens of them decided to return to the relative safety of the camps. Paramilitary troops, however, prevented them from leaving.
Voluntary return is one of the options which the Sudanese government gives to the about 2.7 million people in Darfur who have been displaced by the armed conflict that erupted in 2003. Khartoum has been seeking to empty or abolish camps and it also makes plans for the transformation of the camps into residential areas, or to make camps integrate into existing cities and towns.
The South Darfur state government, among others, has started planning the transformation of El Sareif camp for displaced people, south of Nyala. The camp would be turned into a permanent town for the displaced to settle permanently.