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Darfur Centre: Decision to disarm civilians, irregular combatants ‘hasty’

August 27 - 2017 GENEVA
Militiamen in Darfur (file photo)
Militiamen in Darfur (file photo)

Any disarmament project in Sudan must address the root causes of the rampant insecurity, violence, and the widespread proliferation of government-owned weapons in Darfur, and Sudan at large, the Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre (DRDC) said in a press statement on Friday.

Any meaningful disarmament scheme in Sudan must take into account the provisions of UN Security Council Resolutions 1556 and 1564 in 2004, which demanded that Sudan disarms militia groups and ends the climate of impunity in Darfur, the Geneva-based Centre states.

The DRDC calls the recent decisions of the Sudanese government to reorganise its militia groups and to disarm civilians and irregular combatants in Darfur “hasty”. They were “apparently” taken because of “the unprecedented hike in violence and criminal activities as well as the uncontrollable inter-tribal armed confrontations among government-allied militia groups”.

According to the Centre, dozens of tribal chieftains and community leaders were arrested and sent to prisons because they refused to cooperate with the disarmament operation.

The DRDC further points to the practical problems that developed by the “abrupt decision” to confiscate private four-wheel-drive vehicles in Darfur and West Kordofan. These cars “are widely used in Darfur as a means of intra and interstate transport for goods and people”.

Real motives’

Sources in Darfur have cast doubt about Khartoum’s real motives behind such decisions. People say that external pressure prompted Khartoum to decide on the broad disarmament campaign and integrate the various government militia groups into the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that have become part of the Sudan Armed Forces.

Furthermore, the Centre states that the Sudanese government needs “to send a signal to the world community about its ability to reign in the region, rather than a genuine stand to save lives and livelihoods of the people of Darfur”.

Other observers perceive the rift between Khartoum and the Border Guards militia, led by Musa Hilal, the “historical leader of the Janjaweed” as “a key factor that led to these abrupt and short-sighted decisions.

“The split of such an important government ally adds a dangerous dimension to the deterioration of the security situation, weakens the government military plans and is a harbinger of armed confrontations between Sudanese government and its former military allies in the region.”

Rapid Support Forces

Hilal considers Khartoum’s decisions to disarm civilians and irregular combatants as a direct assault against his forces, the Border Guards and allied militiamen.

He opposed his forces to join the ranks of the RSF under the command of Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (aka Hemetti). The DRDC refers in this context to “unconfirmed reports about ongoing aerial bombardments and military confrontations between RSF and the Border Guards in Kabkabiya area (North Darfur) and in Jebel Moon (West Darfur)”.

The Sudanese government decided to use “the notorious RSF” in the weapons’ search and collect operations. This “consolidated the fears of the people of the region,” the DRDC notes. “Following some of the search operations conducted by RSF in Rajaj, Sargilla and the surrounding villages in Tullus locality in South Darfur, the local people complained about the RSF criminal behaviour...”

Prerequisites for disarmament

According to DRDC, future disarmament schemes in Sudan must be preceded by a sound peace accord and a permanent cessation of hostilities, under the supervision of an independent international mechanism of verification.

The disarmament scheme should be comprehensive and well-designed, targeting all the irregular militia groups and paramilitary groups, including the RSF and the Popular Defence Forces, “and other government-sponsored groups”.

A comprehensive and independent study of the root causes of insecurity, inter-tribal, violence and other related phenomena should be conducted, as the instability and insecurity led to the widespread proliferation of small arms and heavy weapons in Darfur and Sudan.

The affected communities need to be consulted, “to learn about their concerns and work out alternative sources of livelihoods to those who lost any means of subsistence and income, especially the large numbers of uneducated youngsters”.

The native administration and traditional chieftains are to be directly consulted as well. They are to be fully involved in the developments, “to ensure ownership by the local people and eventually cooperation from the affected communities”.

“Clear commitment from the international community to fully implement the key UN Security Council resolutions relevant to the conflict in Darfur and Sudan” is also required, “including the arrest and handover of individuals accused by the International Criminal Court of committing crimes war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Darfur,” the statement reads.

Campaign

In July, Khartoum announced that it would start a large disarmament campaign in the country, to begin with in Darfur and Kordofan.

According to Presidential Decree 419 of 2017, illegal weapons, ammunition, and vehicles are to be handed immediately to the Sudan Armed Forces (the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces), the state commissioner, or the nearest military or police unit.

The collection of illegal arms and cars will be voluntary in the beginning, and become compulsory at a later stage.

The campaign will be followed by a reform of “the supporting forces of the army”, by which the various government militias will be dissolved. The members are to join the Sudan main militia, the Rapid Support Forces. The Border Guards militia have rejected the plans.


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