According to Abdelwahid El Nur, head of the mainstream Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-AW), the people living in the Darfur camps for the displaced do not carry weapons. He considers the disarmament campaign launched by Khartoum “a ruse to dismantle the camps by force”.
In an interview with Radio Dabanga, the rebel leader strongly denied claims made by Darfur state governors that there are weapons in the camps for the displaced in the region.
“The people living in the camps have been attacked, beaten by militiamen. Their villages burned to the ground, so they had to flee to these camps in search of protection, not to fight,” he said.
El Nur suspects that the Darfur-wide disarmament campaign, carried out by members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), is set up to close the camps.
“The government in Khartoum plans to definitely close the camps by entering RSF troops during the so-called search for arms. They are set to control the camps, and to later force the displaced people to return, which they then will call voluntary return.”
The rebel leader said that the authorities “instead should be concerned with collecting weapons from its own gunmen. And as the RSF fighters have been recruited from certain tribes, the collection of arms in Darfur will cause needless tribal clashes in the region as well.”
He strongly condemned the silence of the international community concerning the disarmament campaign “in which the Rapid Support militiamen attack unarmed people in Darfur under the name of collecting weapons”. He referred in this context to the US government's warning its citizens not to visit Darfur because of the rampant insecurity.
In July, Khartoum announced the start of a large disarmament campaign in the country, to begin with in Darfur and Kordofan.
The army and the allied RSF militia have been tasked with collecting illegal arms and unlicensed vehicles from civilians in the regions. The collection will be voluntary in the beginning, and become compulsory at the end of this month.
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 Sudan’s main militia, the Rapid Support Forces.