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Protest over livestock grazing in North Darfur

December 17 - 2020 KUTUM / NYALA
Farmers in Bahr El Arab locality in East Darfur (file photo: social media)
Farmers in Bahr El Arab locality in East Darfur (file photo: social media)

Yesterday, angry farmers in Kutum closed a part of the road to El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, in a protest against armed herding groups releasing their livestock to graze on farmland, destroying their crops. The sit-in in Kalma camp for the displaced in Nyala, South Darfur, continues.

Speaking to Radio Dabanga from Kutum, activist Yahya El Khumus explained that herders continue to drive livestock onto farms at gunpoint, causing destruction of large areas of crops and cultivated land and extensive losses for farmers, in particular in the area of El Hamra.

The farmers have filed many complaints at the Kutum police station. To no avail, El Khumus said. “That is why they now blocked the road to El Fasher, demanding the immediate removal of camels and cows from their farms in order to save our harvest, the arrest of those involved, and compensation for those affected.”

Disputes between herders and farmers occur regularly in Darfur this time of year. As the rainy season ends in September and the herders need fresh pastures, they let their camels and cattle graze on farmlands that have not yet been harvested. Each year, farmers complain about livestock destroying their crops.

In the past, there used to be clearly marked pasture tracks and traditional tribal procedures for compensation of lost crops, but this has changed during the regime of Omar Al Bashir. The regime supported the ‘Arab herders’ in the region, whilst looking down on ‘African farmers’.

Kalma camp sit-in

The Darfur Bar Association (DBA) supports the demands of the sit-in in Kalma camp. The protestors call for an extension of the mandate of the UN-AU joint Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) that is scheduled to leave Darfur on December 31.

The Darfur lawyers said in a statement yesterday that the exit of UNAMID, in light of the current situation, will have dire consequences for the region. They referred to the proliferation of weapons in Darfur and the lack of government strategy to disarm all those who bear illegal arms.

Amnesty International has urged the UN to extend the UNAMID mandate as violence is still widespread in the region.

The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has stated its willingness to take over the responsibilities of civilian protection after UNAMID leaves; an announcement that caused widespread criticism as the RSF is accused of attacking civilians and robbing them. The RSF militia grew out of the janjaweed militia groups which fought for the Al Bashir regime since the war broke out in Darfur in early 2003.

In May this year, a group of Sudanese civil society activists urged Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok in a petition to add ‘physical protection’ to his request for a new UN force to be deployed in the country.

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