Between 28 May and 15 June, members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and other government sponsored militias targeted people in North and Central Darfur.
The attacks took place from 28 May-6 June 2017 in the area of Ein Siro in North Darfur, on 14-15 June in Tur and Nierteti in southern Jebel Marra. At least 35,000 people were displaced, the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) states in a report on Thursday.
The attacks came after fighting broke out between the RSF, Sudan’s largest militia that stands under command of President Al Bashir since January this year, and Darfuri rebel groups. However, there is no rebel presence in any of the villages attacked, ACJPS confirmed.
Dozens of villagers were killed and others were injured in the attacks. In southern Jebel Marra, ten women were abducted from Tur on 14 June and seven men were abducted from Nierteti the next day. Their whereabouts remain unknown, raising serious concerns for their safety and well-being, as well as for the risk for sexual violence.
At 6 am on 28 May, an unidentified government militia and the RSF in more than one hundred vehicles attacked a number of villages in the area of Ein Siro locality. At least 12 people were killed and ten were injured.
The following day, seven villages in Ein Siro, including Farang, Furokat, and Abdelshakour, were set on fire by members of the RSF and other militiamen on motorcycles and camels. They plundered markets and homes, and seized the livestock in 17 villages.
On 1 June, residents of four villages in Ein Siro were robbed by unidentified militiamen as they returned to their villages to check on their homes and belongings.
Three days later, the villages Dilibah El Kebeer and Dilibah El Segheer, west of Kutum, were plundered. On 6 June, militiamen attacked the markets of Delibat near Ein Siro. A number of livestock was stolen from the area on 4 and 5 June.
According to ACJPS, the entire population of the 50 villages of Ein Siro, roughly 30,000 people, have been reportedly displaced to Kutum and the surrounding mountains.
The Centre reports that at least 5,000 people were displaced by attacks by the RSF and an unidentified government sponsored militia on Tur and Nierteti on 14 and 15 June.
On 14 June, the village of Tur was raided and plundered. Three men were killed, and ten women were abducted. The women’s whereabouts are still unknown, ACJPS states.
On 15 June, a joint force of RSF, Border Guards, and militiamen riding horses and camels attacked six villages in Rokoro. They plundered the markets and homes, and seized the livestock in the area. Later that day, the same militiamen attacked the area of Nierteti area, and abducted seven men.
ACJPS urges the Sudanese government “to immediately put in place measures to protect civilians in North Darfur and Central Darfur, and respect customary international law obligations regarding internal armed conflicts which prohibit deliberate attacks on civilians, indiscriminate attacks on civilians even where there may be armed elements amongst civilians [..]”.
Khartoum should as well repeal all legal provisions granting immunities to police officers, members of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), and the RSF.
ACJPS calls on Unamid to fulfil its mandate to contribute to the protection of civilian populations under imminent threat of physical violence, and prevent attacks against civilians within its capability and areas of deployment.
ACJPS further appeals to the international community, particularly the USA, EU, and AU, “to publicly and privately press the Sudanese government to meet its legal obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, and end deliberate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians, torture, rape and looting.
“The Sudanese government should ensure unfettered access by Unamid peacekeepers and humanitarian actors to all parts of Darfur including those most affected by conflict.”
In 2015 the UN Panel of Experts on Sudan characterized Khartoum’s strategy in Darfur as one of “collective punishment” and “induced or forced displacement” of communities from which the armed opposition groups are believed to come or operate. The majority of people in Ein Siro belong to the Zaghawa tribe, while Jebel Marra is mainly populated by the Fur. Both have been “particularly targeted by the Sudanese government since the outbreak of the conflict in 2003”.
As for Sudan’s largest militia, “the RSF now functions as a regular force of the Government of Sudan, following the passage of the 2016 Rapid Support Forces Act, which integrates the RSF into the armed forces of the country, and provides for the commander of the RSF to be appointed by the President. The RSF has led a number of brutal counterinsurgency campaigns, supported by aerial bombardment, against civilian populations since their creation in mid-2013”.
In its report, the African Centre as well points to the “millions of Euros” the EU is providing Sudan “to combat migration flows from the Horn of Africa to Europe.
“These funds are likely to trickle down to Sudanese forces such as the RSF through the Government of Sudan’s administration of the fund, and be used for small arms and weapons,” ACJPS warns.