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Report: North Darfur gold mine conflicts not inter-tribal; Sudan regime behind them

May 14 - 2013 AMSTERDAM

“The Sudanese ruling party’s heightened interest in Darfur’s recently discovered gold mines and its role in spurring violence in the area fits this historic pattern of employing favoured Arab nomadic tribes as tools for consolidating economic control and power… Even a casual observer of the conflicts in Sudan cannot fail to notice the overlap between the resource-rich regions on Sudan’s peripheries and the conflicts that inflame them.”

In its report entitled Darfur's Gold Rush: State-Sponsored Atrocities 10 Years After the Genocide, the Enough Project challenges the government line which maintains that January’s conflicts in North Darfur over control of a gold mine were inter-tribal battles.

Drawing on extensive interviews it highlights evidence supporting the Sudanese government’s role in spurring the recent clashes arguing that the Abbala militias’ recent power play to gain control over the lucrative gold mines is a continuation of state-sponsored atrocity and plunder.


To address the root causes of this latest period of violence, the international community should engage more substantively on the situation in Darfur. The Enough Project recommends in report the following steps:

  1. The United States and other partners should support forces for democratic transformation within Sudan as they seek to secure a comprehensive peace in Darfur.
  2. The United States and other partners should pressure the Government of Sudan to grant humanitarian agencies unfettered access to all areas of Darfur.
  3. Both the international community and the government of Sudan should support the implementation of pledges made at the reconciliation conference between the Beni Hussein and Abbala tribes.
  4. The United States and other partners should exert pressure to ensure that those responsible for human rights abuses during this latest wave of atrocities are held accountable.
  5. The international donor community, including European allies and Qatar, should work to promote Darfur’s economic growth through sustainable and self-sufficient development.
  6. Jewelers, gold refiners, and gold exchanges should list Sudan as a “conflict affected” originating point under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s due diligence guidelines for supply chains, triggering the Gold Supplement due diligence procedures.


Escalating waves of violence since January 2013 in North Darfur have plunged the region into the worst humanitarian crisis in years. The Jebel ‘Amer gold mine, in Al Sareif Beni Hussein locality of North Darfur, was the source of a deadly conflict between the Abbala and Beni Hussein tribes.

The US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice noted that more than five times as many people have been displaced in the first few months of 2013 than in the whole of the previous year. More than 150 villages have been burned and the UN estimates that at least 150,000 people have been displaced in the wake of coordinated attacks by armed Abbala militias, elements of which include the historically state-sponsored Janjaweed forces.

Many of the Darfuris interviewed for this report suggest that Osman Yosuf Kibir, the governor of North Darfur, was interested in securing a stake in the mines. However, due to the Beni Hussein control of the permit process, Kibir was only able to obtain licenses for fewer than 20 mining sites even though he owns the pumps needed to operate far more. An anonymous source confirmed that the Beni Hussein tribe was refusing to pay newly imposed government mining fees that added up to “huge, huge money.”

In their attempt to consolidate control over Jebel ‘Amer’s lucrative mining trade, the Sudanese government decided to use the Abbala militias against other Arabs. In an interview with Radio Dabanga in January, prominent Abbala leader Ageed el-Khail, described an Abbala goal to “purge” the Jebel ‘Amer and Al Seraif areas of the Beni Hussein.

Eyewitnesses report that the Abbala militias established check-points on all roads leading out of the Jebel ‘Amer region, specifically targeting the Beni Hussein. Closing these roads “severely affected the provision of food” and made Al Seraif Beni Hussein completely inaccessible for weeks. Paralleling tactics used during the height of the genocide, this latest wave of violence has seen the Abbala militia reprise their role as a tool of state repression.

The Border Intelligence Brigade and the Abu Tira Abbala attackers (Abu Tira, or Central Reserve Forces – an SAF unit that has "repeatedly been involved in gross human rights abuses") used rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and mounted cannons, which long-time observers of the conflict attest could have only come from the government. The militias also used government vehicles and state-supplied Land Cruisers fitted with high-calibre machine guns.

When questioned about their use of government weapons and vehicles in the attack on the Beni Hussein, Abu Sakhala, local commander of the border guard, described himself as a member of the government’s security forces with the authority to use government vehicles for such operations. Residents of Kabkabiya identified individual officers of the Border Intelligence Brigade among the instigators of the first wave of violence against the Beni Hussein in early January 2013.

Recently, Abbala informants have publicly voiced concerns that government forces catalysed the group’s mobilization against the Beni Hussein for their own benefit. An Abbala leader confessed that he had come to realize that their community had been used by the government to fight a war that was against their own interests. His remarks continued, “We went to war and died while other people filled their pockets with the spoils.”

Ahmed Abdullah Ishaq, one of the Abbala chiefs, told Radio Dabanga the tribal hostilities in North Darfur are the result of a plan orchestrated by the ruling National Congress Party. “I am calling upon my relatives from both sides: bloodshed and deaths are needless. When you die, other people take advantage of your deaths... We have no enemy but the government. If the Beni Hussein annihilate the [Abbala] Rizeigat or vice-versa, they are both losers and the beneficiary is the government.”

See below satelite photos of the Jebel 'Amer region extracted from the report by Enough Project.

Jebel Amer feb 9 2012 no mining.jpg
Jebel Amer Feb 22 2013 artisanal mines_0.jpg
Jebel Amer Feb 22 2013 artisanal mines.2.jpg
Jebel Amer Feb 23 2013 destroyed and abandoned structures.jpg
Jebel Amer Dec 17 2012 Probable Commercial or Govt sponsored activity.jpg
Jebel Amer Jan 12 2013.jpg
Jebel Amer Jan 12 2013 tents and structures.jpg

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