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Thousands newly displaced by Jebel Marra fighting

May 15 - 2018 KASS
Area where renewed fighting broke out between SLM-AW fighters and govt. troops in northern Kass locality, May 11, 2018 (OCHA map of South Darfur)
Area where renewed fighting broke out between SLM-AW fighters and govt. troops in northern Kass locality, May 11, 2018 (OCHA map of South Darfur)

Thousands of civilians have reportedly been newly displaced from villages in southern Jebel Marra as fighting broke out between government forces, allied militias and armed rebels in the area of Kass on Friday.

Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that the fighting in the Jebel Marra mountains in South Darfur has pushed “thousands of civilians to flee to Kara, Kabu, Kor, Saboun El Fagur, Girlanjabang, Waglem, Karoo, Wrangla and Daruna”.

Their numbers add to the reported 11,500 displaced people who have fled from the fighting in northern Jebel Marra at the end of April. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) at least 2,280 newly displaced households (about 11,500 people) arrived in Rokoro town and nearby Jemeiza village after 18 April.

People in Kass have described the situation to Radio Dabanga as “very difficult”. They recounted that the Sudanese army had mobilised more than 1,500 troops and Rapid Support Forces [RSF], backed by other troops that arrived from Zalingei in an attempt to launch new attacks on the holdout armed Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdelwahid El Nur (SLM-AW) in Jebel Marra.

People fleeing from Gobo village told Radio Dabanga last week that two people were killed and four others were wounded in the clashes in southern Jebel Marra on Friday. People from neighbouring Sina village said that they heard shooting and explosions until Friday afternoon. Smoke was seen billowing above the areas of Tara, Tarantara, and Kalokitting.

In the past years, government forces have made various attempts to eliminate SLM-AW bases in the Jebel Marra region during the dry seasons (roughly between January-and May). In 2016, more than 80,000 people were displaced by a major military offensive against the holdout rebels in the area.

This year in March, government forces, consisting mainly of RSF troops, attacked rebel sites in East Jebel Marra. The next month, areas in north-western Jebel Marra were targeted. At least 13 villages burned to the ground. Tens of thousands of people fled their homes.

Today, Sudan’s minister of defence is expected to appear before parliament to respond to the issue. Member of Parliament Siham Hassan Hasaballah requested his comments on the violent events in Rokoro, Deribat, Nierteti and Tur. Hasaballah has been known to represent the SLM-AW.

UN humanitarian chief

At the end of a three-day mission to Sudan, United Nations humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock has made several urgent requests to Sudan and the international community, including to allow access to conflict-ridden areas for humanitarian organisations.

In a statement to the press on Monday, Under-Secretary-General Lowcock said that “skirmishes in recent weeks between armed groups in pockets of Darfur’s Jebel Marra region have caused a renewed wave of internal displacement”. He urged all parties to the conflict in Sudan to allow the humanitarian community to bring assistance to people in need.

According to the UN, unilateral ceasefires which the warring parties recently announced, have improved the security situation across Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

Recent attempts to join two of the main holdout armed movements and the Sudanese government in a pre-negotiation deal about a cessation of hostilities in Darfur, failed in Berlin in April. In February, the African Union also suspended peace talks between Khartoum and the SPLM-N led by Abdelaziz El Hilu regarding South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

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