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UN expert urges protection of Darfuris in Jebel Marra

February 5 - 2016 GENEVA
Aristide Nononsi, UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the country, gives a press briefing in Khartoum3 (RD)
Aristide Nononsi, UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the country, gives a press briefing in Khartoum3 (RD)

The United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, called for an immediate end to the hostilities in Jebel Marra that have triggered new protection and humanitarian concerns in Darfur. Tens of thousands of civilians have been forced to flee their homes after a new escalation of violence, he warned today.

“Violence is certainly not the way to resolve the current difficulties Sudan is facing, and must stop, now,” Nononsi stressed, urging all parties to the conflict to respect international human rights and international humanitarian law and to ensure humanitarian access to people in need at all times, and protect unarmed civilians.

“The Government of Sudan has a duty to facilitate free, full and unhindered access to all conflict-affected areas to Unamid (UN-African Union Mission in Darfur), UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations,” he noted. The Jebel Marra mountain range in the centre of Darfur is an area that has been inaccessible to health providers for years. Besides rampant insecurity owing to the fighting, the Sudanese government does not allow organisations entry into the area, and the mountains impede transport for the estimated 95,000 people in inner Jebel Marra.

The ongoing hostilities between government forces and the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdel Wahid (SLM-AW) have reportedly resulted in human rights violations and abuses as well as violations of international humanitarian law, including destruction of civilian property and objects as well as considerable displacement of civilians, in addition to unspecified number of civilian casualties.

More than 44,000 displaced

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan reported that as of 31 January, it is estimated that 44,700 people (31,000 in North Darfur and 13,700 in Central Darfur) have been displaced in the government offensive on Darfur’s Jebel Marra, which started on 15 January.

According to Unamid, up to 21,338 civilians, mainly women and children, have fled into North Darfur State and have sought refuge around their camp by 1 February. About 15,000 others have fled into Central Darfur State, according to the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan.

In the heavy military offensive, Sudan's aerial bombardments and ground attacks have struck Darfur's Jebel Marra each day since 15 January, in an attempt to crush the rebel forces.

The Governor of Central Darfur, Jaafar Abdelhakam, said on Monday that the military offensive against the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement in January was successful. About 90 percent of Jebel Marra area has been freed from the grip of the rebels, he told representatives of the UN and aid organisations in the state capital of Zalingei on Monday.

El Geneina unrest

The number of displaced people following the attacks on Mouli and surrounding villages in West Darfur is estimated at 5,000 civilians, according to the Humanitarian Aid Commission of the Sudanese government. These civilians have mostly fled to El Geneina, while the number of civilians who sought refuge in Chad remains unknown, read Nononsi's statement. A number of civilians were killed in attacks in Mouli, and during demonstrations that took place at the time of their funerals in El Geneina.

“I call on the Government of Sudan to create the conditions for an inclusive dialogue and ensure the participation of all armed opposition groups to advance peace and reconciliation in the country,” the UN Independent Expert stated.

Aristide Nononsi was designated as the new Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Sudan by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014. His mandate has been extended for an additional year in September 2015. In May 2015, Nononsi visited Abu Shouk camp for the displaced in North Darfur, and Otash and Dereig camps in South Darfur. He urged the Sudanese government and the international community to create and maintain a secure environment for the displaced in Darfur.

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