Darfur: ethnic war exploding again

Sudan made minor headlines by expelling 20 staff members of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, with UNHCR accusing the government of “compromising the ability of the refugee agency to effectively undertake its work in Darfur.” (Radio Dabanga, Aug. 6) The spat comes amid a re-inflammation of the Darfur conflict. The UN Security Council passed a resolution last week calling for an end to heightening violence in Darfur, and greater action by “peacekeepers” to protect civilians. The council extended the mandate of the joint UN-African Union force in Darfur until next August. (AP, July 30) Days later, Misseriya tribal leader Ahmed Khiri boatsed to AFP that his forces had killed 100 members of the rival Salamat tribe in a battle near Garsila, with 28 lost on his own side. (AFP, July 30) Estimates of the number of newly displaced in Darfur so far this year is estimated at over 240,000. (Radio Dabanga via AllAfrica, Aug. 2) 

Ironically, the new violence is in some ways a result of the modicum of stability that has returned to Darfur since the 2006 peace agreement, and UN efforts to repatriate refugees and the displaced. Arab (or Arabic-speaking) pastoralist groups, such as the Misseriya and Salamat, are refusing to allow Black African farmers to return to their lands—and have apparently started fighting among themselves over the usurped territories. This has, perversely, set off a new wave of displacement. Recent violence between the Misseriya and Salamat in West Darfur has driven 50,000 into eastern Chad. Hundreds have also been displaced by fighting between the Beni Halba tribe and the Gimr and Dajo peoples in South Darfur. (Sudan Tribune, Aug. 5; Radio Dabanga, July 8)

And displaced persons camps are again being attacked by militias. The leaders of the displaced populations in central Darfur have prepared an open letter to the UN and UNAMID force demanding: “protect us or move us.” The sheiks of Bundisi, Mukjar and Garsila camps stated that “the displaced live under extreme terror and threat of death from pro-government militias. These have moved into the camps, neighbourhoods and markets now that the clashes between them have subsided.” (Radio Dabanga via AllAfrica, Aug. 5)

Another branch of the Misseriya tribe is at issue in the conflict over Abyei enclave on the border with South Sudan.

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