Crisis In Darfur: Sudanese Military Reportedly Involved In Attacks On Civilians

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Escalating violence around gold mining sites in Sudan’s Darfur region has caused an estimated 100,000 people to flee their homes, the United Nations reported Thursday.

For nearly a decade, the region has been immersed in civil war since militia groups took up arms against the Sudanese government in 2003, but it has also been at the center of various longstanding tribal conflicts.

It is not yet clear who specifically has been displaced, nor is it known the exact nature of the conflict that is causing the displacement.

“We’re not able to verify many of the details at this time,” Christopher Cycmanick, head of media relations for the joint U.N.-African Union mission in Darfur, said. “Access has been difficult.”

Scott Edwards, director of crisis prevention and response for human rights organization Amnesty International, reaffirmed the difficulty of verifying specific information regarding the recent outbreak of violence but said that it demonstrated a failure on the part of central government in Khartoum to provide security for its citizens.

“In order for that level of displacement to occur, Khartoum is either unable to effectively guarantee security or is choosing not to,” Edwards said.

The U.N.’s latest update on the humanitarian crisis in Darfur follows a Jan. 30 Amnesty report on a conflict over a goldmine that broke out last month between members of two Arab tribes, the Beni Hussein and the Rizeigat, and the possible involvement of Sudanese security forces in the violence that has resulted in at least 200 deaths.

“Gunmen driving government vehicles are alleged to have opened fire on people in the mostly Beni Hussein area of Kebkabiya using grenades and heavy machine guns,” the Amnesty report read. “While many among the local population own automatic rifles, heavier weaponry of the sort used in these attacks is not normally available to civilians.”

This particular conflict reportedly began when a Rizeigat leader and Sudanese Border Guard officer claimed ownership of a goldmine located in Beni Hussein territory, according to Amnesty’s sources on the ground.

Edwards said that a major concern at the moment regarding the conflict in Darfur is verifying whether government forces are becoming involved in the tribal conflicts and exacerbating the violence.

“Whether this is communal or tribal conflict that has spilled over into the security apparatus or there is some sort of design here, we don’t know yet,” he said.

Edwards added that, historically, Khartoum has had a lack of control over the region, which could explain failures in oversight of local security forces.

Amnesty has urged Khartoum to investigate the reports of the involvement of security forces in the violence but has not yet received any response indicating the government’s intentions.

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