Ceasefire fails to quell Darfur violence

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A unilateral ceasefire announced by Khartoum in late October has failed to improve security in Darfur, where armed groups continue to do battle, according to humanitarian and civil society officials.

“Conditions on the ground remain the same; there is a lot of insecurity,” an aid worker, who requested anonymity, told IRIN. “Reports of attacks continue, even carjacking has occurred, although there has been no drastic deterioration.”

However, the source said most of the fighting had been between communities, rather than mounted by government forces against the various rebel movements active in Darfur. North Darfur has been relatively calm and most of the incidents have occurred in South Darfur, another humanitarian source added.

Armed conflict in Darfur has claimed at least 200,000 lives since 2003 and caused the displacement of more than two million more.

Hassan Imam Hassan from the Darfur Peace Block, a civil society group, said the ceasefire declaration of 27 October remained largely theoretical.

“No one is respecting the ceasefire as far as I know; in fact no one is speaking about it here in Darfur,” Hassan said by telephone.

Hassan is among the civil society representatives who attended the first week of Darfur peace talks, which opened in the Libyan coastal town of Sirte on 27 October.

He said Darfur Peace Block and other civil society organisations in the region had taken the initiative to hold conferences locally, among the various ethnic communities, aimed at bringing peace to the region.

Hassan said conferences were going on in three locations, initiated by locals, to come up with a position that civil society could present in Sirte, in December, when the UN-African Union-mediated talks are expected to enter a “negotiations” phase.

Lack of unity

Civil society representatives in Sirte called for a greater role in the talks and in uniting the parties to the conflict in Darfur. Only eight of an estimated 16 rebel factions active in Darfur were present in Sirte.

“For those who are boycotting the talks, civil society can play a big role in getting them to come aboard. If the mediators want us to play this role, we are ready and willing,” Safaa Al-Aagib Adam, the secretary-general and gender adviser of the Community Development Association, said at the time.

The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), led by Khalil Ibrahim, and the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M), led by Abdel Wahed, are among the key rebel factions boycotting the talks.

According to a report by the Sudan Human Security Baseline Assessment (HSBA) project of the Small Arms Survey – an independent Geneva-based research project – the “most immediate hurdle” in the peace process is the rebels’ lack of unity and political vision.

“Over the past four or five years, as rebel groups have formed and splintered in Darfur, one point of consistency has endured: their military effectiveness stands in stark contrast to the weakness of their political structures,” the July report, Divided They Fall: The Fragmentation of Darfur’s Rebel Groups, stated.

The Small Arms Survey, supported by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, was established in 1999. Its HSBA project supports disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, security sector reform and arms control interventions to promote security.

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