Sudan: End of Darfur war?

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The official declaration of an end to the six-year Sudan War of Darfur by the United Nations has led to divided opinions over the implications of the claim. Although the intensity of the violence has reduced, there is still little prospect of a peace deal; hence experts, analysts and observers have accused the media of attempting to set the war aside.

General Martin Agwa leader of the joint UN and African Union peacekeeping force known as Unamid, said the region no longer suffered from the full-blown conflict. “Banditry, localized issues, people trying to resolve issues over water and land at a local level. But real war as such, I think we are over that,” he is quoted as saying.

But Sudan analyst, Ms. Gill Lusk, said that the claim by the UN could lead people into believing that Darfur’s problems had been solved. According to her, “If the claim is true, why do some parts of Darfur remain out of bounds, even for Unamid? There has been a large decline in fighting in the region, and that is undoubtedly a good thing for the people, but it is the government that turns the tap on and off – they can restart the violence whenever they want.”

According to Gen Agwai only one rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), posed a real threat but even it no longer had the ability to conquer and hold territory, however, the real problem now is political. Last week, four of the twenty-six different rebel factions responsible for blocking peace agreements with the government agreed to collaborate towards peace in Darfur, under a treaty brokered by US envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration. According to an observer, “It’s really important that we keep pressuring our governments to support peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts in Darfur, we can’t let the end of the war to be an excuse to stop paying attention to Darfur!”

The Darfur war broke out in early in 2003 when rebel groups attacked the Arab-led government in Khartoum accusing them of oppressing black Africans. This led to a counter attack by pro-government militiamen in a manner that provoked claims of a genocidal attempt to cleanse black Darfuris. Human Rights Watch argued that the Khartoum government under President Omar al-Bashir supported the Arab militia against black Darfuris with ammunitions supplied by China. But president al-Bashir and China have since denied any involvement in the alleged Darfur genocide. Many aid agencies have been working in Darfur but they are unable to get access to vast areas because of the insecurity. Several were banned after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Bashir for alleged war crimes.

The UN says 300,000 people have died in Darfur, and almost three million people are reported to have been displaced by the fighting. Some 200,000 people have also sought safety in neighboring Chad, but many of these are camped along the border and remain vulnerable to attacks from the Sudan side.

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