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The Other War in Sudan: A Call for High Level Observer in Western Sudan Peace Process


Press Release
International Crisis Group (ICG)

Brussels/New York/Nairobi, 10 December 2003: The International Crisis Group is deeply concerned about the ongoing conflict in the Darfur region of Western Sudan, where an alarming deterioration is occurring in the humanitarian and human rights situation associated with the continuing conflict.

As the government of Sudan and the Darfurian rebel group known as the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) renew negotiations, we urge the United Nations Secretary-General to send a high level observer to the Chad-mediated process. The purpose of such an observer would be to promote greater neutrality and transparency in the process, to act as a bridge to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) peace process, and to ensure that the parties are committed to accord due attention to human rights and humanitarian concerns.

"Unless these two peace processes are coordinated and information shared, there is a grave danger that the resolution of the larger conflict through the IGAD process could exacerbate the fighting in Darfur", says Stephen Ellis, Director of Africa Program at ICG. "Ultimately, that would undermine any agreement reached in IGAD".

The SLM/A and another Darfur rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), launched their first attacks on government garrisons in the region in February 2003. In response to those actions, the government of Sudan has mobilized and armed Arab militias (Janjaweed), whose salary comes directly from booty captured in raids on villages, to terrorize the populace of Darfur. Despite a ceasefire agreement between the government and the SLM/A on 3 September, the Janjaweed have stepped up activities in the past three months against the Fur, Zaghawa, and Massalit groups, who are collectively accused of supporting the rebellion.

The latest attacks occurred deep inside the Fur tribal domain, against unprotected rural communities. Militia atrocities are common in a campaign that has thus far led to the indiscriminate killing of an estimated 3,000 unarmed civilians and the displacement of more than 600,000 others. At least 75,000 more have fled to neighbouring Chad. The government has also conducted indiscriminate aerial bombings against villages suspected of harbouring rebels and their sympathisers, contributing to the acceleration of the mass displacement of the population.

The international community has thus far failed to respond appropriately to these developments, in part because the attention of the world remains focused squarely on the IGAD peace process.

"The government of Sudan is being feted by the international community for its transition to peacemaker through the IGAD process, while it continues to carry out a bloody campaign by proxy against the people of Darfur", concludes John Prendergast, Special Advisor at ICG. "The end of one tragic civil war in Sudan should not be allowed to be a catalyst for a new one".

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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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