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Former rebels threaten to attack Darfur peacekeepers

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October 8, 2008 (EL FASHER) – Fighters from an armed faction in Darfur on Wednesday threatened to attack UN-African Union (UNAMID) police if they are not paid compensation for an alleged traffic incident, according to UNAMID.

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Men belonging to the Sudanese Liberation Army fighters from the faction of Minni Minawi are seen at Galap camp, north of Darfur, Sudan, June 14, 2006.

Two fighters from the Minni Minawi faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA/M) visited the UNAMID Community Policing Coordinator at Zam Zam camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) to discuss an outstanding issue involving a road traffic accident in which an SLA member was hit by a UNAMID armored personnel carrier (APC).

Minni Minawi was the only rebel commander to sign a peace agreement with the government in May 2006, although many of his commanders, terming themselves “SLA-Unity,” continued to fight. Minawi’s own relations with the government have since soured as well, although he reached a renewed agreement with the government on Sept. 19, following negotiations with First Vice President Ali Osman Taha.

Peacekeeping police patrols only recently resumed at Zam Zam camp, where SLM/M maintains a presence.

Although a Sudanese police investigation had found the UNAMID driver not to be at fault, the local SLA/M camp leader threatened to arrest the driver of the UNAMID vehicle who caused the damage to his motorbike and to confiscate the APC whenever UNAMID visits the Zam Zam camp.

UNAMID alleges that the SLA/M representative also warned that he could instruct his men to attack the Police Advisors while on patrol at the camp if compensation was not given.

This is neither the first time that SLA/M fighters have had tension with UNAMID, nor the first time that armed factions have demanded compensation for traffic incidents in Darfur.

During a Sept. 23 joint training exercise, the chief of the Sudanese police in North Darfur, General Ahmad Atta Al Manan Osman, told UNAMID officials that the mission should find a just means of compensating those affected by traffic accidents committed by UNAMID staff, suggesting that insurance companies contracted by UNAMID open offices in Darfur.

In April 2007, five Senegalese peacekeepers and reportedly three attackers died at Um Barro in North Darfur during an attack in an area primarily controlled by SLA/M.

In July 2007, the African Union peacekeeping mission confronted Juma Hagar, a commander of SLA/M in south Darfur, demanding “the immediate and unconditional return of all its 13 vehicles abducted by SLA under Eastern Commander Juma Hagar."

The confrontation followed a "road accident" on May 31, 2007 when peacekeepers encountered a convoy of former rebels from the Sudan Liberation Army near Labado in South Darfur. The road accident led to the death of one SLA/M fighter and the wounding of nine, four of whom were in critical condition, according to the African Union.

Recently, Minni Minawi met with UN Under Secretary-General Alain Le Roy as part of the UN peacekeeping chief’s current visit to Darfur.

Le Roy also held a meeting Wednesday with representatives of IDPs in El Fasher, North Darfur and presented medals of service to peacekeepers serving with UNAMID in Zam Zam IDP camp. Among those who received medals were the soldiers of the Rwandan contingent who lost their lives on July 8 during an ambush in Shangil Tobaya, North Darfur. Deputy Force Commander Major General Emmanuel Karenzi was decorated during the event.

The UNAMID Sector North Commander, Brigadier General Dennis Rutaha, commended the troops for their efforts in Darfur. He praised “the soldiers and colleagues who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty as they pursued efforts to restore peace and normalcy in Darfur.”

(ST)

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