Home | News    Sunday 30 July 2006

Darfur clashes undermine fragile peace deal


July 29, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — Fresh fighting has flared in the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur after government forces and an allied militia launched an attack on a rebel group, denting a fragile May peace deal.

African Union ceasefire monitors (Economist).

A government soldier and an unknown number of rebels were killed in fighting in North Darfur on Friday, the Sudanese military said.

"A group of rebels ... on about nine vehicles ambushed an administrative patrol Friday," Brigadier Osman Al-Aghbash said.

"A soldier was martyred and another wounded in the fighting," he said, adding that rebels were also killed and others injured although he did not give figures.

On Friday, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which refused to sign up to the Darfur peace deal hammered out in May, accused Khartoum of unleashing its feared Janjaweed militia in a bid to eradicate rebel holdouts, and warned it would retaliate.

The JEM said the government, supported by its proxy militia, had shelled the area of Kulkul, about 35 kilometres (22 miles) from North Darfur’s capital Al-Fasher.

"The battle is still continuing," Izz Al-Din Yusuf of the JEM told the daily Al-Ray Al-Aam.

It vowed to retaliate after claiming the government used military planes to quell the unrest, effectively "disregarding an air embargo in that area."

"We will enter Al-Fasher and occupy the airport if the government continues shelling them by planes," Yusuf said, warning citizens to evacuate the area.

The United Nations and African Union missions in Sudan denounced Friday’s attack on the JEM, saying they were "deeply concerned about the fighting."

"The Khartoum regime has begun implementing a military project that aims at an all-out assault on the parties which did not sign the farcical Abuja ’agreement’," JEM spokesman Ahmed Hussein Adam said.

The peace agreement, which Khartoum signed with the mainstream Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) in the Nigerian capital on May 5, requires the government to disarm the Janjaweed, accused of raping and murdering civilians in the vast desert region.

A smaller faction of the SLM and the JEM refused to sign up, saying that the peace deal did not meet their demands and did not provide any safeguards for implementation.

But observers have warned that Sudan risked becoming a war zone again if the agreement was not fully implemented by Khartoum.

The JEM spokesman said Khartoum had mobilized "some 400 Janjaweed on horses and camels with full armament and logistic support, including 82 vehicles."

Decades of ethnic tensions in Darfur erupted into all-out violence in 2003 when ethnic minorities took up arms against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum to fight for autonomy and a greater share of the region’s resources.

The government responded by unleashing its mainly Arab proxy militia in a scorched-earth policy against minority villages suspected of supporting the rebels.

About 300,000 people — overwhelmingly civilians — have since died and 2.4 million more have been displaced.


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