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UN experts reveal cluster munitions and gold smuggling in Darfur

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April 6, 2016 (NEW YORK) - The United Nations Security Council’s Panel of Experts on Darfur has underlined presence of cluster bombs in Darfur region in violation of a UN arms embargo and stressed that rebel groups earned cash from illicit gold mining.

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Cluster bombs scatter over a large area and can kill or maim unsuspecting civilians long after the conflict has ended

In line with the UN resolution 1591 (2005), the Panel of Experts was established to monitor a series of sanctions and measures, including an arm embargo in Darfur region, an assets freeze and travel ban on designated individuals.

In its latest report, the group said it obtained evidence that Sudan’s air force recently had RBK-500 cluster bombs at the weapon loading area at the Nyala Forward Operation Base in South Darfur state.

According to Reuters, the monitors said in their report that “although Sudan is not a signatory to the Cluster Munition Convention; it has previously denied either possessing or using cluster munitions”.

A cluster bomb is a large canister containing between a dozen and a few hundred submunitions which are designed to explode on impact, either when they hit the ground or the target. The container opens in mid-air and scatters its submunitions over a wide area.

In a report to the UN Security Council (UNSC) on 26 May 2015, the UN chief Ban Ki-moon blamed the Sudanese government for using cluster bombs during its military offensive that aimed to put an end to the armed rebellions in Darfur, South Kordofan, and the Blue Nile state.

Also, the monitors expressed concern about gold smuggling in the restive region.

The panel pointed that between 2010 and 2014, more than $4.5 billion in gold was smuggled from Sudan to the United Arab Emirates.

“Such an export level equates to an additional income of $123 million to the armed groups of Darfur over this period.” it read.

The experts visited the Jebel Amir artisanal gold mines in June 2015 and said they were certain that the Abbala militia led by Musa Hilal control at least 400 mines.

The report found that Hilal and his armed followers make $54 million a year from their control of the gold mines.

According to the Foreign Policy magazine, the report’s release has been blocked by Russia.

A spokesman for the Russian mission to the UN, Alexey Zaytsev, told the magaizne by email Monday that Moscow put a “hold” on the publication, “pending further consultations in the council,” but didn’t block it.

He pointed that reports by the Panel of Experts have “rarely been balanced or objective”, saying however the “degree of lopsided, unrestrained, and generally unfounded criticism of the Sudanese authorities in the latest report just ran over the top”.

Last February, Russia, China, and other non permanent members of the UN Security Council had opposed an attempt by the United States and the United Kingdom to adopt recommendations of the panel designating for sanctions individuals and entities that impose illegal taxes on artisanal gold miners besides people engaged in the illegal exploitation and trafficking of gold.

Gold is the primary source of hard currency for Sudan since the secession of South Sudan in 2011. The government is expecting that country’s gold production reaches 100 tonnes in 2016.

Earlier this year, the Sudanese mining minister Mohamed Sadiq al-Karuri stressed that Sudan’ gold production does not fund the war as it is claimed by some “western circles and the United States”.

The minister said gold is the main source of poor family income in Sudan.

He further said that 82% of Sudan gold production comes from the artisanal mining, adding more than one million Sudanese are gold miners and their production feed more than 5 million people.

He stressed that gold companies work in safe zones far from the conflict affected areas.

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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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