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Sudan questions accuracy of reports on Darfur IDPs number

February 29, 2016 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan’s foreign minister has dismissed reports on the number of persons fleeing the recent clashes between the Sudanese army and the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement- Abdel Wahid al-Nur (SLM-AW) in Darfur area of Jebel Marra.

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Displaced Sudanese women set up shelters at the UN’s Zam Zam camp near El Fasher in North Darfur on April 9, 2015 (Photo AFP/Hamid Abdulsalam)

Intense fighting has been going on since mid-January between the Sudanese army and the SLM-AW in areas around Jebel Marra in Central Darfur state.

Jebel Marra clashes have reportedly resulted in human rights violations and abuses as well as violations of international humanitarian law, including destruction of civilian property and objects as well as considerable displacement of civilians, in addition to unspecified number of civilian casualties.

In its latest weekly bulletin Thursday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan reported that the number of people fleeing conflict in Jebel Marra and seeking assistance has increased sharply over the past week.

“By 21 February, more than 90,000 people are estimated to be displaced after the fighting between government forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation movement led by Abdel Wahid al Nur (SLM-AW) that started in the area in mid-January” OCHA said.

According to the UN agency, this includes 87,500 new displaced in North Darfur, according to aid organisations, and 2,750 displaced in Central Darfur, according to the government’s Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC).

However, foreign ministry spokesperson Ali al-Sadiq described those figures as “inaccurate”, saying they were taken from oral reports made by some UN employees which are significantly different from the government reports.

He pointed that the number of persons who were displaced by the Jebel Marra clashes reached 73,000 people, saying most of them have returned to their original villages following the end of the military operations.

Al-Sadiq stressed the government has denied UN agencies and aid groups access to the affected in very limited areas, saying the prevention was driven by the need to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers.

He underscored that the concerned bodies in Darfur have exerted huge efforts to help the IDP’s return to their villages after the end of the clashes, saying they provided large humanitarian assistance for the returnees to enable them resume their ordinary lives.
The Sudanese army has been fighting a group of armed movements in Darfur since 2003.

According to the UN, 200,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and 2, 5 million chased from their homes.

Doha brokered the Darfur peace negotiations which resulted in the signing of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) by the Sudanese government and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) in July 2011. Also, a dissident faction of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) joined the DDPD in April 2013.

JEM led by Gibril Ibrahim and the SLM-MM led by Minni Minnawi have engaged in peace talks with the government under the auspices of the African Union.

SLM-AW, however, is not part of the African Union mediated peace talks. The rebel group rejects negotiating a peace agreement with Khartoum government, unless the government militias are disarmed and displaced civilians return to their original areas.