Ongoing fighting in Sudan’s western region of Darfur saw a dramatic rise last year, and in the last six weeks, another wave of violence has caught hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in the crosshairs, an international rights group said Friday.
A once-heated war between the Khartoum-based government and various rebel groups with competing interests has morphed into a low-level, intercommunal conflict in which deliberate attacks on civilian targets by Sudanese government forces also persist, according to a report released by Amnesty International.
The report, “We can’t endure any more: attacks against civilians in Central Darfur,” documents how fighting between two Arab tribes in Central Darfur have left entire villages homeless, with “scores either dead or injured.” Amnesty found that civilians were deliberately targeted by both the Salamat and the Misseriya.
“Eyewitnesses described large attacks carried out by armed militias, including members of Sudanese paramilitary forces, targeting civilians in and around Um Dukhun locality, Central Darfur,” Amnesty said in a statement.
“Some of the attackers were wearing uniforms of the Popular Defence Forces (PDF), Central Reserve Police (CRP), Border Guards (BG) or as Janjaweed militias,” according to civilians quoted in the report.
Meanwhile, after a U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday, Herve Ladsous, the head of the U.N.’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations, told reporters that 100,000 Darfuris have fled fighting in the last six weeks alone, The Associated Press reported.
Ladsous added that the latest wave of displaced Darfuris adds to the 2 million people already displaced by the ongoing war in Darfur, the AP reported.
At the U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday, which was a closed-door session convened to discuss Darfur, Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., criticized the Sudanese government and the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, known as UNAMID, according to a Reuters report. A statement from the meeting said she accused Khartoum of obstructing peacekeepers and said the troops should be more aggressive in protecting civilians, Reuters said.
“The United States calls upon the Government of Sudan to stop obstructing … UNAMID, and we call upon UNAMID to carry out its mandate more aggressively to protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian access throughout Darfur,” Reuters reported Power as saying.
Over the years, the dynamics of the conflict have shifted to involve government forces, pro-government militias and armed opposition groups, Amnesty reported. A declining economy in 2012 and 2013 led to increased fighting between Arab tribes over land and resources in North, Central and Southern Darfur.
About 300,000 people were displaced within the first five months of 2013 alone, more than the previous two years combined. The dramatic spike was largely due to conflict between Arab tribes in North and Central Darfur, the report stated.
The war in Darfur began in Feb. 2003, after the Sudan Liberation Army and Justice and Equality Movement rebels attacked government forces in Central Darfur and demanded autonomy.
UNAMID has been deployed in the area since 2007. During the war, almost 170 of its troops and police have been killed, Reuters reported.
Amnesty has called on all parties involved to cease engaging in attacks.