Sudan Democracy First Group
2 January 2017
On the first day of 2016, and only one day after President Bashir’s announcement of a one-month cease fire in the three conflict zones, the Sudanese Army and its allied militias attacked the area of Nirtiti in Central Darfur state. Wearing the uniform of the Sudanese Army, the attackers took over the area for several hours, assaulting people in their homes and neighborhoods, killing and wounding tens of civilians with the death toll continuing to climb.
The raid on Nirtiti took place within the area of operation of United Nations/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) forces: UNAMID did nothing to stop the attack or protect civilians as per their mandate.
The raid on Nirtiti is understood to be a reprisal by the army for the killing a solider whose body was found in the outskirts of the city the previous day.
This latest massacre confirms several important facts about the conflict in Darfur.
First, the war in Darfur is still ongoing. The government’s discourse about the “end of conflict” in Darfur is a baseless assertion which the international community has swallowed, allowing a blind eye to be turned to the crimes and victims in Darfur.
Second, there is a complete lack of genuine political will on the part of the government to achieve peace. The attack on Niriti took place one day after the announcement of a cease fire by the Head of Sate. That announcement had no meaning for the Army and pro government militias which have had a constant license from the government to commit atrocities and crimes as part of the conflict strategy, regardless of the political situation.
Third, the event confirmed that despite the political rhetoric of the national dialogue, the real government policy is that declared by President Bashir in his speech to the army on 25 December in which he pledged to continue to pursue a military “solution” to the crisis in the three areas.
Fourth, this massacre exposed once again the infectiveness of UNAMID in exercising its mandate to protect civilians. Not only are bureaucratic procedures impeding its ability to act decisively, but it has repeatedly shown that it cannot act without the consent of Khartoum, most recently reflected in the Mission’s cowardly response to the allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Jebel Mara.
The army’s criminal offensive on the citizens of Nirtiti is not a standalone incident: it is part of the norm in Darfur. Similar raids took place on several cities last year and before. No political solution can be achieved in the conflict without addressing this practice of government sanctioned attacks on civilians and looting cities and villages. Sudanese citizens in the conflict zones deserve justice and protection. Accountability (both political and legal) for these crimes must be at the top of the agenda of any attempt to achieve a lasting peace in Darfur and the rest of Sudan.
International mediators and actors in the Sudanese crisis must not ignore the spilled blood of Sudanese citizens. It is insulting, cruel and inhumane to ignore the realities of such crimes while proposing Pro forma deals that ultimately help no one but the criminals to escape accountability and reap the benefits of the cycle of impunity.
Sudan Democracy First Group
2 January 2016