Humanitarian Crisis: Tribal Conflict in Darfur By Jennifer Gadarowski and Trista Guertin
Comprehensive Information on Complex Crises

Excerpted from 05 February 2013

This document provides the ‘In Focus’ excerpt from the MB Weekly 22 January — 05 February 2013. The ‘In Focus’ section of the weekly gives our readership a more detailed reporting of an event or topic of particular relevance in the Mediterranean Basin and other regions of interest. ‘In Focus’ pieces provide hyperlinks to source material highlighted and underlined in the text. For more information on the topics below or other issues pertaining to the region, please contact the members of the Med Basin Team, or visit our website at

Crisis Update Humanitarian conditions within Darfur are once again deteriorating, as renewed fighting takes a heavy toll on the civilian population. Darfur has been the scene of conflict since 2003, when non-Arab tribes took up arms against the Arab government in Khartoum. The region experienced a period of relative calm until recently, when clashes erupted between two Arab tribes on 05 January in the Jebel Amer gold mine area, near Kabkabiya, according to the United NationsAfrican Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). Fighting between members of the Beni Hussein tribe and the Rezeigat tribe ensued after a Rezeigat leader, who is also an officer in Sudan’s Border Guard, reportedly staked a claim in a goldrich area within Beni Hussein territory. The continued clashes between the Beni Hussein and Rezeigat tribes have displaced about 100,000 people, prompting UN officials to warn that the crisis could become one of the biggest the area has experienced in years. Humanitarian access has been limited, as the fighting is taking place in an isolated area of Darfur, making it difficult for the aid agencies to reach the internally displaced persons (IDPs). The UN has subsequently reported that clashes between the communities spilled over into surrounding areas, resulting in the burning and looting of a number of villages, several deaths, and the displacement of thousands more, many of whom were in Jebel Amer to work in the mines. According to Amnesty International, the conflict has resulted in more than 200 casualties. Economic, Political and Security Factors Since the discovery of gold in Sudan last year, approximately 500,000 miners have joined a gold rush across the country. The Beni Hussein community has controlled the granting of lucrative mining licenses in Jebel Amer. The Khartoum government, which generated USD 2.5 billion from gold exports in 2012, wishes to exert greater control over the issue of mining licenses and export of gold in an effort to resuscitate its ailing economy. Sudan currently faces its most serious economic crisis in decades, marked by depleted foreign exchange reserves – a result of losing three-quarters of its oil production after South Sudan became independent in 2011. Oil revenues were the main source of income for Sudan’s national budget and for foreign currency needed to purchase crucial imports. Relations with South Sudan further deteriorated in January after talks held in Ethiopia between the two countries’ leaders failed to resolve issues that would have seen oil exports from the South resume in the near future. The Beni Hussien tribe has accused the government of supporting the Rezeigat tribe and supplying them with weapons. Amnesty International has also corroborated reports that members of Sudan’s security forces have been involved in the goldmine attacks. Gunmen reportedly driving government vehicles opened fire on civilians in the mainly Beni Hussein area of Kabkabiya using heavy weaponry. Amnesty International’s Africa director, Audrey Gaughran, said, “[t]he Sudanese government should immediately investigate the reports that its security officers are involved in attacks against civilians and ensure they are not involved in any further attacks”. According to Mukesh Kapila, a UN spokesperson, “as a result of government intervention, the tribes had reportedly agreed to cease hostilities and engage in a reconciliation conference planned for this Thursday, 17 January.” However, despite the signing of a government-brokered truce, attacks continued for several days and tensions remained high. Militiamen blocked roads into the area, creating shortages of es-

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sential food items and reportedly causing the deaths of vulnerable children and elderly people. UN observers have been prohibited from accessing the area. Humanitarian Impact The massive displacement has impacted neighbouring towns where the IDPs have sought refuge; in El Sireaf, the largest group of IDPs, approximately 65,000, has forced the closure of all public buildings, including schools, to provide shelter. “Many of these people are living in the open in appalling conditions,” states a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). UNAMID delivered more than 600 tonnes of humanitarian aid to the IDPs in El Sireaf, by 01 February, dispatching another 100 tonnes on 03 February. The peacekeeping mission is also providing logistical support and security escorts to humanitarian workers within the northern Darfur villages of Kabkabiya, Abu Gamra, Saraf Omra, and El Sireaf. Many non-food items (NFIs) have also been provided by OCHA, the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). NFI packages included plastic tarps, sleeping mats, blankets, water purification equipment, jerry cans, and mosquito nets. Local IDP camps, already struggling with limited resources, are further stressed with the increase in newly displaced citizens. The camps recently received an influx of IDPs in December 2012 due to alleged air strikes and armed attacks by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). As such, already dire conditions in IDP camps, such as Nifasha camp in North Darfur, were exacerbated by the new arrivals. On 19 December 2012, a ‘blue helmet patrol’ was sent to Dalma and Dady villages to verify local reports of air strikes. They were denied access by the SAF outside the town of Shangil Tobaya, in North Darfur. The UN-AU mission said “UNAMID calls on all parties involved to keep civilians out of harm’s way and to grant the mission unrestricted access and freedom of movement across Darfur”, and added that “continued fighting could lead to a catastrophic humanitarian situaSource: Reliefweb tion for the displaced civilians in North Darfur”. UNAMID also received reports of alleged looting, rape, and SAF airstrikes from several villages including Kunjura, Hashaba, Tibadiyat, Masal, and Namira. UNAMID stated “While the scope of displacement is to be determined and allegations of air strikes are yet to be verified, the mission is nevertheless concerned about the safety of civilians and the humanitarian situation in these IDP camps” adding “increased displacement results in the deterioration of the overall humanitarian situation within the camps due to already limited resources and supplies”. State media sources reported on 03 February the Beni Hussein tribe and the Rezeigat tribe had reached another agreement to end the fighting. However, the decade-long insurgency against Khartoum has been further compounded by inter -Arab violence, banditry and tribal wars, exacting a heavy toll on the civilian population. Currently, there are more than one million people living within IDP camps in Darfur. An estimated 300,000 people have died in the conflict since 2003, according to the UN. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other Sudanese officials on charges of war crimes. Bashir continues to deny the charges and refuse to recognise the court’s legitimacy. The government maintains that only 10,000 people have been killed by the conflict since 2003.
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