Sudan’s army accused of blocking humanitarian access to central Darfur

The government and four other armed rebel groups had agreed to a ceasefire on October 21 last year to facilitate humanitarian access to the civil war-affected area. Any violation by the government forces might prove to be a set back for the progress made in the peace negotiations so far

February 28, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Darfur conflict
(Photo: Sudan Tribune)

The Abdel Wahid al-Nur-led faction of the Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM-AW) has released a statement accusing the country’s army of blocking humanitarian corridors and denying access to international aid agencies to the warn-torn Jebel Marra region in central Darfur.

“On Monday, February 24, 2020, the Khartoum government forces in the Sarnog region prevented UNOCHA and a number of international organizations and UN agencies from reaching the SLM-AW controlled areas of Manbo and Darsa, where are thousands of civilians in dire need of humanitarian assistance and health care,” said a statement of the group, according to the Sudan Tribune.

“The Khartoum government must stop these actions and not play with fire,” the armed rebel group has warned. The government’s actions can prove to be a serious setback to the ongoing peace negotiations with armed rebel groups.

Putting an end to the civil war and reaching a peace agreement with the rebel groups is one of the top mandates of Sudan’s transitional government.

The civil war in Darfur began in 2003 when indigenous ethnic minorities of the region, which felt increasingly marginalized by the then Islamic Arab majority state, formed militias and took up arms. At least 300,000 people are estimated to have been killed, and over 2.5 million displaced since then 

The SLM-AW had refused to participate in ongoing peace negotiations in South Sudan’s capital Juba. The group has previously expressed its dissatisfaction with the fact that the transitional government which was originally envisioned to be a civilian government, finally ended up being formed with military generals sharing power in the sovereignty council – the highest body within the government.

However, the armed group has not shown any inclination to continue the war. Instead, the SLM-AW has called for peace talks within Sudan, and declared a ceasefire with the government forces on October 21 last year, along with other armed groups in Darfur and the States of Blue Nile and South Kordofan. 

Amnesty International had said in a statement at the time that “The people in the conflict-torn areas of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, have been denied basic rights like education, health and even adequate food for years through deliberate blocking of humanitarian assistance.”

On December 28, after over two months of negotiations, the transitional government had signed an important agreement with four armed groups active in Darfur, including Gibril Ibrahim’s faction of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the Sudan Liberation Forces Alliance, Minni Minnawi’s faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the SLM Transitional Council.

The parties had agreed on the contentious issues that had to be discussed in the negotiations. These include reaching a power-sharing agreement between the States and the center, the question of land ownership, and the return of internally displaced people and refugees who have had to flee their ancestral lands due to the war.

Any violation of the ceasefire by the government forces might prove to be a set back to the progress that has been made in the peace negotiations so far.