Wali (governor) of the Darfur region Minni Minawi has expressed his frustration over the fact that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have still not joined a joint peacekeeping force in Darfur as stipulated by the Juba Peace Agreement, which was signed exactly two years ago yesterday when Minawi held his speech.
Addressing roughly 1,800 new graduates from a military course in El Fasher for the joint force, Minawi expressed his regret for the delay in the deployment of joint security forces in Darfur and strongly criticised the leaders of the SAF and the RSF for failing to implement the protocol of the Juba Peace Agreement that stipulates the creation of a joint force for the protection of Darfur.
“We have been waiting for the arrival of army and RSF forces to complete the force […] and carry out its tasks,” said Minawi.
The speech was held on the anniversary of the final signing of the Juba Peace Agreement in the South Sudanese capital in 2020. In line with the peace deal, a new joint peacekeeping force was set up in Darfur with the aim of protecting civilians in the troubled region and uniting the different rebel movements and government forces.
The first batch of security forces graduated at the start of July, officially forming the new force. To many’s frustrations, however, the country’s most prominent and influential armed forces, the government’s own forces, have not yet joined.
The SAF are led by Chairman of the Sovereignty Council Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhanand the RSF are led by Vice-Chairman of the Sovereignty Council Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’ Dagalo, the two most influential military and political leaders in Sudan, especially since their military coup on October 25 last year.
‘The forces of the movements are ready, where are the regular forces?’ – Minni Minawi
“The forces of the movements are ready, where are the regular forces?”, Minawi said, addressing El Burhan and Hemeti.
“Security will only be effective in Darfur once these forces come together in one place under one administration and meet the call of the homeland and the people,” he explained, and said that the forces of the rebel movements cannot operate in isolation from the regular forces because “the nature of the security forces is common” and requires cooperation.
Herders and farmers’ conflict
Minawi called on the rebel movements, the SAF, and the RSF to deploy any number of forces in the coming days to avoid conflicts when Darfur’s herding tribes are expected to migrate with their livestock.
Disputes between herders and farmers occur regularly in Darfur this time of year. As the rainy season ends in September and the herders need fresh pastures, they let their camels and cattle graze on farmlands that have not yet been harvested. Each year, farmers complain about livestock destroying their crops.
In the past, there used to be clearly marked pasture tracks and traditional tribal procedures for compensation of lost crops, but this has changed during the regime of Omar Al Bashir. The regime supported the ‘Arab’ herding tribes in the region, whilst looking down on non-Arab ‘African’ farmers.
Arab tribesmen were recruited by the previous regime of dictator Omar Al Bashir to join the Janjaweed militias. Al Bashir employed these Arab militias to repress a revolt over ethnic marginalisation in the region, mainly targeting non-Arab African farmers in what became known as the Darfur Genocide. Non-Arab herding tribes have also been targeted.
Minawi said that he holds the state responsible for any loss of life as a result of friction between farmers and shepherds, disputes over land, and thefts if they do not send reinforcements or join the peacekeeping force soon.
The wali further urged the UNITAMS Head Volker Perthes and the international community to support the joint force and the implementation of the peace agreement to bring stability and development to the region.
Many international parties and Darfur’s own population, especially its displaced people, have repeatedly pressed for the rapid implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement.
In June, the UN Expert on Human Rights in Sudan, Adama Dieng, said that the “implementation of the security arrangements envisaged in the Juba Peace Agreement needs to be accelerated and more joint security forces deployed in hotspot areas in Darfur to protect civilians and including Internally Displaced People, including women and children” as he expressed his concern “in relation to intercommunal conflicts and large-scale attacks against civilians in Darfur”.
‘The implementation of the security arrangements envisaged in the Juba Peace Agreement needs to be accelerated’ – Adama Dieng
The slow implementation of the security arrangements stipulated in the Juba Peace Agreement has been a point of critique and discontent for many displaced in Darfur, whose safety is still under severe threat.
Some of the promised security arrangements include the demilitarisation of the many gunmen and militias and the integration of rebel movements into the armed forces.
Armed forces in Darfur
The presence of regular armed forces in Darfur is controversial. Members of both the SAF and RSF are often associated with violence against local farmers and displaced people.
Several recent attacks have been attributed to the RSF, which have grown out of the ‘janjaweed’ herding militiamen that carried out the genocide against Darfuri farmers under the Al Bashir regime.
The RSF have also been accused of multiple human rights abuses, including sexual violence, and of exploiting, inflaming, and blaming ‘inter-tribal conflicts’ in Darfur. Since the ousting of Omar Al Bashir and the subsequent military coups, violence in Darfur has again increased.
Lack of funds and equipment
Three months after the force’s formation, however, not only the lack of government involvement is a problem. Complaints emerged about the lack of funds and weapons to prepare it for emergency interventions. Minawi said that the equipment is in Port Sudan and will arrive at a later time.
Source: Radio Dabanga