The dust has settled on the murders that have plagued the Darfur region of Sudan since April. The UN has made a definitive assessment of the victims of two major massacres of civilians from the non-Arab Gimir community, in the towns of Kerenik, in late April, and Kulbus, in early June: a total of 290 dead, including children , executed in front of their homes and 131,000 people displaced from their homes Three questions to Mohamed Osman, researcher on Sudan for the organization Human Rights Watch.
RFI: Looking back on the violence of recent months, you say that the Sudanese government forces have failed to protect the civilian population in Darfur. And you also mention testimonies involving the Rapid Support Forces (paramilitary militia allied with the army within the Putist junta that took power on October 25, editor’s note) with the attackers. In your opinion, what was the international community’s miscalculation?
Mohammad Osman: The current situation illustrates a misconception about the dynamics of violence in Darfur by the international community and the failure to withdraw peacekeeping forces, on the pretext that they would be replaced by local forces. This decision to withdraw did not take into account the fact that government forces, including the Rapid Support Forces, for example, have a long history of abuse. And yet they were deployed in the region, without even a previous reform program for the security sector. And the international community accepted this fact without setting up the possibility of deploying troops with respect for rights and previously evaluated on the spot.
Are there also errors in the political reading of the situation?
Yes. The recent violence in Darfur is not an isolated incident. They are the result of a cycle of violence that has been going on in a similar pattern for three years. And yet the international community continues to characterize them as “inter-ethnic” or “inter-municipal” clashes, without even paying attention to the superfluous evidence we have that these events are provoked by other factors, including political factors linked to situational politics in Khartoum, for example.
What short-term measures should be taken to respond to the emergency?
Although all attention is rightly drawn to the events in Khartoum, it has led to a lack of interest in the events in Darfur. After all, we have a political UN mission in Sudan, although unfortunately it does not have a mandate to provide physical protection for civilians. Nevertheless, it has sufficient capacity to put in place a robust surveillance system that the UN mission could develop, to help draw special attention to human rights in Darfur, with a mandate. And this could include increasing the number of observers in the field, strengthening the chapter on human rights with information disseminated by the UN in New York, and strengthening the capacity of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Darfur. And so, finally, we have an independent human rights expert in Sudan, and it would be normal for his mandate to include Darfur.
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