(13 January 2017) The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) has documented the deaths of eight civilians and one member of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in two separate incidents between 31 December 2016 – 5 January 2017 in Aljeel neigbourhood, Nertiti and Al Jabaleighbourhood in El Geneina, West Darfur. On 31 December, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) opened fire randomly on civilians in Aljeel neighbourhood, Nertiti after a SAF soldier was found dead the day prior, killing two civilians. On 5 January 2017, seventeen members of a local community militia, including members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the paramilitary Border Guards, attacked the home of a civilian accused of stealing a community members’ livestock. The civilian threw a hand grenade at the group before he was subsequently killed. During the clash, five additional civilians attempting to flee the area were killed. Police responding to the violence were also repelled by the local community militia, with one police officer injured.
Sudanese Armed Forces attack Aljeel neighbourhood, Nertiti
The body of a SAF soldier, Khalid Hassan Abdu Aljabar, (m), 27 years old, was found near Aljeel neighbourhood in Nertiti on 30 December 2016 by local community leaders. Mr. Aljabar was allegedly murdered by two of his fellow soldiers during a dispute when the group was drunk after buying locally brewed alcohol. The following day, 31 December 2016, local community leaders in the Aljeel neighbourhood reported Mr. Aljabar’s death to local police forces.
At 11:30am on 31 December, forty SAF soldiers arrived in Nertiti in landcruiser vehicles. Reliable sources informed ACJPS that the SAF soldiers were ordered by their commander, Mohamed El Taib, to open fire on the residents of Aljeel n Nertiti. The attack is believed to be retaliation for the production and sale of alcohol to the three SAF soldiers, and took place on market day.
During the attack, members of the SAF fired randomly at civilians, killing two individuals, including one child, and injuring forty seven civilians, including three children. The injured civilians were transferred to Nertiti Hospital for treatment. Their names are on file with ACJPS.
The names of the civilians killed are:
- Taysier Adam Mohamed Adam, (f), 16 years old; and
- Faisal Mohamed Mohamed, (m), 25 years old.
Clash in Al Jabal, El Geneina
On 5 January 2017, seventeen members of a local community militia affiliated with an ethnic group which traditionally identifies as Arab went to the home of Malik Abdurrahman, (m), resident in the 5th square of Al Jabal, and requested to search Mr. Abdurrahman’s home. The 5th square of Al Jabal is primarily occupied by members of the Masalit ethnic group.
Mr. Abdurrahman had allegedly stolen three sheep from a member of the group. Mr. Abdurrahman refused to allow the group to search his home without the presence of the police, stating that only the police had the authority to search his home with a permit. The group subsequently left his home. Amongst the local community militia, three individuals are members of the RSF, which operates under the control of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), and two members, including a captain, belong to the Border Guards, a paramilitary force originally formed by the GoS.
The local community militia mobilised shortly after leaving Mr. Abdurrahman’s home and returned in two land cruisers belonging to the Border Guards and armed with Kalashnikovs and machine guns. The group attempted to storm Mr. Abdurrahman’s home. Mr. Abdurrahman attempted to defend himself and threw a grenade at the group, killing one local community militia member and seriously injuring seven other local community militia members. Mr. Abdurrahman was subsequently killed by gunshots by the local community militia.
Police officers responding to the incident were shot at by the local community militia, injuring one police officer. The police subsequently withdrew from Al Jabal neighbourhood.
Five neighbours, all civilians and including two brothers of Mr. Abdurrahman, were killed by gunshots when they attempted to flee their homes and seek shelter. Six civilians resident in Al Jabal neighbourhood injured in the attack were transferred to El Geneina Hospital and seven injured community militia members were transferred to the Military Hospital in Ardamata neighbourhood. The names of all injured individuals are on file with ACJPS.
The names of the civilian residents Al Jabal neighbourhood who were killed are below. They are all members of the Masalit ethnic group.
- Malik Abdurrahman Khamis, (m), 32 years old, a baker;
- Mahmoud Abdurrahman Khamis, (m), 28 years old;
- Yagoub Abdurrahman Khamis, (m), 30 years old;
- KhamisIshag, (m), 25 years old;
- Abdulbaset Mohamed, (m), 26 years old; and
- Mohamed Ibrahim, (m), 30 years old, a primary school teacher.
One member of the local community militia, Hafez Mahdi Idris, (m), 18 years old and a student in secondary school, was killed by gunshots fired by Mr. Abdurrahman before his death.
Later in the day, residents of the neighbourhood returned to bury the individuals killed in the attacks. During the funeral procession, Sultan Saad Abdurrahman Bahareldeen of the Masalit ethnic group and the Governor of West Darfur, Fadl al-Mula al-Haga, attempted to address the crowd, but were unable to speak due to civilians present chanting slogans against the Government of Sudan (GoS) and lack of security in the region, and calling on them to leave the funeral procession. The El Geneina market was also closed, with a large security presence of the Border Guards and the SAF.
The catalyst for the clashes came following the robbery of three sheep from a member of the local community militia in El Geneina on 4 January. The owner of the sheep reported the theft to the El Geneina Police Station, who requested that they file a formal complaint. The owners of the sheep declined to file a complaint, stating to the police that they would reclaim their sheep themselves.
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies calls on the GoS to immediately put in place measures to protect civilians in West Darfur, and to conduct an urgent investigation into the attacks in Aljeel, Nertiti and Al Jabal, El Geneina and the deaths of six civilians and the murdered SAF soldier.
Authorities should ensure that an effective, impartial, and independent investigation is promptly conducted into the events, and that the findings are published promptly within a clear timeframe, with a view to identifying and prosecuting persons responsible for the attack and abuses committed in Nertiti and El Geneina.
These recent events and ongoing insecurity in the region exemplify the loss of control by the GoS of its militias and the lack of rule of law. Police responding to the clashes on 5 January 2017 were forced to retreat when they were shot at by the local community militia, which included members of paramilitary forces originally recruited and armed by the GoS, and the Rapid Support Forces. The refusal by the community militia member to file a criminal complaint in El Geneina also raises serious concerns regarding trust in the criminal justice system. The possession of a hand grenade, by a civilian, and the amount of small arms and weaponry available to the local community militia raises concern regarding the proliferation of weapons in the region, despite a 2004 United Nations Arms Embargo. There is a serious need for a cessation of arms transfers and sales within the region and a sustained disarmament campaign of GoS formed militias. The GoS should guarantee the disarmament and disbandment of armed militias in order to install comprehensive arms control measures, as well as controls over the use of government vehicles and ammunition and the presence of militias and weapons in public places.
In April 2016, Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir announced the formation of a national body for the collection of illegal arms in Darfur region. The appointment of the body and implementation remain unclear, with no collections known to ACJPS. An investigation has also reportedly been ordered into the events in Nertiti, but the composition, and mandate, of the investigative body remain unclear. The findings of commissions of inquiries established by the GoS into events in Darfur have never been made public in the past.
The Central Darfur State Government has reportedly begun to compensate victims’ family members of the attack in Netirti, despite no perpetrators having been identified, and accusations that the attack was instigated by the armed rebel movement Abdel Wahid El Nur (SLM-AW). The Darfur Bar Association condemned reparation payments made to families of victims without criminal investigations of the perpetrators as promoting a culture of impunity.
Through the recently launched “Khartoum Process”, the European Union has provided millions of euros to the GoS to combat migration flows from the Horn of Africa to Europe. These funds are likely to trickle down to Sudanese forces such as the RSF through the GoS’ administration of the fund, and be used for small arms and weapons. In September 2016, the RSF Commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo (“Hemeti”) called for the EU to voice their support for the RSF’s work after arresting more than 300 migrants near the Libyan border. The RSF has led a number of brutal counterinsurgency campaigns, supported by aerial bombardment, against civilian populations since their creation in mid-2013. In January 2016, ACJPS documented the RSF’s involvement in the burning and looting of the nearby village of Mouli, approximately 15 kilometers south of El Geneina, on 9 and 10 January 2016.
Whilst there is evidence that the GoS continues to arm militias and involve its own forces in inter-communal fighting, there are also signs that the authorities are losing the ability to manipulate ethnic alliances and maintain its strategic networks of militias in Darfur. All this is happening in a context in which the rule of law and good governance is absent, and Darfur’s resources can be easily controlled by individual groups through violence.
The events documented in Nertiti and El Geneina, particularly El Geneina, epitomise the complexity of the security and conflict situation in the Darfur region, with individuals oscillating between membership of local community militias and Sudanese regular and paramilitary forces, complicating the causes and role of violence fomented in the region. Whilst the events in El Geneina do not appear to be driven by state actors and ACJPS has no evidence to suggest otherwise, the involvement of members of Sudanese regular and paramilitary forces fighting with GoS arms and weaponry demands an investigation into the use and regulation of ammunitions, as well as an investigation into members of its forces, with a view to disarm paramilitary groups as soon as possible. Following the attacks, there was a strong presence of the Border Guards and SAF in Al Jabal market.
ACJPS also calls on UNAMID to fulfill its mandate to protect civilians, including by deploying personnel to areas where civilians are in need of protection and publicly reporting on on-going human rights violations.
The African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS): In Kampala, Mossaad Mohamed Ali (English, Arabic, Swedish): +256 779584542; or New York, Emily Cody, (English): +1 201 916 3676, email@example.com.