Sudan: Half a million civilians forced to flee as violence intensifies in Darfur

Almost half a million people have been forced from their homes over the last year as violence intensified in war-torn Darfur, said Amnesty International in a report published today.

The deliberate targeting of civilians accompanied by looting, rape and murder are documented in the Amnesty International report, “We can’t endure any more”: attacks against civilians in Central Darfur. It includes first-hand testimony from the recent wave of victims of Darfur’s 11-year conflict.

“Deliberate attacks in civilian areas with the intent of killing and injuring people is a war crime and demonstrates a disregard for the most basic principles of international humanitarian law,” said Michelle Kagari, East Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

The report documents how fighting between two tribes in Central Darfur, the Salamat and the Misseriya, have left whole communities homeless and scores either dead or injured.  Amnesty International found that civilians were deliberately targeted by both sides.

Eyewitnesses described large attacks carried out by armed militias, including members of Sudanese paramilitary forces, targeting civilians in and around Um Dukhun locality, Central Darfur.

“30 to 50 cars, many horses circled the village. They shot at people. They went to the shops and stole everything – Those who came were wearing … police and Popular Defence Forces uniforms. They came in Land Cruisers covered in mud,” a Sheikh from Kabar told Amnesty International.

“They started shooting at everyone, kids, women, elderly. They were shouting ‘you are slaves, this land is our land, it is not a land for slaves, and we will kill everyone.’”

“The Sudanese authorities must immediately rein in paramilitary forces, conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into allegations of attacks on civilians, and hold those responsible for serious abuses to account,” said Michelle Kagari.

Following South Sudan’s secession in 2011, Sudan lost the majority of its oil revenues and its economy has deteriorated. Rising inflation and unemployment have intensified competition over land and resources, leading to large scale inter-communal violence.

More than a decade after the start of the conflict in Darfur, the human rights situation in the western Sudanese region remains dire. Civilians continue to bear the brunt of human rights violations and abuses by government forces and armed groups.

“Ongoing impunity in Darfur has ensured that perpetrators of human rights abuses have no incentive to stop and has encouraged others to commit similar abuses,” said Michelle Kagari.

“The international community must step up efforts to ensure accountability, and not leave Darfur’s civilian population to bear the brunt of this endless cycle of violence.”