Greater availability of weapons sparks surge in Darfur militia fighting – UN envoy

26 July 2006

Fighting between tribal militia groups in Darfur is on the rise, driven by the prevalence of weapons in the region, the senior United Nations envoy to Sudan warned today.

The situation in Darfur’s north and west, where clashes have become more violent recently because of the greater availability of weaponry, is particularly tense, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Jan Pronk told reporters during a press conference in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital.

He added that both fighting between the parties to the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) and other groups, as well as fighting among rebel groups, has heavily affected the civilian population.

The recent deaths of three government workers at a West Darfur camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) have led Mr. Pronk to raise repeated concerns over weapons found inside the camps.

Noting that IDPs are increasingly polarized for or against the DPA, the envoy expressed disappointment at the withdrawal of African Union peacekeeping forces from many camps, stressing that an AU presence is essential in preventing violence from erupting in those centres.

In the press conference Mr. Pronk also stressed the need to convene peace talks immediately with the two other main rebel groups who have withheld signing the accord. This would expand support for the DPA and consolidate peace and reconciliation efforts, he said.

Scores of thousands of people have been killed in Darfur and more than two million others have been displaced since 2003 because of fighting between Sudanese Government forces, allied militias and rebels that has led to claims of civilian massacres, rapes and other atrocities.


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