Sudan: Will others follow suit after South Africa pulls out of Darfur? (News analysis by Anaclet Rwegayura, PANA Editor)

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (PANA) – South African President Jacob Zuma’s announcement on Wednesday that he had decided to withdraw the 800-odd South African National Defence Force (SANDF) troops from the hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan, has raised doubt that South Africa could be retreating before the war is over.

“But whatever Zuma’s intentions in ordering the withdrawal of the SANDF from Darfur might have been, its effect will surely be to help al-Bashir and hurt the long-suffering Darfuris,” a consultant with the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said Thursday.

In an analysis published by ISS, Peter Fabricius saw Zuma’s decision as being in line with Khartoum’s insistence, for the past few years, that the war is over in Darfur and so the peacekeepers are no longer necessary.

“Zuma apparently bought this line because the statement from the presidency ended by saying; ‘President Zuma has thanked all members of the SANDF for their participation in bringing peace in Darfur.”

That peace has broken out in Darfur, according to the analyst, was not a view shared by either the UN or much of Sudanese civil society.

Just this week, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA) issued a new appeal for assistance for a new flood of internally displaced people (IDPs) from the latest fighting.

Late last month, OCHA’s Sudan chief Marta Ruedas, had “expressed grave concern over the impact of the ongoing hostilities in Darfur on thousands of civilians who have been forced to flee their homes amid the conflict that began two weeks ago.”

Initial reports indicated that about 19, 000 civilians had fled into North Darfur state, and up to 15,000 into Central Darfur state, following fighting in the mountainous Jebel Marra region that straddles three Darfur states.

According to the Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG), a coalition of civil society organizations, there were still about two million IDPs in Darfur, of whom over 200,000 were displaced in 2015 alone. It said there has been a steady increase in violence against civilians during the last months of 2015.

The ISS report said that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been trying hard to persuade the United Nations to terminate UNAMID and has gone further by making its life as difficult as possible.

“This has included restricting its movements and its armaments – which has often prevented it from protecting itself, let alone civilians – and denying visas to replacements,” the report charged.

ISS said Zuma’s announcement would surely have been welcomed most enthusiastically by President al-Bashir.

“One could say Zuma thus did him, wittingly or unwittingly, another big favour – following on the refusal of the South African government to arrest al-Bashir on International Criminal Court (ICC) charges last June when he participated in the African Union (AU) summit in Johannesburg,” it said.

ISS quoted the SDFG as saying: “The government’s determination to dismantle the camps of the internally displaced persons and push out the UN and AU hybrid mission in Darfur is intended to create a cover for further crimes against civilians.”

According to the SDFG, overall violence in Darfur intensified after the breakdown in peace talks between the government and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement – Minani Minawi (SLM-MM) groups last November.

ISS said SDFG “believes the government is conducting a scorched earth campaign of indiscriminate aerial, artillery and tank bombardment of villages in Darfur to make them completely inhospitable to the rebels.”

“The AU seems to be one of those suffering ‘Darfur fatigue’. Darfur has fallen way off the agenda and does not seem to have been discussed by the AU Peace and Security Council for some time.

“It could be said that by so forcefully taking up the cudgels for al-Bashir against the ICC (International Criminal Court), the AU has given him de facto immunity for as long as he is president, against any repercussions for handling Darfur just as he sees fit,” the ISS analysis argued.
-0- PANA AR/VAO 25Feb2016

25 february 2016 15:32:16

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