UN reports surge in Darfur fighting, high fatalities

June 15th, 2010 - 12:11 am ICT by IANS  

New York, June 14 (DPA) Fighting in Sudan’s Darfur region has increased in recent weeks, creating a serious hindrance to peacekeeping efforts, United Nations and African officials said Monday.
Speakers addressing the UN Security Council since last week have reported a surge in the conflict between the Sudanese government and rebel groups.

The fighting in Darfur killed 447 people in May, which UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari termed as an “unprecedented” number of fatalities.

“Movements of equipment and build-up of troops continue to be witnessed on both sides, and it is expected that the military confrontations may continue for some time unless urgent efforts at ensuring a ceasefire are made by the international community,” Gambari told the council.

The surge in fighting has made the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission’s work in Darfur more difficult, Gambari said. He said up to 50,000 civilians have fled areas under the fighting and government aerial bombardments in recent weeks.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who heads an African Union mediation panel in Darfur, also spoke of the continued conflict there.

The fighting in Darfur involved rebel groups, including the major group Justice and Equality Movement, and government forces. Gambari said small pockets of JEM forces are spread in the north and south of Darfur.

On Friday, the International Criminal Court prosecutor told the council that rape and attacks on civilians in Darfur have continued unabated and the entire region was “still a crime scene.”

Luis Moreno Ocampo said government troops and rebel forces resumed fighting earlier this year right after they signed peace agreements in Doha.

“The entire Darfur region is still a crime scene,” Ocampo said. “The process of extermination against millions of displaced in the camps continues. And why not, since the criminals enjoy impunity.”

Ocampo said ICC judges at The Hague had informed the council May 25 that the Khartoum government has not carried out its resolution demanding the arrest of Ahmad Harun, a former government minister, and Ali Kushayb, leader of the Janjaweed Arab militias fighting African insurgents in Darfur.

The ICC said both Harun and Kushayb were responsible for the killings in Darfur.

Since 2003, the conflict in that region has resulted in the deaths of more than 300,000 people, while an estimated 2 million have been driven out of their homes. Harun is currently governor of South Kordofan, in Southern Sudan.

The ICC has also issued an international warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, charging him with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Al-Bashir was re-elected president in Sudan’s elections last month.

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