A Catholic bishop in the heart of Darfur, theatre of a bloody six-year conflict, has disputed a recent claim by a senior UN military official that the war has all but ended.
Bishop Antonio Menegazzo, Apostolic Administrator of El-Obeid, the Sudanese diocese that covers Darfur, expressed surprise at last month’s claim by General Martin Luther Agwai, the former commander of the United Nations-African Union peace-keeping force in Darfur (UNAMID).
“The parties in conflict are still trying to reach a ceasefire agreement. We cannot say that the war has ended. I was truly surprised to hear General Agwai's declarations,” Bishop Memegazzo said.
While handing over the command to Rwandan General Patrick Nyamvumba, the Nigerian general said: "Militarily there is not much. What you have is security issues more now. Banditry, localised issues, people trying to resolve issues over water and land at a local level. But real war as such, I think we are over that."
The conflict has cost 300,000 lives, according to UN estimates, and displaced up to 2.7 million people.
Various humanitarian aid associations working in Darfur also criticized General Agwai's conclusion, highlighting that the humanitarian situation in the region remains extremely serious, especially due to attacks on the aid convoys sent by the international community.
The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when several non-Arab groups took up arms against Khartoum, complaining at lack of representation and deliberate neglect of the region.
At the height of the war in 2005, Arab Janjaweed militias were raiding African villages, burning, killing and raping civilians. In some cases, villages were bombed by government planes disguised as humanitarian flights. The scale of the atrocities provoked an international outcry and accusations of genocide against the Arab-led government in
The government of President Omar al-Bashir has sought to portray the fighting as tribal rivalries over land and water. He is being sought by the International Criminal Tribunal (ICC) at The Hague to answer charges connected with the war in Darfur.
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