Lethal Violence in Darfur: May
I have continued to monitor closely the incidents involving fatalities in Darfur. The UNAMID monitoring reports are thorough. Cross-checking with other sources bears out the impression that the reporting is close to comprehensive. During May, there were 29 reported incidents involving deaths on account of violence.
The most important incident by far was the fighting between JEM and the Sudan Government (including SLA-Minawi forces) in Karnoi and Um Buru in the third week of May. The tally of fatalities was 47, all combatants, distributed among the three groups.
The other 28 incidents led to 52 fatalities, of which 42 are considered fully confirmed and ten reputably reported but unverified. For this summary I am including those ten.
The second largest incident occurred on 9 May, when police mounted an operation against groups accused of rebel activities in the Buram area of South Darfur. The operation was directed against two Arab groups, one from the Habbaniya and the other from the Rizeigat, which were suspected to be involved in inflaming a tribal conflict. Eight of the Arab “rebels” were killed and seven arrested.
The next most serious incident was on 17 May when a group of militiamen clashed with the army in al Fashir market, opening fire and killing four civilians and one soldier.
On two separate incidents that day, unknown attackers killed eight people in attacks on villages. The perpetrators were intent on stealing animals but could well have been out-of-control militiamen.
The remainder of the attacks included a rebel ambush that killed three policemen, a JEM attack that killed two soldiers, a fight between Military Intelligence and the Central Reserve Police in which three were killed on both sides, a number of bandit attacks in which six civilians, two policemen and one soldier died, and criminal incidents in which a number of individuals died. The latter included a family dispute, a man who killed his girlfriends, a case in which a man discovered his wife drinking with two soldiers leading to a fight in which the man died, and a soccer referee stabbed to death by an angry fan.
One interesting feature of the incident tally of May is that two of the principal causes of fatalities in earlier months were either reduced or largely absent. The only incident of inter-tribal fighting was the pre-emptive police operation against the Habbaniya and Rizeigat tribal militiamen. By contrast, 121 people died in inter-tribal fighting in south Darfur during January-March.
The only serious clash between the armed movements and government forces was the battles around Karnoi and Um Buru. The number of fatalities has not been properly verified.
Fighting among government security forces, police and militia, and signatory groups of former rebels, was also reduced. This caused only nine fatalities in May (five of them in one incident in al Fashir market), much down on levels of 2008.
Arab militia attacks on civilians have not been a feature of the war in Darfur for the last fourteen months, and the fighting and burning in the northern parts of west Darfur, during the JEM offensives of February 2008, were in fact the only occasions in which the militia have been active against non-Arab civilians on a significant scale since 2006.
The monthly fatality tallies for 2009 thus far are:
It is also striking that in meetings with representatives of almost all communities across Darfur, including the vast majority of IDP camps, over the last two months, very few representatives have raised recent incidents of lethal violence. For Darfurians, it is fair to say, the issue today is not killing.