SUDAN WATCH: Splintering of rebel groups? Nur's forces captured aid workers? UN helicopter crashes near Golo, West Darfur

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Splintering of rebel groups? Nur's forces captured aid workers? UN helicopter crashes near Golo, West Darfur

The African Union claims the SLA attacked the government-held town of Golo earlier this week, reports Reuters today. About 60 aid workers have since been evacuated:
"A UN helicopter crashed today near Golo in the Jebel Marra area where fighting has been taking place, a UN statement said ... one UN source said the aircraft made a forced landing because of a problem with its rotor."
In news here below, UN envoy Jan Pronk is quoted by a Chinese news agency as saying, "I will not tolerate if Nur's forces captured those humanitarian workers" ... and that he could not know whether the cause of the helicopter crash was mechanical or shot by particular circles, adding the UN mission in Sudan would deliver a statement later.

Darfur rebel groups appear to be splitting in a dangerous way, making peace talks impossible. JEM rebel leader Khalil Ibrahim is quoted in a Reuters report yesterday as saying:
"Of course we will continue on peace talks. We expect the problem of Darfur to be solved next year."
Updates

Jan 25, 2006 Xinhuanet says at least four international relief workers were slightly injured and a Sudanese is missing. Apparently, the UN helicopter exploded in an emergency landing, a UN source in Khartoum told Xinhua. Earlier, Jan Pronk said the crash took place while it was attempting to evacuate 36 UN relief workers, including some Sudanese nationals, following violent fighting in the area. Excerpt:
He said that he has just learned about the crash of the chopper and could not know whether the cause of the accident was mechanical or shot by particular circles, adding the UN mission in Sudan would deliver a statement later when any information on the accident is available.

Pronk expressed his concern of what was taking place in Gebel Marra where 73 non-governmental organizations are operating, stressing the need to "evacuate the humanitarian workers this day". The UN official added that he informed Abdu-al wahid Mohammed Nur, one of the two rivals of the Sudan Liberation Movement [aka SLA], whose group controls the area, to commit to the ceasefire and to stop military operations there.

"I will not tolerate if Nur's forces captured those humanitarian workers," said Pronk.
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Further reading:

Jan 12, 2006 Sudan peace deal 'bad' for Darfur. - BBC

Jan 24, 2006 SLA rebels launch attack in Golo, West Darfur.

Jan 25, 2006 Reuters/Gulf Times Rebels raid Darfur town - US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, said about six soldiers were killed in the attack, in an area controlled by an SLA leader, Abdul Wahid Mohamed el-Nur.

Aljazeera carries same report quoting Jendayi Frazer as saying, "Golo has been a focus for tension as it is now in government hands, but overlooked by hills which are a rebel stronghold. "It suggests we really need to speed up the talks - it's a very fragile situation. This is bad and ... it points towards a splintering of the rebel movements."

Jan 25, 2006 M&C News (1st Update) - A source working for the Irish humanitarian aid organization GOAL said that the helicopter crash killed one passenger and left 10 others in a critical condition. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the helicopter was carrying as many as 35 passengers.

Jan 25, 2006 RTE Ireland Sudanese aid worker killed in air crash - 25-year-old Hadja Hamid was being evacuated with other Goal workers following an escalation of violence in the Jebel Mara area of Darfur in recent days. Four others were able to escape to safety from the UN helicopter, which crashed shortly after take-off. Miss Hamid was Sudanese and had been working for Goal for the past six months on the agency's supplementary feeding programme.

Jan 26, 2006 Rebels battling for Darfur town - BBC's Jonah Fisher in Khartoum says international community has changed tack. Sudanese government used to be generally blamed for the violence but now the US has condemned the rebels for launching their twin offensives. Peace talks in Nigeria have been complicated by rows between different rebel groups and factions.

Jan 27, 2006 Washington File report - US condemns the rebel SLA's attacks on village of Golo and a police convoy in West Darfur on January 23, which killed and wounded a large number of Sudanese Armed Forces personnel.

In a written statement released January 25, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called the attacks "unwarranted and violations of the cease-fire agreement. Their perpetrators must be held accountable," he said. McCormack went on to "commend the African Union Mission in Sudan for its response in both of these incidents, particularly its assistance to humanitarian workers caught in the midst of the fighting."
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SLA Chairman Abdel-Wahid Mohammad al-Nur

Julie Flint is the author, with Alex de Waal, of "Darfur: A Short History of a Long War," (Zed books, October 2005). Note this excerpt from commentary she wrote for The Daily Star November 15, 2005:

Eighteen months ago, Minawi attempted to "re-unite" the SLA by force when he attacked the mountain stronghold of his rival, SLA Chairman Abdel-Wahid Mohammad al-Nur. He failed. His attack on Marajan appears to have been the first blow in a second attempt to unite the SLA by force. He perhaps hoped that Marajan's abduction would go unnoticed amid the attention focused on his "unity" conference at Haskanita in North Darfur - organized without the consent of the SLA chairman. The conference elected Minawi leader of the SLA - with 411 votes for and 222 abstentions, despite the fact that it was, in large part, a gathering of the faithful.

However, the conference backfired. It was opposed not only by Abdel-Wahid's Fur supporters and the Arab tribes sympathetic to him, but by many of Minawi's own Zaghawa commanders, who perceive him as favoring his own Ila Digen clan (Awlad Digayn, in Arabic) over all others. It pushed his deputy chief of staff, Bakhit Karima, into open opposition. Over the weekend, Hassan Abashir, the SLA commander in charge of heavy weapons, announced that he too has withdrawn his support from Minawi.

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