Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 29 May 2020

Sudan's Prime Minister Hamdok visits Darfur victims

The conflict that erupted in 2003 left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said on Monday his government was working towards bringing peace to war-torn Darfur as he met hundreds of victims of the conflict who demanded swift justice.

Mr Hamdok's one-day visit was his first to the devastated region as prime minister. A conflict that erupted in 2003 left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced.

He met war victims in the town of Al Fashir, the capital of North Darfur State that houses several sprawling camps where tens of thousands of displaced people have been living for years.

"We want justice! Send all criminals of Darfur to the ICC [International Criminal Court]," chanted a crowd who met Mr Hamdok as he visited camps in Al Fashir.

Mr Hamdok assured them that Sudan's new government was working towards peace in Darfur.

"I know your demands even before you raised them," Mr Hamdok, whose government was formed in September, told the crowd.

"We know the massacres that happened in Darfur … We will all work together to achieve your demands and ensure that normal life returns to Darfur."

The crowd chanted: "No justice, no peace in Darfur!"

The Darfur conflict flared when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the government of Omar Al Bashir, accusing it of marginalising the region economically and politically.

Khartoum then applied what rights groups say was a scorched-earth policy against ethnic groups suspected of supporting the rebels — raping, killing and looting, and burning villages.

About 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict, the United Nations says.

Mr Al Bashir, who the army removed in April after nationwide protests against his rule, is wanted by the ICC for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

He has steadfastly denied the ICC charges.

"We want those criminals to be given to the ICC. Without that there won't be peace in Darfur," Mohamed Adam, a prominent leader representing the victims of Darfur, told Mr Hamdok.

Mr Adam said the militiamen who in the early years of the conflict rampaged through the region's villages must now be disarmed.

"We also want our lands to be returned to their rightful owners," he said.

Several families displaced by the conflict have returned to their original homes in recent years only to find their lands occupied.

The protest movement that led to the removal of Mr Al Bashir said on Sunday that it was not against handing over the deposed autocrat to the ICC.

"All the members of the Forces of Freedom and Change agree on that," said Ibrahim Al Sheikh, a leader from the umbrella protest movement.

After he was deposed on April 11, ICC prosecutors again demanded Mr Al Bashir stand trial for mass killings in Darfur.

The generals who had initially seized power in the aftermath of Mr Al Bashir's fall and arrested him have refused to deliver the former president to The Hague.

Sudan's current transitional authorities would need to ratify the ICC's Rome Statute to allow for the transfer of Mr Al Bashir to the court.

Mr Al Bashir, who is being held in a Khartoum prison, is facing trial on corruption charges.

He ruled Sudan for three decades after seizing power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.

Updated: November 5, 2019 01:25 PM



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