West Darfur

West Darfur has less of a rebel presence than other states and its militias are considered to be more community based rather than government-controlled. The political situation in West Darfur is heavily influenced by its border with Chad. For years, rebel movements from each country have used the other as a base for attacks. Thousands of Darfurians have fled into Chad since the current conflict began and in 2007 Darfur saw an influx of approximately 30,000 Chadians, mostly Arabs, crossing the same border into West Darfur.75 In January 2006, due to the fragile border situation, the UN temporarily raised the security level in much of the western part of West Darfur to “Phase IV,” meaning its agencies were permitted only to carry out emergency life-saving operations. Some humanitarian NGOs also reduced their staff and activities.76

The northern corridor from the capital city of El Geneina to Jebel Moon is frequently attacked by government and militia forces. It is home primarily to the Messeriya Jebel and Erenga people—both regarded as non-Arab tribes. Rebels are based in the Jebel Moon area and they do visit and communicate with the civilian populations in the area. But when the government and militia attack, they often deliberately target civilians or launch attacks against rebels that result in looting of properties and cause disproportionate civilian casualties in violation of humanitarian law.

Lately, this northern corridor has been plagued by militia attacks on civilians and civilian abductions to which police and government forces seldom respond, attributing the violence to “inter-tribal” tensions. A spike in incidents of harassment, beatings, sexual violence, and extortion in the small village of Bir Dagig from April to July 2007 corresponded to a police withdrawal that left the town with no government presence. In April 2007 several women and girls from the village of Seleia were abducted by militia. The kidnappers claimed the community had stolen their camels, and demanded compensation. All the hostages were eventually released or escaped, although one girl was held for two months. Even though government officials in El Geneina knew the perpetrators, they chose to enter into “dialogue” with them, instead of arresting them and rescuing the girl.77

From late October to December 2006 militia and government forces attacked villages and IDP camps north of El Geneina. Some 50 civilians were killed in one attack in October alone.78 Then on November 11, Sudan Armed Forces attacked civilians in the town of Sirba, burning over 100 houses. Eight civilians were killed in the attack, including one woman who burned to death in her house, and at least eight others received gunshot wounds, according to reports citing UN sources. 79 In December militia on horseback ambushed a truck transporting medicine and passengers, killing some 30 civilians.80

75 UNMIS Office of the Spokesperson, “UNMIS News Bulletin,” August 8, 2007, (accessed August 20, 2007).

76 OHCHR, “Third Periodic Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in the Sudan,” pp. 12-13.

77 Confidential source seen by Human Rights Watch.

78 OHCHR, “Fifth Periodic Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Sudan: 29 October 2006: Attack on Villages around the Jebel Moon area,” Geneva, November 3, 2006.

79 “Sudanese army deliberately attacked Darfur civilians – UN,” Agence France-Press, November 24, 2006, (accessed August 28, 2007). The African Union publicly reported that 30 people were killed and 40 injured.

80 “Darfur civilians burned alive after horsemen attack aid truck,” Guardian, December 11, 2007, (accessed August 27, 2007). The African Union put the death toll at 22 and said 10 others were wounded.