Unidentified gunmen killed four returnees and wounded six others in an attack by unknown gunmen on the village of Jamra in South Darfur’s Katila on Thursday.
Speaking to Radio Dabanga, Abakar El Tom, South Darfur MP for Katila locality reported that unknown gunmen ambushed a group of residents of Jamra village, who had earlier returned within the Voluntary Return Programme.
“They suddenly began shooting at the villagers on Thursday evening,” he said. “Omda Abdelmanan Omar, Sheikh Jibril Wad Kursi, Abdelrahman Abudilli and Daoud Ahmed died instantly. Six others, including the Omda of Katila, Mahmoud Jibril, were injured.”
The wounded, two of them in a serious condition, were transferred to the Turkish Hospital in the South Darfur capital of Nyala.
Abakar added that the security authorities have been informed. “They have taken the required legal measures,” he said.
Voluntary return is one of the options which the Sudanese government gives to the about 2.7 million people in Darfur who have been displaced by the armed conflict that erupted in 2003. Khartoum plans to transform the camps into residential areas, or integrate them into existing towns.
In February, Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir instructed the acceleration of the voluntary repatriation of Sudanese refugees in Chad and the return of Chadian refugees in Sudan.
The Voluntary Repatriation and Reconstruction Commission in Darfur announced earlier this month that it will conduct a comprehensive survey among those people who have already voluntary returned to their places of origin, to identify their basic needs.
The region has witnessed a growing trend of returns of refugees and displaced people in the last few years. According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) this “is in part thanks to general security improvements in Darfur as a result of peace agreements between the government and some armed groups”.
The UN refugee agency pointed in this context as well to the “disarmament exercise carried out by the government throughout Darfur” and the efforts of the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (Unamid) which is “also contributing to making areas safer for displaced people to return”.
However, reports continue to reach this station about attacks on returnees in the conflict-plagued western Sudanese region.
Witnesses say that the insecurity is often caused by roaming militiamen and the abundance of weapons –that have not been found and collected during the government’s disarmament campaign last year– as well as the danger of running into armed new settlers in the home areas.
About 400 displaced who returned from El Neem camp to their village in East Darfur, were assaulted and beaten by militant new settlers in March. In Kutum in North Darfur, members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces detained seven returnees who were cleaning their farms.
On April 7, a community leader sustained bullet wounds in an attack on voluntary returnee in Gireida locality in South Darfur.
According to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the displacement rate in Darfur declined in 2017 in comparison to previous years. Yet the region is “awash with small arms and light weapons, criminality and sporadic clashes,” he said in April.
In his report on the worldwide conflict-related sexual violence in 2017, sexual violence remains prevalent in Sudan’s western region, Guterres said – though the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (Unamid) reported 152 cases of rape in Darfur throughout 2017, which shows a decrease compared to the 222 victims of sexual violence recorded in the year before.