1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2296 (2016), by which the Council extended the mandate of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) until 30 June 2017 and requested me to report every 90 days on its implementation. The report provides an update and analysis of the conflict, the political situation and the operational environment in Darfur, including the main challenges to the effective implementation of the mandate, during the period from 15 December 2016 until 15 March 2017. It also presents the steps taken by UNAMID towards achieving its benchmarks and provides an update on the transfer of tasks to the United Nations country team, as well as the development of an exit strategy for UNAMID.
II. Conflict dynamics and the security situation
2. During the reporting period the level of armed confrontations in Darfur continued to subside, with no major fighting between the Government and rebel groups reported, including in the Jebel Marra. The Government maintained military dominance, achieved through its previous campaigns against the rebels, and signed several peace agreements with breakaway factions. Similarly, there were fewer incidents of intercommunal clashes than during the previous period, owing in part to the conclusion of the harvest season, as well as interventions by local authorities, with the support of UNAMID, to prevent further escalation and promote reconciliation. Attacks against internally displaced persons and other civilians over land, water and other livelihood issues continued, however, particularly by armed militias. Criminal groups, emboldened by the availability of weapons, also committed acts of violence against civilians and Government personnel. The overall scale of internal displacement remained unchanged. Despite improved security, conflict dynamics in Darfur reflected the volatility and unpredictability of the conditions on the ground, and the lack of tangible progress in addressing the causes and consequences of the conflict.
Fighting between the forces of the Government of the Sudan and armed movements
3. The unilateral ceasefire announced on 10 October 2016 by the President of the Sudan, Omar Hassan A. Al-Bashir, was extended for one month on 31 December, and for an additional six months on 15 January 2017. Similarly, the six-month ceasefire declared on 30 October 2016 by the rebel coalition, the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, remained in place.
4. There were no reports indicating clashes between the Government forces and any of the rebel groups, including the Abdul Wahid and Minni Minawi factions of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA/AW and SLA/MM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Nevertheless, tensions involving SLA/AW elements continued in Sortony, North Darfur, where civilians had fled from the previous round of fighting in the Jebel Marra. On 26 December 2016, 18 members of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) travelling in two armed vehicles attempted to enter the camp for internally displaced persons in Sortony, for unknown reasons, but left when UNAMID troops approached. On 14 January 2017, after sounds of gunshots were heard over two consecutive days in Sortony, two internally displaced persons sought medical treatment from UNAMID personnel, claiming to have been attacked by Arab militia. UNAMID was prevented from evacuating one of the wounded, who subsequently died, as the SLA/AW commander in the area, Al Sadiq Adam Abdulkarim, demanded that all UNAMID movements be ceased immediately. On 21 January, Adam Abdulkarim defected and signed a peace agreement with the Government in El Fasher, which stipulated the integration of Abdulkarim and an estimated 500 combatants into SAF. Tensions in Sortony have since increased. On 9 March, internally displaced persons threatened to expel those who had defected to the Government from the camp unless UNAMID removed them within 48 hours.
Local conflicts and intercommunal violence
5. Intercommunal violence continued to pose threats against civilians throughout Darfur. Although the current reporting period saw a reduction in the number of violent incidents over the preceding period, the level of insecurity was approximately the same as the corresponding period a year ago. A total of eight instances of local conflicts and intercommunal violence resulting in 45 fatalities were recorded over the past three months, a slight decrease from the eight clashes and 118 fatalities recorded in the previous period, and reflected the easing of tensions between farmers and herders at the end of the harvest season, as well as reconciliation efforts by the Government and UNAMID. In Central and West Darfur, Arab militias clashed with Fur and Massalit farmers, respectively, while similarly deadly rivalries erupted between Arab tribes, such as the Beni Hussein and Northern Rezeigat in North Darfur and the Ma’alia and Southern Rezeigat in East Darfur. The hostilities were related to unresolved disputes over land, livelihood and natural resources, and were exacerbated by the prevalence of weapons.
6. In Central Darfur, a series of fights between the Fur and Misseriya tribes in Mukjar, originating in an interpersonal dispute at the local market, resulted in the deaths of three Fur between 22 and 24 December 2016. Subsequently, SAF and police personnel enhanced their presence, and a peace agreement was signed on 28 January 2017. In the Um Dukhun area, following clashes between the Misseriya and Rezeigat over personal disputes, two Misseriya and one Rezeigat were killed on 25 January 2017, and on 29 January the Rezeigat community agreed to compensate the Misseriya for the loss of the member of its community.
7. In West Darfur, on 5 January 2017, the Awlad Zaid subclan of the Northern Rezeigat clashed with Massalit farmers in El Geneina over livestock disputes, and six Massalit were killed. Massalit farmers were also attacked, and 11 injured, by armed Arabs in the Arara area on 19 January, reportedly in retaliation for their involvement in the arrest of an Arab nomad by the Sudanese police. In the vicinity of Sileah, a group of Rezeigat ambushed Zaghawa tribesmen over allegations of theft on 29 January, despite an agreement on the cessation of hostilities reached in December 2016, and two Zaghawa and two Rezeigat were reportedly killed. As the two sides continued to mobilize, joint forces of the Sudan and Chad were deployed to contain the situation.
8. Notwithstanding their 2014 peace agreement, tensions were revived between the Beni Hussein and Northern Rezeigat communities in North Darfur, particularly in El Sereif, where the former community continued to face access restrictions around the Jebel Amer gold mines, which are controlled by the latter. The relationship between the two communities also deteriorated in the village of Jemeza owing to the refusal by the Northern Rezeigat to vacate land that had been occupied by the Beni Hussein until the latter fled in 2013, following intensive intercommunal fighting over access to the gold mines. On 11 January 2017, disputes relating to cattle theft between the Beni Hussein and the Awlad Zaid clan of the Northern Rezeigat in El Sireaf led to the abduction of two Beni Hussein. The two groups reached an agreement on 18 January 2017, and on 13 February the Sudanese Minister of Mineral Resources visited the area and held discussions with both groups.
9. In East Darfur, the Southern Rezeigat and Ma’alia tribes clashed near Abu Karinka on 1 and 18 February 2017 over disputes relating to cattle theft. On 19 February, a firefight following the destruction of a Berti farm by the Agarba subclan of the Ma’alia in Al Naeir, east of Abu Karinka, resulted in the death of seven Berti. Government forces were deployed to the area, but on 20 February, members of the Berti community attacked and burned two Ma’alia villages outside Abu Karinka. In total, 17 Berti and 3 Ma’alia were reported to have been killed in the series of incidents. A UNAMID verification patrol reached Abu Karinka on 21 February, but the National Intelligence and Security Services and police personnel prevented it from proceeding further, citing the lack of prior coordination with the Government. The Security Service also delayed endorsement of another patrol, planned for 23 February, resulting in its cancellation.
10. In South Darfur, on 23 December 2016, a clash triggered by the Awlad Rashid subclan of the Ta’aisha tribe destroyed farms belonging to the Berno community in the area east of Rehade El Berdit, leaving 8 Berno and 1 Awlad Rashid dead. Government forces were deployed to the area, and the two parties signed a reconciliation agreement on 28 December 2016.