A series of violent clashes between Sudan's Eastern Front rebel movement and government forcesstarted on Sunday 19 June in Tokar, some 120 kilometres south of Port Sudan. An ICRC team is on the spot to assess the situation and independently verify the many different accounts from official and rebel sources that are being reported in the media.
The Eastern Front is a coalition of two main dissident groups - the Beja Congress and the Rashaida Free Lions - that was created in February 2005 as a reaction to the perceived marginalization of the East. In late March, the joint forces announced their readiness to take up arms and defend their demands.
The latest clashes have served to raise the rhetoric between the governments of Sudanand Eritrea. Sudanaccuses Eritreaof supporting the rebels and tolerating attacks launched from its territory. Eritreadenies the accusations. The Sudanese government recently submitted an official complaint to the UN Security Council against Eritrea's alleged support for the Eastern Front rebels.
Implementation of the peace agreement
After the signing of the Cairo accords between the Sudanese government and the opposition National Democratic Alliance on 18 June, both sides announced that further negotiations were under way concerning the integration of opposition armed forces into the national army and power-sharing arrangements.
On 27 June the Sudanese parliament started its deliberations on the draft interim constitution, a process that is reported to be going smoothly. John Garang, leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement,has announced that he will travel to Khartoumon 7 July and take the constitutional oath two days later.
National criminal court for Darfur and International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court has again stated that its investigations, led by its chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, will complement the work of the Sudanese judiciary.
Meanwhile, the new national criminal court for Darfur, set up by the Sudanese authorities to try alleged war crimes, met in Nyala on 18 June to hear its first cases concerning 10 men accused of acts of banditry and rape. The men, from the Arab Rizeigat tribe, are all members of the Popular Defence Forces.
ICRC response to clashes in Northern Darfur
Following violent incidents around the town of Tawillain Northern Darfuron 14 June, an ICRC surgical team was deployed in the area at the request of the parties to the conflict to treat the wounded.
The team, which includes a surgeon, an anaesthetist, an operating theatre nurse and a surgical ward nurse, started working in mid-April. Since then, it has been sent to five different locations in Darfurand has carried out some 110 operations. Based in Nyala, the team can be rapidly dispatched by plane or car wherever it is needed.
Seed and tools distributed in time for planting
As the rainy season gets under way in Darfur, the ICRC has nearly finished its distribution of "agro kits" to some 28,000 households in remote and rural areas.
The kits, which are part of anagricultural support programme, contain hand tools (hoes, weeders, knives and axes) and seed (sorghum, groundnut, okra and millet) for some 28,000 households in remote rural areas. The population of these areas, whose access to markets has been virtually cut off, is especially hard hit by the conflict.
To meet the needs of late returnees, the ICRC will distribute another 600 kg of tomato and watermelon seed and two tonnes of okra seed in July.
Almost 120,000 of 130,000 hand tools have so far been distributed. Purchase of the tools from local blacksmiths has also helped boost the region's fragile economy.
International humanitarian law where it is most needed
In recent weeks, two of the ICRC's most experienced delegates to the armed forces have been busy conducting information sessions on international humanitarian law in key areas of Darfuramong groups involved in the fighting. Senior commanders of the Sudanese Liberation Army have taken part in three separate workshops - given in the conflict zone itself - on the rights and obligations stipulated in this body of law. Senior commanders of Arab militias in Northern and Western Darfur have attended similar sessions, in particular concerning protection for the civilian population, the principles of proportionality and distinction and the treatment of persons detained during a conflict.
These sessions are part of a concerted effort to talk with and listen to all the parties to the conflict, whether during formal training programmes for the regular armed forces or informal talks at night with nomadic groups. In this way, the ICRC seeks to increase acceptance of its presence in the region and convince people of the legitimacy of its work. At the same time it seeks to promote awareness of the basic principles of international humanitarian law in the hope of increasing the protection afforded to the civilian population and persons no longer taking part in the hostilities, such as the wounded or those detained. The sessions also provide an opportunity for the ICRC to listen to the concerns and grievances of the various armed groups and address any misunderstandings or misperceptions they may have. For many, it is their only contact with a humanitarian organization and their first exposure to the law of armed conflict.
Since the beginning of 2005, the ICRC has carried out the following activities:
- in Darfur
Supplied water to urban areas and to seven camps for displaced persons
Repaired water networks in three towns (Kutum, Gereida and Al Junaina)
Repaired or rehabilitated 142 hand pumps, 19 mechanized boreholes, 19 shallow wells and 10 water yards serving some 600,000 civilians
Distributed 11,789 tonnes of food to 474,026 people
Continued to discuss protection issues systematically and confidentially with all the parties to the conflict, at all levels, through its delegates present in the three Darfuri states.
- in Sudan as a whole
Rehabilitated and upgraded infrastructure in five hospitals and 12 primary-health clinics
Supported four hospitals and 12 primary-health clinics, providing health teams, drugs, consultations and surgery, and expanded immunization and training programmes
Conducted 92 sessions on international humanitarian law, ICRC activities and the principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement for over 4,560 people, including government officials, members of the armed forces, opposition groups, Arab and other militias and religious and community leaders
Collected 12,653 Red Cross messages and distributed 12,496
For further information, please contact:
Paul Conneally, ICRC Khartoum, tel. ++249
Marco Jiménez Rodríguez, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 79 217 3217