Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Photos show Sudan breaking Darfur arms ban

By Steve Bloomfield, Africa Correspondent

Sudan is continuing to deploy offensive military equipment, including attack helicopters, in Darfur in defiance of a UN arms embargo and numerous peace agreements, photographs obtained by Amnesty International show.

The photographs show military equipment supplied by Russia at West Darfur's Geneina airport. A previous Amnesty report accused Russia and Sudan's key ally, China, of supplying military equipment that was used by the Sudanese armed forces in the troubled region.

A comprehensive arms embargo has been in place in Darfur since March 2005, banning any deployment of military equipment and supplies into the region unless given prior approval by the UN Sanctions Committee on Sudan.

Despite this, Sudan makes little attempt to hide its military might in Darfur. In Nyala earlier this year The Independent witnessed MiG fighters and helicopter gunships flying low over the camps of Kalma and Attash, where tens of thousands of Darfuris have sought refuge.

The Sudanese armed forces are still carrying out offensive operations inside the province. Up to 2,000 government soldiers surrounded Kalma camp earlier this week to flush out rebels that Khartoum claimed were behind two recent attacks on police posts.

Aerial attacks have also continued. Russian-built Antonov aircraft were used to attack the town of Adila in south Darfur on 2 August, and there have been bombing raids on nearby villages. The UN Security Council agreed last month to deploy 26,000 personnel to Darfur to protect civilians. But under pressure from China, the council watered down the resolution, withdrawing the right of the UN force to disarm the militants.

Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty's deputy director of the Africa program, said: "If weapons continue to flow into Darfur and peacekeepers are not given the power to disarm... all armed opposition groups and janjaweed militia, the ability of the new peacekeeping force to protect civilians will be severely impeded."

The renewed military offensives, which have also seen Sudanese armed forces support janjaweed attacks on villages in west Darfur, has threatened the viability of peace talks planned for later this year.

Most of Darfur's rebel groups met in Arusha, Tanzania, this month to agree a common position ahead of fresh talks with Khartoum. But after the most recent bombings and the attack on Kalma, some rebels have said they will reconsider attending full negotiations.

The surge in attacks has led to renewed allegations this week by the UN human rights chief, Louise Arbour, of "systematic" rape carried out by Sudanese soldiers.


From Belfast Telegraph