Rebels Keep Civilians Hostage in Darfur

Liz De La Torre

With the War in Darfur having overtaken the last decade, evading involvement is virtually impossible for people passing through the genocide-ridden parts of Africa. The rebels and Sudanese government refuse to cease fire, and anyone caught in the middle of the civil war is no exception. Fifty-five peacekeepers of the UN/African Union force, UNAMID, were captured by the Justice and Equality Movement rebel group.

Like other Sudanese rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement is hell-bent on overthrowing the Sudanese government which is criticized for the oppression and corruption rooted in Arab support. As of now, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has been charged by the International Criminal Court for spearheading the genocide in Darfur as well as other crimes carried out by his administration.

Speaking on behalf of the Justice and Equality Movement, Gibreel Adam Bilal elaborated on the capture: “We are holding the UNAMID soldiers because they entered our territory without permission and because they were accompanied by three Sudanese we suspect work for the security services.” All but the three civilian staff have since been released.

Despite this, reports are surfacing that the released peacekeepers from Yemen, Ghana, and Senegal have stayed behind in order to try and help their fellow members who have been accused of conspiring with the country’s security force. “If it is true that UNAMID works with Sudan security agents, then we will ask the U.N. to fire the head of the UNAMID force,” Bilal added. Still, UNAMID insists it will not back down. In fact, UNAMID Force Commander Lt General Patrick Nyamvumba highlights U.N. security rules prohibiting force to be applied to regulate aid workers and protect civilians: “We are peacekeepers first and foremost. We are here for peace. However, if there is a need that requires us to use force, we will use it.”