Violence reignited in the Jebel Moon area of West Darfur last week, as the Sudanese army captured the area through a series of aerial and ground assaults on Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) forces. According to an army spokesperson, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) killed 108 JEM rebels and captured 61. JEM disputed these numbers, countering that it had voluntarily evacuated the area after the ceasefire between the Sudanese government and the rebel group fell apart.
The U.S. State Department condemned the Sudanese military’s offensive on Tuesday, cautioning the Sudanese government about the potential humanitarian implications of renewed conflict in the Jebel Moon area:
The United States condemns the recent offensive actions in Darfur, particularly the Government of Sudan’s use of aerial bombings and local militias against Darfur rebel positions in the Jebel Moon area of West Darfur. Such operations endanger civilians and lead to mass displacement. Subsequent incidents of looting and attacks on infrastructure by the Justice and Equality Movement further endanger civilian populations and must immediately cease.
We urge both the Government of Sudan and the Darfur rebel movements to refrain from any further actions that would undermine the Darfur peace process or endanger civilians, and we urge all parties to return to active negotiations in the AU/UN-mediated peace process in Doha, Qatar, to reach a political settlement to the conflict in Darfur. We also call on the Government of Sudan to grant access to the affected areas to the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and to humanitarian organizations.
In the period approaching Sudan’s January 2011 referendum, it is crucial that the United States and international community remain vigilant in their diplomatic efforts to ensure peace in Sudan. Expressing the necessity of developing capacity for peacebuilding initiatives in Darfur and South Sudan, Special Envoy to Sudan Maj. Gen. Scott Gration stated in a recent testimony,
Local peacebuilding, rule of law, and reconciliation activities must be revived and strengthened. We should not wait for a negotiated political settlement to begin improving the lives of Darfuris.
With the risk of renewed conflict in Sudan surrounding the referendum, we cannot afford to compromise our vigilance towards peace.