UNITED NATIONS: Rebel groups from Sudan’s Darfur region are strengthening their foothold in Libya, building up their military strength in a bid to return to Sudan and fight on, according to a confidential report. “In recent months, most of the Darfur rebel groups have consolidated their presence in Libya,” said the 53-page report sent to the Security Council this month.
Many of them have joined Libyan armed groups and are “reportedly building up their military capabilities in order to be ready to return to Sudan when the environment becomes more conducive.”
The report confirmed that renewed heavy clashes in Darfur’s mountainous Jebel Marra area after nearly a year-long lull have resulted in a “significant number of casualties on both sides and among civilians.”
Fresh fighting in Jebel Marra since February has forced thousands to flee, with many taking refuge in caves and valleys with no access to food, water or proper shelter, said the report.
“The situation has been uniformly characterised as a dire humanitarian situation,” it said.
The only rebel group remaining in Darfur, the SLA-AW, has about 1,000 fighters who are “well-versed in guerrilla, mobile tactics” in the mountainous terrain.
All of the major Darfur armed groups are present in Libya, many of whom have joined the ranks of military strongman Khalifa Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army which controls the east.
The experts travelled to Sudan twice, in April-May and again in June-July, for talks with the government, which stressed that there were no military operations in Darfur but rather security sweeps against bandits.
The independent experts report to the council every six months on Sudan. The UN is drawing down its huge joint peacekeeping mission with the African Union, known as UNAMID, and has put in motion steps that could lead to its closure in two years.
In Libya, the United Nations is pushing for elections to be held this year, possibly in December, to turn the page on years of chaos since the 2011.