KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan is still sending weapons to Darfur in violation of a U.N. arms embargo and a peace deal in the region, Amnesty International said on Friday.
International experts estimate some 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes since the Sudanese government mobilised militias, known locally as Janjaweed, to quell a mostly non-Arab revolt in 2003.
The conflict began 4-1/2 years ago in the north of the arid region, but the spread of weapons to the south over the past 18 months has increased tensions.
A 2005 U.N. arms embargo and a 2006 peace agreement between the government and the rebel Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM) banned government transfers of weapons to the region.
“The Sudanese government is still deploying weapons into Darfur in breathtaking defiance of the U.N. arms embargo and Darfur peace agreements,” Brian Wood from Amnesty said in a statement.
Amnesty released photos of military aircraft, including Russian-made attack helicopters and Antonov planes, it said belonged to the Sudanese government at an airport in west Darfur. The photos also showed containers being loaded onto military trucks.
Amnesty said the continued influx of arms into the region has led to increased attacks.
“The proliferation of small arms and militarised vehicles in Darfur has led to an increase in armed attacks on aid convoys and other devastating attacks against civilians,” the international rights group said.
The 7,000-strong African Union force in Darfur has failed to stem the violence despite a peace deal. While large-scale fighting has largely ended, rebels and militias have fractured creating lawlessness and uncontrolled banditry.
Khartoum agreed this month to a 26,000-strong joint U.N.-AU force which will absorb the AU mission and try to stop violence which has hampered the world’s largest aid operation in Darfur. Some 500,000 people are out of reach of relief workers.
But Amnesty said the joint peacekeeping force would only work if the arms embargo was enforced.
“For a peacekeeping operation in Darfur to have any chance of success, the U.N. Security Council must ensure ... that peacekeepers are mandated to disarm or demobilise government-backed Janjaweed militia and Darfuri armed opposition groups,” Amnesty official Erwin van der Borght said in the statement.