November 18, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has reaffirmed its intention to conduct another investigation into recent claims of the mass rape of some 200 women by Sudanese military personnel in the village of Tabit in North Darfur state.
Social media has extensively circulated testimonies of victims from Tabit, a village 45km south-west of North Darfur capital El-Fasher, claiming that 200 women, including minors, were raped by soldiers from the Sudanese army (SAF).
Last week, a UNAMID verification team investigated these allegations and said it found no evidence proving the rape claims.
However, western media quoted UN officials as saying that the mission said in a secret report to the UN headquarters that witnesses were intimidated by the heavy presence of the Sudanese army during the investigation.
The Sudanese army vehemently denied these rape accusations, describing reports about the incident as “baseless and without justification”.
On Sunday, the Sudanese government denied UNAMID’s team access to Tabit, saying it is skeptical about the motives behind its insistence to visit the village for the second time.
The governor of South Darfur state, Adam Jar al-Nabi, on Tuesday discussed with the acting head of UNAMID, Abiodun Bashua, ways for strengthening joint cooperation between the two sides to achieve stability and return the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their original villages and provide services for them.
According to Ashorooq TV, Jar al-Nabi demanded Bashua to notify his government of movements of UNAMID convoys within the state in order to promote security coordination.
He also called for the formation of a joint mechanism between the government, the UNAMID and various UN agencies to follow up and coordinate support programs for voluntary return, saying that Bashua pledged to offer help after he became convinced that no security threats or tribal conflicts exist in the state.
Bashua, for his part, said that UNAMID will carry out considerable work in South Darfur in the coming period, adding the mission intends to conduct another investigation in Tabit to put an end to recent “rumours”.
He underscored that the investigation is in the interest of the government, UNAMID and the people of the village who were affected by these rumors.
Meanwhile, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon said in a statement released on Monday that he is “deeply troubled” by the mass rape allegations, stressing that only a full investigation by the UNAMID will help shed light on the incident.
He urged the Sudanese government to grant the mission unfettered access without further delay to Tabit and its population.
The former spokesperson of UNAMID, Aicha Elbasri, in an interview with Agence de Presse Africaine, criticised the mission, saying its team should have protested against the presence of the government troops during their interaction with the villagers or stop the investigation altogether and inform the public about it.
“UNAMID accepted the military presence and intimidation and concluded that the allegations were baseless,” she said.
She pointed out that according to medical experts; it is now too late for the rape victims to provide the forensic evidence of such crimes (two weeks after the incident).
“UNAMID dragged its feet for ten days. The evidence has disappeared, the villagers were intimidated, and the government was in full control of the place,” she added.
Elbasri resigned from her job in April 2013 after claiming that she had been prevented from carrying out her responsibility of accurately informing the public about what was happening in Darfur.