KHARTOUM, Sudan, AP – The African Union accused Sudanese government forces on Saturday of attacking civilians in Darfur, and committing acts of "calculated and wanton destruction" that have killed at least 44 people and displaced thousands over two weeks.
Government forces have also painted their military vehicles in the white colors of the African Union cease-fire monitors "in violation of all established norms and conventions," the chief African Union envoy to Sudan, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, said Saturday at a news conference in the Sudanese capital.
In a rare accusation from the African Union, which generally refrains from apportioning blame in the Darfur fighting, Kingibe gave four instances of Sudanese army troops coordinating operations with the Janjaweed Arab militia since Sept. 18.
His charge is politically embarrassing to the new government as Sudan has repeatedly denied any collusion with the Janjaweed, the ethnic Arab militia which has been blamed for the bulk of human rights violations in the two-year conflict.
The government did not respond to Kingibe”s remarks Saturday.
More than 180,000 people have died in Darfur and 2 million have been displaced since residents of African ethnic origin rebelled against the government, accusing it of neglect and discrimination.
On Sept. 18, the army and Janjaweed attacked six settlements in raids that killed 12 people and displaced about 4,000 civilians, Kingibe said.
On Wednesday, government and Janjaweed forces attacked the Aro Sharow refugee camp and two villages, resulting in the death of 32 people.
During the attack Wednesday, Kingibe said, "reportedly 400 Janjaweed Arab militia on camels and horse back went on the rampage" while government helicopter gunships flew overhead.
On Thursday, government troops and police raided the town of Tawilla and an adjacent refugee camp. Some of the government vehicles were painted in the white color of the African Union mission, he said.
"During the attack, thousands from the township and the IDP camp, and many humanitarian workers, were forced to seek refuge near the African Union camp," he added.
On Friday, the African Union received reports of ground forces attacking Sheiria, a town of 33,000 people in South Darfur, and helicopter gunships dropping bombs on the nearby village of Ato. The African Union is investigating the extent of casualties and damage, Kingibe said.
"Whatever the circumstances, we expect a greater sense of responsibility and a greater standard of behavior on the part of the government of Sudan troops, and their allies, than they have exhibited in the last four days," he added.
Kingibe said he was calling on the government, as he had earlier called on the rebels, to immediately abide by the cease-fire that was proclaimed in Darfur last year.
The African Union has some 5,600 soldiers acting as cease-fire monitors in Darfur.