Sudan is set to execute eight members of the Darfuri rebel group the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which is accused of orchestrating an attack near the capital in May.
The eight were captured by Sudanese forces after the unprecedented strike on May 10, which took place in Omdurman, near Khartoum and left more than 200 people dead.
The attack marked the first time the Darfur conflict had reached the capital’s environs.
Hundreds were arrested after the assault and 40 were put on trial on charges of terrorism.
The eight, aged between 25 and 35, will be executed by hanging, but the sentences still need to be ratified by the Appeals’ Court and the High Court and approved by the president.
A defense lawyer for the eight said the trial was politically motivated and unfair.
The conflict in Darfur began in early 2003 when local rebel groups rose up against the central government in Khartoum, protesting against decades of discrimination. The government has been accused of unleashing aggressive armed groups called the Janjaweed to counter the rebels.
According to international estimates, more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.2 million displaced in what some governments are calling genocide.
The Sudanese government is downplaying the death toll of the Darfur conflict, and says it is closer to 10,000.
The conflict has also caused many Darfur residents to flee to neighboring countries, especially to Chad and the Central African Republic.
A United Nations-African Union hybrid peacekeeping force, UNAMID, comprises a theoretical 26,000 staff and is replacing the largely under equipped and understaffed African Union force already stationed in Darfur, in an effort to end the conflict.
The force has so far encountered logistical problems and delays and has not been fully deployed.
On July 14 the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno-Ocampo issued a bill of indictment against Sudanese president ‘Umar Al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur. He requested an arrest warrant be issued against Al-Bashir.
The U.N. is set to renew the mandate for the peacekeepers in Darfur on Thursday, but countries are split on how to relate to the charges against Al-Bashir.
Western powers have agreed to include wording in the resolution that takes into consideration AU concerns that Al-Bashir’s pending indictment by the ICC could derail Darfur peace talks.
The resolution says the Security Council will be prepared to suspend any indictment charges in the interest of peace in Darfur.
Sudan has warned that if the president is arrested, it would not guarantee the safety of U.N. peacekeepers and other foreign nationals in Sudan.
Meanwhile, other peacekeeping missions in Africa are failing to meet their objectives.
The Security Council voted on Wednesday to end the U.N. peacekeeping mission between Ethiopia and Eritrea, because restrictions imposed by Eritrea on the mission hindered its ability to carry out its mandate.
The mission monitored the disputed border between the two countries after a war that left more than 100,000 dead. There are concerns that hostilities will be renewed once the mission withdraws.
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