'Show of force' sought against warring Darfur tribes

Darfur's top official on Monday called for a "show of force" against tribal militia violence in the region as a state governor said this week's African football tournament in Darfur shows security has improved.

Inter-ethnic clashes, along with fighting between government and rebel forces, has forced an estimated 300,000 people in Sudan's far-west to flee this year.

That is more than in the last two years combined, the United Nations says.

Eltigani Seisi, head of the Darfur Regional Authority, told a meeting of Sudanese envoys that traditional mediation techniques involving tribal elders are no longer effective.

"There must be a show of force," Seisi told the opening session of the two-day "retreat" in the North Darfur state capital El Fasher.

He said armed tribal militias need to be confronted by "the other security forces".

The envoys meet every two years to review developments in Darfur, where ethnic rebels a decade ago began their uprising against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime.

"We have also agreed to draw up plans for disarming these groups," said Seisi, who heads a quasi-government body charged with implementing an internationally-backed 2011 peace deal between Khartoum and an alliance of rebel splinter factions.

Key rebel groups have refused to sign the peace deal and Seisi said tribal militia would not be disarmed in areas where rebels pose a threat.

Officials monitoring the peace deal announced last October that Khartoum, as required under the pact, had submitted a plan to disband "armed militia".

But Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the head of the African Union-UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), said there have been "growing tensions amongst and between tribal groups over access and control of land, water and mineral resources."

There have also been "intensified" clashes between government and rebel forces, he said, adding "the security situation on the ground deteriorated" after the killing by insurgents of a breakaway rebel leader in May.

The insurgency in Darfur was initially met by government-backed Janjaweed militia.

While the worst of the violence has long passed, instability has been complicated by the inter-Arab fighting, kidnappings, carjackings and other crimes, many suspected to be the work of government-linked militia.

North Darfur governor Osman Kbir told the envoys that the CECAFA (Council for East and Central Africa Football Association) tournament to be held in El Fasher from Wednesday shows things are getting better.

"This is a real demonstration of the improvement of the situation," he told the meeting.

El Fasher is co-hosting the tournament with Kadugli in Sudan's South Kordofan state, where rebel shellfire on Friday killed a UN peacekeeper and wounded two others at their base, which residents there said is near the football stadium.

In El Fasher, the town itself has not been subjected to rebel attacks despite the unrest elsewhere in Darfur, which is roughly the size of France.

"It will be good for the people to get some entertainment while they are living in a war zone," one El Fasher resident said of the football tournament.