UN peacekeeping chief says Darfur war over

The departing commander of UN and African Union forces in the region said the conflict now needs to be resolved politically. Advocacy and rebel groups dispute his claims.

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The departing commander of the joint UN-African Union peacekeepers in Darfur says that the war there has ended, though rebel groups rebut the claims and UN and relief groups warn that the region's people still need help.

Agence France-Presse reports that Gen. Martin Luther Agwai told reporters on Wednesday that "As of today, I would not say there is a war going on in Darfur."

The Darfur conflict began in 2003, when rebel groups began fighting the Sudanese government and its Arab militias. Since then, some 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million have been displaced, according to the UN, although the Sudanese government claims that the death toll is 10,000. But General Agwai pointed out that the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the only rebel group that is still capable of attacks against the government, has not launched any military operations in months.

But the Sudan Tribune reports that rebel groups slammed Agwai's comments, which they said smacked of the view of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has long denied the magnitude of the Darfur conflict.

Voice of America reports that the antigenoicide group Safe Darfur Coalition warns that while technically accurate, Agwai's statements are misleading, and that Darfur is still a very troubled region.

Other experts warn that the fighting in Darfur could still be rekindled. Sudan analyst Gill Lusk told the BBC that while the present decrease in fighting is "undoubtedly a good thing for the people... it is the government that turns the tap on and off – they can restart the violence whenever they want." And The New York Times writes that while UN officials agree with Agwai's assessment, they remain worried about the region's displaced civilians.

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