Khartoum - Sudan's Darfur region is no longer in a state of war and only has one rebel group capable of mounting limited military campaigns, the head of the area's peacekeeping force said as he ended his tour of duty.
The commander of the joint U.N./African Union UNAMID force, Martin Luther Agwai, told reporters the conflict had now descended into banditry and "very low intensity" engagements, that could still carry on to blight the remote western region for years without a peace deal.
The six-year Darfur conflict has pitted pro-government militias and troops against mostly non-Arab rebels, who took up arms in 2003, demanding better representation and accusing Khartoum of neglecting the development of the region.
Estimates of the death count in Darfur range from 10,000 according to Khartoum, to 300,000 according to the United Nations. Aid workers say more than 2.7 million people have been driven from their homes by the fighting.
Agwai became the latest senior figure to appear to play down the current level of violence in Darfur where the conflict has caught the world's attention and mobilised activists who have accused Khartoum of genocide.
Mostly Western campaigners and some diplomats were angered by comments from UNAMID's political leader Rodolphe Adada in April that Darfur had subsided into a "low-intensity conflict," and from U.S. Sudan envoy Scott Gration in June that he had seen the "remnants of genocide" in the region, stopping short, they said, of describing a current genocide.