Georg Charpentier, the head of the UN humanitarian mission in Sudan, told reporters in Khartoum on Thursday that the UN had observed “a trend of decreasing overall violent incidents in Darfur.”

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Wednesday released an update on the figures of causalities in the region, saying that at least 2,321 violent deaths occurred during 2010.

Original UN estimates say that at least 300,000 were killed and more than 2 million lost their homes since the conflict erupted in 2003 when rebels belonging mostly to African ethnic groups took up arms against the government, accusing it of marginalizing the region.

The Sudanese government, whose abusive counterinsurgency is blamed for the crisis, disputes the UN figures, saying only 10,000 died.

But the UN official contended that the new figures stand for the victims of inter-tribal violence rather than direct military confrontations between government forces and rebel groups.

"A lot of those (killed) I believe... were more from inter community clashes... than let’s say, the conflict that has been going on between the Sudanese army and rebel movements in Darfur," Charpentier said.

According to Charpentier, large areas in Darfur enjoy security conditions conducive for the return of Internally Displaced People (IDPs).

Charpentier claimed that the Sudanese authorities had been exerting efforts to facilitate the return of IDPs to their homelands.

"I can also attest to the fact the government has allocated concrete funding to support, internally, through the states, these durable solutions," he said.

However, Charpentier acknowledged that the number of IDPs who have returned to their villages so far was "relatively small" in compare to the total number of IDPs, citing the “dependency” of some IDPs in refugee camps as a main challenge facing repatriation efforts.

The UN’s official assertion of a decreasing violence contrast with daily reports released by the UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), which continue to document killing incidents, restrictions on peacekeepers and continuation of rape reports.

On 18 January, UNAMID’s Joint Special Representative Ibrahim Gambari called for restraint following the outbreak of violent incidents in Western Darfur town of Nertiti, where the killing of a security agent at the hands of unknown gunmen spiraled into a reprisal campaign during which another security officer and one policeman were killed.

UNAMID reports further indicated that several properties in Nertiti, which is located (located 63 kilometers east of Zalingei), were destroyed by Sudanese forces in their attempt to flush out the suspects.

The hybrid operation also confirmed the killing on 17 January of a man in the market of Al Salaam IDP camp in Norh Darfur by the police. The mission however noted that the policeman who shot the victim was later arrested by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS)

Four women have been raped and beaten by three armed men near the village of Dorma, 25 km north of Tawilla, North Darfur, according to UNAMID releases on Thursday.

The mission also reported on 18 January that its patrols were temporarily denied access to some areas in south Darfur by Sudan military without apparent reasons.

Furthermore, the high incidence of kidnappings of foreigners in the region remains unabated.

There are currently three Bulgarian crewmembers of a UN-contracted helicopter in the captivity of unknown gunmen who snatched them last week as their helicopter landed at a local airstrip in West Darfur State.

Kidnapping of foreigners in Darfur came into vogue after March 2008 when the International Criminal Court (ICC) charged Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir with war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the region.

Twenty two foreigners have been kidnapped ever since, all were released unharmed.