Sudan: more than 80 dead in tribal violence in Darfur

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Clashes between rival tribes in Darfur have left more than 80 dead in less than 48 hours according to a new report Sunday, two weeks after the end of a peace mission in this unstable region of western Sudan.

• Read also: Sudan: military deployment in Darfur after tribal clashes

This violence is the deadliest since the end on December 31 of the joint United Nations (UNAMID) and African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in Darfur, which has been present in this vast region for 13 years.

“The death toll from the bloody events that took place in El-Geneina, capital of West Darfur, has increased since Saturday morning (…) rising to 83 dead and 160 wounded including members of the armed forces”, The Sudanese Central Committee of Doctors, close to the protest movement which led to the fall of President Omar al-Bashir last year, said on Twitter on Sunday.

Sudanese official agency Suna, citing the local branch of the doctors’ union, earlier reported 48 dead and 97 injured, and said the clashes were continuing.

Clashes broke out between the Al-Massalit tribe and Arab nomads after an argument between two individuals. Armed militias from the region favorable to the Arab nomads then attacked El-Geneina and several houses were set on fire, according to witnesses.

Khartoum has imposed a curfew in West Darfur since Saturday and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has sent a “high-ranking” delegation there to try to restore order.

For its part, the UN has expressed its “deep concern” over these violent developments.

“The Secretary General (of the UN, Antonio Guterres) calls on the Sudanese authorities to make every effort to de-escalate the situation, end the fighting, restore law and order and ensure the protection of civilians “, Said his spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric in a statement.

The local branch of the doctors’ union called on the authorities to “secure health facilities”, warning that the death toll was likely to increase, according to Suna.

On Sunday, Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, president of the Sovereign Council in charge of leading the political transition in Sudan, urgently brought together the security services on the issue.

For its part, the Association of Sudanese Professionals, one of the spearheads of the protest movement, said the violence had spread to camps for internally displaced persons.

“Part of the Kerindig camp was set on fire, and extensive damage (…) forced people to leave,” she said in a statement. “These events have shown that the spread of weapons (…) is one of the main causes of the deterioration of the situation”.

Darfur is experiencing an upsurge in tribal clashes, which left 15 dead and dozens injured at the end of December, a few days before the end of the joint UN and AU peace mission.

The gradual withdrawal of troops from this mission, supposed to begin in January 2021, will be spread over six months. The Sudanese government thus takes responsibility for the protection of the populations of the region.

Earth, water

The conflict in Darfur began in 2003 between forces loyal to the regime of General Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum and members of ethnic minorities who considered themselves marginalized and demanded a more equitable distribution of power and wealth.

The violence left some 300,000 dead and more than 2.5 million displaced, mainly during the first years of the conflict, according to the UN.

To fight against the insurgents, the Bashir power had deployed the Janjaweed, an armed militia composed mainly of Arab nomads, accused of “ethnic cleansing” and rape. Thousands of militiamen were subsequently incorporated into the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group.

If the violence has decreased in intensity, clashes remain frequent over access to land and water, opposing nomadic Arab herders and Darfuri farmers.

The Sudanese transitional government – set up after the fall of the autocrat Omar al-Bashir under the pressure of a popular protest – signed a peace agreement in October with several rebel groups, including in Darfur.

After UNAMID, which numbered up to 16,000 troops, the UN will remain in Sudan via an integrated United Nations mission to assist with the transition in Sudan.

This political mission will have the task of assisting the transitional government, installed in August 2019 and resulting from an agreement between the military and leaders of the protest movement. It should also assist in the application of recent peace agreements in regions ravaged by conflict.

Omar al-Bashir, in prison, and other Sudanese officials are wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for “crimes against humanity” and “genocide” in Darfur.

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