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World

Uneasy calm in Sudan's Darfur after clashes kill 155

  • The vast western region of Darfur was convulsed by bloody fighting in 2003. It killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million, according to the United Nations.
19 Jan 2021

KHARTOUM: A tense calm fell Tuesday on Sudan's Darfur region after days of inter-ethnic violence claimed at least 155 lives, left scores wounded and displaced tens of thousands, a tribal leader and a regional official said.

The transitional government in the capital Khartoum sent troops to the remote region where the end of a joint United Nation and African Union peacekeeping mission has raised fears of more bloodshed.

Violence erupted on Saturday in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, killing at least 100 people and wounding more than 130, said the state governor, Mohamed Abdalla al-Douma.

The clashes between Arab nomads and members of the non-Arab Massalit ethnic group led around 50,000 people to flee areas in and around a camp for internally displaced people (IDP) who were driven from their homes in previous conflicts, said the aid group Save the Children.

Authorities in West Darfur have imposed a statewide curfew as troops arrived there from Khartoum and other states to restore order.

"There have been no clashes since Sunday, but there were incidents of looting, especially of houses and farms of people living at the Kerindig IDP camp," Douma told AFP.

"The situation is calm in the state as security forces have spread in and around the city of El Geneina and Kerindig."

Separate clashes broke out Monday in South Darfur between members of the Fallata ethnic group and the Arab Rizeigat tribe, leaving at least 55 people killed and 37 wounded.

Tribal leader Mohamed Saleh told AFP by phone that "the situation is calm today in our village in South Darfur. There are no clashes. People are however tense, fearing the renewed outbreak of violence."

Douma said the violence in El Geneina spread to nearby villages where houses were burned and crops stolen.

"We sent security to surround these villages and they are now secure," he said, adding that reinforcements had been sent from South and Central Darfur states.

Douma blamed the violence in West Darfur on "gangs" coming from other parts of the region, and "outlaws who crossed from neighbouring Chad."

Sudan has been undergoing a rocky transition since the April 2019 ouster of autocratic president Omar al-Bashir amid mass pro-democracy protests.

The transitional government, installed months after Bashir's ouster, has been pushing to stabilise Sudan's remote regions after years of conflict.

The vast western region of Darfur was convulsed by bloody fighting in 2003. It killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million, according to the United Nations.

The war broke out when ethnic minority rebels rose up against Bashir's Arab-dominated government, which recruited and armed a notorious Arab-dominated militia known as the Janjaweed among the region's nomadic tribes.

Bashir, now on trial over the Islamist-backed 1989 coup that brought him to power, is also wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and war crimes in Darfur.

Fighting in Darfur has subsided over the years, but ethnic and tribal clashes occasionally flare, mainly over land and access to water between semi-nomadic Arab pastoralists and settled non-Arab farmers.

The latest clashes came after the United Nations and African Union peacekeeping mission, UNAMID, ended its 13 years of operations in Darfur on December 31.

Darfuris had protested the blue helmets' departure citing fears of renewed violence.

UNAMID plans a phased withdrawal of its 8,000 or so armed and civilian personnel within six months.