Sudan's conflicts and natural disasters displace more than 400,000 people in 2022, UN says

Most of the displaced are in the strife-torn regions of Darfur and Blue Nile

A Sudanese family poses at their makeshift shelter inside the Kalma camp for the internally displaced in Darfur, Sudan. Reuters
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More than 400,000 people were displaced in Sudan in 2022, mostly because of conflicts in the western Darfur and southern Blue Nile regions, the UN said on Tuesday.

The International Organisation for Migration said most of the 418,000 people displaced last year — about 314,000 — left their homes because of conflict.

Blue Nile had the biggest share of displacements, with 30.6 per cent, followed by West Darfur with 22.8 per cent and South Darfur at 11.2 per cent.

Another 103,000 people were displaced because of flooding during the rainy season, said the IOM.

The newly displaced join more than three million people who have been displaced over the years in Sudan, a vast Afro-Arab nation of more than 40 million people that has seen little respite from resinous civil wars since it gained independence from Britain in 1956.

Sudan's displaced typically live in squalid camps on the outskirts of major cities, including Khartoum. Many of them depend almost entirely on relief handouts. Their presence, especially in Darfur, frequently leads to tensions with locals and their camps are often the target of deadly raids by the ethnic or tribal group that forced them away from their homes in the first place.

Prominent among Sudan's post-independence conflicts is the civil war that raged in South Sudan for more than 20 years, making it Africa's longest. That conflict ended with a 2005 peace accord that paved the way for the secession of the mainly animist and Christian south in 2011.

The war in Darfur was fought in the 2000s, leaving at least 300,000 people dead and more than 2 million displaced, according to UN figures.

Both conflicts pitted ethnic Africans against what they see as the unfair political and economic privileges enjoyed by the Arabized and Muslim north of Sudan and its ruling clique in Khartoum.

The war in Blue Nile province has raged for years, with rebels in control of vast swathes of territory.

Deadly outbreaks of sectarian or tribal violence continue to bedevil Sudan's outlaying regions to this day, including Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile, where the same root causes behind their conflicts remain in play.

Sudan's military signed a peace deal with several rebel groups in October 2020. However, the groups that control large swathes of land and in possession of firepower to reckon with are refusing to join the process despite repeated pleas by Khartoum for them to enter negotiations.

Significantly, the rebels whose leaders signed the 2020 agreement are yet to be assimilated into the armed forces as promised and have in some instances contributed to outbreaks of lawlessness or violence in their home regions or in the capital Khartoum.

A 2021 military coup that upended Sudan's democratic transition has created a security vacuum in Sudan's outlaying regions and denied the country the western funds it had been promised to implement the 2020 peace deal, including the integration into the armed forces of the former rebels.

Sudan's western backers suspended billions of dollars' worth of aid to Sudan in response to the coup and insist only when a credible, civilian-led transitional government is in place will they resume their assistance.

Updated: February 22, 2023, 1:00 PM