Ethnic violence in Sudan's Darfur region leaves 50 dead

Fears are growing that a reduction in peacekeeping forces will lead to worsening violence

A child looks at UN peacekeepers during a visit of the UN high commissioner for refugees at the Al-Nimir camp in the Sudanese state of East Darfur for an on-the-ground assessment of the situation of South Sudanese refugees living in Sudan, on August 15, 2017. - More than 5,000 South Sudanese refugees live in Al-Nimir camp where they arrived after fleeing war and famine in their country. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)
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Fifty people have been killed in ethnic violence in Sudan’s Darfur region at the weekend, the local branch of the country’s powerful doctors’ union said on Tuesday.

The union initially said on Monday that 18 people had been killed.

The weekend’s clashes are now one of the deadliest episodes of violence in the restless Darfur area in years.

The number of wounded has also risen from 54 to 132, the union said.

The injured included several critical cases that require treatment in better-equipped hospitals in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, it added.

Authorities in Darfur have meanwhile declared a state of emergency in the city of Geneina in Western Darfur state, where the violence broke out on Saturday between ethnic African Masaleet tribesmen and Arabs. The violence is believed to have started over the theft of a car.

Government soldiers and local police have been patrolling the city’s streets since Monday, enforcing a tense quiet, according to local officials.

The latest bout of violence in Darfur, which has seen a ruinous insurrection in the 2000s, followed clashes in January in the vast region that left 250 people killed, including at least 10 children, and forced 10,000 to flee their homes.

In January, at least 70 people were killed in Gereida, a town in south Darfur, in clashes. The violence there was triggered by the killing of a 10-year-old boy.

Tribal tensions in Darfur have often boiled over into deadly clashes, underlining the fragility of the security situation in a region about the size of Spain.

Ongoing instability there has highlighted the central government’s limited resources to enforce law and order.

The 2000s insurgency, when Darfur’s ethnic Africans took up arms against government forces to press demands for a bigger share of national resources, has left some 300,000 people dead and forced 2.5 million to flee their homes.

The causes of that insurgency endure to this day.

The violence in Darfur follows the start in January of the withdrawal of a long-running peacekeeping mission by the UN and African Union.

A six-month withdrawal of the force will lead to a complete pull-out by June 30, leaving central and provincial governments in total control of security in the vast region for the first time since the force was established 13 years ago.