Clashes in Sudan’s West Darfur leave 129 dead amid growing concerns

The weekend violence forced thousands out of their homes while there are shortages of food, water and medicine

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 4, 2020, A mask-clad demonstrator (due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic) stands with a sign reading in Arabic "all of the country is Darfur, #PeaceFirst", during a protest outside the Sudanese Professionals Association in the Garden City district of Sudan's capital Khartoum, in solidarity with the people of the Nertiti region of Central Darfur province in the country's southwest. Ongoing clashes in Sudan's restive Darfur have killed at least 48 people in two days, state media said, just over two weeks after a long-running peacekeeping mission ended operations. The violence has pitted the Massalit tribe against Arab nomads in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, but later morphed into broader fighting involving armed militias in the area. / AFP / ASHRAF SHAZLY

Inter-communal clashes in Sudan's restive West Darfur region left 129 dead and nearly 200 injured as violence spilt into more areas, the local doctors' union said late on Monday.

In Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that it regretted the "alarming" violence. Seeking to reassure Darfur’s residents, the ministry said it was the government’s responsibility to maintain security across the entire Afro-Arab nation and to protect civilians.

“The Foreign Ministry appreciates the outpouring of international sympathy for the victims and the efforts made to contain the violence ….The government would like to reassure everyone that it will press on with its efforts and plans to restore security and order across Darfur and bring peace across the nation,” the statement said.

The violence started on Saturday in the provincial capital of Genena after a fist fight between two men, an Arab and an ethnic African, according to local residents.

The Arab man was stabbed to death and his family, from the Rizeigat tribe, attacked non-Arab residents in and around the city.

The weekend clashes forced thousands in the area out of their homes amid food, water and medicine shortages, according to the doctors' union. The UN said as many as 50,000 people were displaced by the fighting.

The deteriorating security situation prevented authorities and medical teams from reaching the wounded or collecting the bodies of those killed, the union said.

It also called on the government in Khartoum to declare West Darfur a disaster area and appeal for international help.

On Saturday, authorities imposed a 24-hour curfew in the area and a high-level government delegation was dispatched to determine the causes of the violence, identify the perpetrators, bring them to justice and reconcile the rival parties.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was "deeply concerned" about the clashes and called on the Sudanese authorities to bring an end to the fighting and ensure the protection of civilians, according to his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.

The violence erupted two weeks after the UN Security Council voted to end the mandate of the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur. The force, established in 2007, was expected to complete its withdrawal by June 30.

The latest violence underlined the serious challenges facing the vast Afro-Arab nation as it faces a bumpy transition to democracy after three decades of authoritarian rule under Omar Al Bashir.

It also raises the question of whether the transitional government in Khartoum is capable of enforcing peace in some parts of the country.

During the 2000s there was a large insurgency in Darfur led by mostly ethnic Africans. They demanded equality and a larger share of national resources.

More than 300,000 people died in the fighting and about two million were displaced.

Although the violence in the region had mostly eased, the root causes of the insurgency endure and there is little hope for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people to return home anytime soon.