Fighting in Sudan’s Darfur kills 250 and forces 100,000 to flee

Latest round of violence underlines fragility of security situation in volatile Sudan region

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 2, 2016, A convoy of Sudanese security forces deploy during a rally in al-Geneina, the capital of the West Darfur state. 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
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Violence in Sudan’s turbulent Darfur region has left nearly 250 people dead, including at least 10 children.

About 100,000 people have also been forced to flee their homes, the UN refugee agency and other relief organisations say.

The clashes, over three days in two areas last week, left scores of properties destroyed or burnt to the ground.

Of those who fled their homes, about 3,500 crossed the border into eastern Chad, the UN agencies said over the weekend.

Government troops were patrolling the streets in the area but the UN said “severe” security gaps remained. An overnight curfew introduced in the area last week remained in force.

The provincial branch of the doctors’ union said that at the weekend, some displaced Darfuris had taken shelter at several medical centres in Al Genena, the provincial capital of West Darfur.

Others were trying to take over homes accommodating medical staff who rushed to Darfur from elsewhere in Sudan to help with treating the nearly 300 injured, the union said.

“Most of those using the houses are not from Genena," it said.

"So, if they lose their accommodation, they too will be homeless and they will leave. If that happens, medical care in the province will collapse.

The latest violence in Darfur has underlined the fragility of the security situation in a region about the size of Spain.

It has also laid bare the government’s inability to restore security years after the end of an insurgency that raged there in the 2000s, but the causes of which endure to this day.

“We must finally address the long-term root causes of the conflict and lay the foundations for lasting peace,” the UN said.

A picture taken on January 20, 2020 shows the area where violence erupted between Arab nomads and members of the non-Arab Massalit ethnic group in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur. A heavy Sudanese troop presence helped restore calm in Darfur, local sources said, after three days of inter-ethnic violence which claimed at least 155 lives and displaced tens of thousands. / AFP / -
A picture taken on January 20, 2020 shows the area where violence erupted between Arab nomads and members of the non-Arab Massalit ethnic group in Al Geneina, the capital of West Darfur. AFP

In the insurgency in the 2000s, Darfur’s ethnic Africans rebelled against the central government to demand an end to what they saw as discrimination by Khartoum and to secure a larger share of national resources.

The conflict, which generally died down, has left 300,000 people dead and displaced 2.5 million.

The government of ousted dictator Omar Al Bashir encouraged the division by forming alliances with Arab tribes.

Al Bashir, removed from power by his generals in 2019 after months of street protests against his rule, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur.

The latest bout of violence, Darfur’s deadliest in years, came two weeks after a long-running peacekeeping mission by the UN and African Union ended operations.

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.

An “imminent risk” of more violence remains in Darfur “where decades-long ethnic and tribal tensions that were further stoked by the previous regime continues to fester,” Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in Geneva at the weekend.

She also called for a thorough and effective investigation by the government to bring the perpetrators to justice and “break the cycle of violence of armed citizens taking the law into their hands to avenge attacks on members of their community".

The UN said at least 160 were killed and 215 injured in clashes in and round Al Genena on January 16-17.

The violence, it said, was sparked by the murder of a tribal leader.

On January 18, 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.