Violence broke out this week in Sudan’s turbulent South Kordofan province, with two days of clashes leaving nearly 30 people dead, including members of a paramilitary force linked to the armed forces.
The clashes in South Kordofan, home of a long-running anti-government rebellion, marked the third outbreak of deadly violence in the country this month. The previous bouts of bloodletting were in Kassala in eastern Sudan and in South Darfur, the birthplace of a ruinous war between the government and insurgents that began in the 2000s and continues to this day.
While relatively limited in their scope, this month’s violence points to the instability of the vast Afro-Arab nation and showcases its bumpy transition to democratic rule, a goal that would be difficult, some say impossible, to attain 13 months after the overthrow by the military of dictator Omar Al Bashir following months of street protests against his 29-year rule.
A transitional government has been in office since August last year after a landmark power-sharing agreement between the military and an alliance of opposition groups that led the street protests against Al Bashir. Part of the agreement was to reach a peaceful settlement to ongoing rebellions in the western regions of Darfur and Kordofan as well as in the Blue Nile south of the capital Khartoum. Months of peace negotiations in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, have so far failed to produce a breakthrough, leaving the country’s shift to democratic rule under threat.
The latest violence took place in South Kordofan’s provincial capital of Kadugli and its outlying areas. The clashes, which left more than two dozen people dead, were over an arms sale, according to the army. Local Authorities blamed an “outlawed group” for the violence. They ordered a complete, three-day lockdown in the area in a bid to restore peace.
The army said it intended to investigate the clashes with a view to prosecuting the perpetrators.
A spokesman for the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, Brig Gen Gamal Ammer, said at least nine members of the force were among those killed. At least 26 other people, including 10 civilians, were wounded in the clashes, which erupted Monday night.
He said the RSF was not part of the fight but did not explain how members of the force were among the killed and wounded. The genesis of the RSF is in the notorious Janjaweed militias which fought on the government’s side during the Darfur conflict in the 2000s. The militiamen are widely suspected of involvement in war crimes against the ethnically African residents of Darfur.
Last week, tribal clashes in South Darfur and Kassala left at least three dozen people dead and dozens wounded.