Death toll rises from fighting in Sudan’s West Darfur: UN

The United Nations says 56 killed and thousands of people have fled after days of tribal clashes in El Geneina.

Residents dig a mass grave for victims of an attack that left over 60 dead in the village of Masteri in west Darfur, Sudan in July 2020 [File: Mustafa Younes/AP]

The death toll from days of tribal clashes in Sudan’s West Darfur has risen to 56, the United Nations said, revising the death toll.

Thousands are fleeing the fighting, which has seen a power station in the state capital El Geneina destroyed, at least one rocket-propelled grenade hit a key hospital, and another smash into a UN compound, the UN said on Tuesday.

“The number of deaths has risen to 56 and more have been injured,” the UN humanitarian coordination office said, with clashes pitting Arab tribes against the non-Arab Masalit ethnic group.

“People are fleeing into neighbouring Chad,” it added.

The government declared a state of emergency in the state on Monday after three days of clashes in El Geneina and deployed troops to West Darfur.

“On 6 April, shooting continues to be heard across the town,” the UN said. “The local power station was destroyed last night and there is no electricity.”

The UN said on Monday that at least 40 people had been killed and 58 injured in clashes in El Geneina.

The bloodshed is the latest in a resurgence of violence in the Darfur region since the signing of a peace agreement late last year and the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers.

El Geneina resident Mohamed Abdel Rahman told AFP news agency over the phone on Tuesday: “There was calm overnight but this morning we heard gunfire from Hay Al-Jabal district which lasted almost an hour.”

Another resident 3km (1.86 miles) from Hay Al-Jabal, who asked to remain anonymous, said he had also heard gunfire.

Residents and an internal UN security bulletin seen by Reuters news agency reported the use of heavy weaponry and rocket-propelled grenades, with pictures and videos from residents showing plumes of smoke rising from El Geneina neighbourhoods.

The UN said it had suspended flights and aid operations to the city, a key hub for humanitarian assistance – a decision the world body said would affect upwards of 700,000 people.

In January, just two weeks after a joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission wound up operations, at least 129 people were killed and 108,000 people remain displaced after similar clashes in El Geneina between members of the Masalit and Arab tribes.

Military reinforcements that had been brought into the city had since largely withdrawn, residents told Reuters.

There have been bouts of bloodshed in Darfur since conflict broke out in 2003 when the government of Omar al-Bashir armed militias to help repress a revolt.

Ethnic minority groups complaining of marginalisation had taken up arms against the central government, which responded by unleashing armed groups largely made up of Arab nomads.

Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide over the conflict, which the UN says left 300,000 people dead and displaced more than 2.5 million.

Al-Bashir’s iron-fisted rule was ended by the army in April 2019 following months of mass protests.

Brokering lasting peace there and in other parts of Sudan has been one of the main challenges facing the authorities since the overthrow of al-Bashir in April 2019.

Sudan’s transitional government in October signed a peace deal with several rebel groups, including in Darfur – but certain factions did not sign the accord.

Source: News Agencies