The withdrawal of the UN peacekeepers from Darfur is leaving the local population vulnerable to continuing attacks.
The death toll from violence that erupted during the weekend in Sudan’s Darfur region has climbed to 87, according to a local medical group that also reported attacks on healthcare workers in the area.
The Sudanese doctors’ committee in West Darfur said it had counted at least 37 more fatalities on Wednesday, bringing the number of people killed since Saturday to 87. At least 191 people were wounded.
The group said armed men opened fire on Wednesday on vehicles carrying healthcare workers heading to United Nations warehouses in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur province. No casualties were reported from that shooting, it said.
Several health facilities were also attacked, and medical workers still faced difficulties in transporting the wounded to hospitals, the group added.
Separately, residents told the Reuters news agency the streets of El Geneina had finally grown quieter, with government troops deployed for the first time since a state of emergency was declared on Monday. Fewer new injuries were reported at hospitals.
“They may have become exhausted,” one doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said of the fighters. “Or maybe it’s a warrior’s rest.”
The latest bout of fighting is a new flare-up in violance that saw deadly clashes earlier this year and in 2019 in the face of deteriorating security across Darfur.
It grew out of a shooting on Saturday that killed two people from the non-Arab Masalit tribe in a camp for displaced people in El Geneina, according to the UN humanitarian affairs agency.
Fighting ensued between the Arab Rizeigat and the Masalit tribes, with both mobilising armed men.
The unrest poses a challenge to efforts by Sudan’s transitional government to end decades-long rebellions in areas such as Darfur, where conflict often falls along ethnic lines.
The humanitarian situation in El Geneina remains dire, with thousands of people in the streets after a camp for displaced people was burned down during the fighting.
The clashes forced the UN to suspend all humanitarian activities in El Geneina, which serves as a hub for aid delivery to the conflict-wrecked region.
The world body said its decision would affect more than 700,000 people.
The vast Darfur region was ravaged by a civil war that erupted in 2003, leaving some 300,000 people dead and 2.5 million displaced, according to the UN.
It flared when ethnic minority rebels rose up against longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir’s Arab-dominated government. Khartoum responded by unleashing government-linked militia that called themselves the Popular Defence Forces, but was known as “Janjaweed” by the rebels, recruited from among the region’s nomadic tribes.
The conflict has subsided across the years, and the latest in a string of peace deals was agreed in October. But after years of conflict, the region is awash with automatic weapons and clashes still erupt, often over land and access to water.
Sudan is in the middle of a rocky transition following the overthrow of al-Bashir in April 2019 in the wake of mass protests against his rule.
The transitional military-civilian authorities have pushed to build peace with rebel groups in Sudan’s main conflict zones, including Darfur.