About 100 people have been killed and thousands displaced over the past week following a land dispute in Darfur, a United Nations official said, in the latest bout of violence to hit Sudan’s war-ravaged western region.
Toby Harward, the UNHCR’s coordinator for Sudan, said late on Sunday that clashes had broken out in Kulbus, West Darfur, after armed groups attacked multiple villages. The incident caused thousands to flee across neighbouring localities, he added on Twitter.
Abkar al-Toum, a tribal leader in the town, said the dead included at least 62 people found burned after militias set more than 20 villages on fire.
Al-Toum reportedly said many people were still unaccounted for, adding that attackers gained control of water resources, aggravating the humanitarian situation in the area. He did not elaborate further.
Abbas Mustafa, a local official, said authorities have deployed more troops to the area. He said the past week of fighting had displaced at least 5,000 families.
The town is about 160km (100 miles) from the state capital El-Geneina, within the arid region bordering Chad.
Reports had emerged last week of attackers setting fire to villages near Kulbus leaving them burned to the ground, amid a dispute between members of an Arab tribe and a farmer from a non-Arab one.
Harward stressed the “need for neutral joint forces” to intervene and stop the violence.
“If there is no intervention or mediation, and violence is allowed to continue, farmers will not be able to cultivate and the agricultural season will fail. This would be disastrous for all communities,” he added.
Credible reports reaching @UNHCRinSudan indicate horrific casualty rates in #Kulbus, W #Darfur, after a land dispute escalated into an attack by militias on multiple villages. Nearly 100 killed, & thousands displaced across neighboring localities. There is… 1/3 #Sudan
— Toby Harward | توبي هارورد 🇺🇳 (@tobyharward) June 12, 2022
Since late last year, eruptions of tribal violence and surges in fighting in Darfur have killed hundreds of people. In April, after a similar round of clashes killed at least 168, the Sudanese military said it had deployed a brigade to the province.
Such attacks come as the country remains mired in a wider crisis following an October military coup. The takeover upended Sudan’s transition to democracy after a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.
The violence has raised questions over whether Sudanese military leaders are capable of bringing security to Darfur.
In 2020, the UN Security Council ended its peacekeeping mission there. Local aid workers have now called on the UN to redeploy peacekeepers to the region amid a surge in tribal violence.
The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when ethnic Africans rebelled, accusing the Arab-majority government in the capital of Khartoum of discrimination.
Al-Bashir’s government was accused of retaliating by arming local nomadic Arab tribes and unleashing militias on civilians there – a charge it denied.
Al-Bashir, who has been in prison in Khartoum since he was overthrown in 2019, was indicted more than 10 years ago by the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity perpetrated in Darfur.