Clashes in Sudan’s Blue Nile leave thousands stranded without aid

Refugees in the Blue Nile say their conditions are becoming increasingly desperate as help fails to arrive.

A displaced child stands outside their shelter at the Jamam refugee camp in South Sudan's Upper Nile State.
Sudan's Blue Nile state has long seen unrest and displacement due to tribal fighting. [File: Hereward Holland/Reuters]

Al-Damazin, Sudan – Tribal fighting in Sudan’s Blue Nile state has forced thousands of people from their homes after violence broke out earlier in July over a land dispute between the Birta and Hausa ethnic groups.

The clashes in the state bordering South Sudan and Ethiopia have resulted in a spiralling humanitarian crisis, as aid organisations await the cessation of the hostilities to deliver assistance.

Authorities have said that at least 105 people have been killed.

Sara Mohammed said she fled al-Damazin as soon as she heard reports of tribal fighting and headed to the neighbouring Sennar state.

“It took us more than six hours of walking to get here and now we have nothing except what we were given by the host communities,” she said.

While some have managed to find refuge elsewhere, thousands of people are displaced within the Blue Nile state itself.

“I escaped with nothing except the clothes I’m wearing,” Anwar Mohammed told Al Jazeera.

Refugees said they were becoming more and more desperate as their location remained hard to reach because of the ongoing fighting.

“No one has come to see what our needs are. There are people with chronic diseases and children needing help. We need someone to come and provide us with assistance,” he said.

Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from al-Damazin in the Blue Nile state, said that as long as tribal hostilities persist, getting help to those who need it will remain a challenge.

While members of the Hausa tribe say the violence erupted after the Birta rejected a Hausa request to create a “civil authority to supervise access to land”, Birta tribesmen said the tribe was responding to a “violation” of its lands by the Hausa.

The government has imposed a curfew and banned large gatherings in two cities in a bid to quell the violence.

The Blue Nile state, and the wider region in general, have long seen unrest. Experts say last year’s coup, led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, created a security vacuum that has fostered a resurgence in tribal violence, in a country where deadly clashes regularly erupt over land, livestock, access to water and grazing.

Pro-democracy demonstrators accuse Sudan’s military leadership and ex-rebel leaders who signed a 2020 peace deal of exacerbating ethnic tensions in the state for personal gain.

Critics accused the former government of favouring the Hausa tribe because it believed the others supported the anti-government movement.

Observers fear the conflict will become more violent and spill over into the Ethiopian Benishangul-Gumuz region, where Addis Ababa is building the Renaissance Dam.

Source: Al Jazeera