Ongoing tribal clashes in Sudan’s restive Darfur have killed at least 48 people in the latest bout of violence to hit the region, state media reported Sunday.
“The death toll from militia attacks in El Geneina yesterday (Saturday) reached 48,” the SUNA news agency said, referring to the capital of West Darfur state and quoting the local branch of the country’s doctors’ union.
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“The bloody events which are still ongoing since Saturday morning (have) also left ... 97 wounded.”
Saturday’s clashes initially pitted the Massalit tribe against Arab nomads in El Geneina, just over two weeks after the UN and African Union ended a 13-year peacekeeping mission in Darfur.
The violence morphed into broader fighting involving armed militias in the area, which left several buildings including houses scorched.
Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said on Twitter on Saturday that he had ordered a “high-profile” delegation including security services be sent to West Darfur to follow up on the situation.
As the mission in Darfur comes to a close, @unamidnews has officially handed over its Community Policing Centre in Zalingei, Central Darfur, to the Government of Sudan.— UN Peacekeeping (@UNPeacekeeping) January 13, 2021
This handover is in accordance with Security Council resolution 2559 on the mission’s drawdown. #A4P pic.twitter.com/RBRUzwLAUK
The vast Darfur region was the scene of a bitter conflict that erupted in 2003, leaving around 300,000 people dead and 2.5 million displaced, according to the United Nations.
Back then, fighting erupted when ethnic minority rebels rose up against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum, which responded by recruiting and arming a notorious Arab-dominated militia known as the Janjaweed.
The main conflict has subsided over the years but ethnic and tribal clashes still flare periodically, largely pitting nomadic Arab pastoralists against settled farmers from non-Arab ethnic groups.
The violence often centers on land and access to water.
Sudan is undergoing a rocky political transitional after the ouster of long-time president Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 after mass protests against his rule.
The transitional government, a power sharing arrangement comprised of generals and civilian figures, has pushed to build peace with rebel groups in Sudan’s main conflict zones, including Darfur.
But two rebel groups refused to join a recent peace deal, including the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) faction led by Abdelwahid Nour, which is believed to maintain considerable support in Darfur.
The hybrid UN African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) formally ended its operations on December 31.
It plans a phased withdrawal of its approximately 8,000 armed and civilian personnel inside six months.