Sudan names new military chief for conflict-hit Blue Nile state

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Sudan on Monday named a new military commander for troubled Blue Nile state, where recent bitter ethnic clashes over land have left at least 200 people dead and sparked angry demonstrations.

The new chief comes a day after eyewitnesses reported that crowds of thousands protested in front of army headquarters in the state capital Damazin, accusing the government of failing to protect them, with the local university suspending work.

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Army spokesman Nabil Abdallah, announcing Monday a new commander for the southern Blue Nile state, said the military had ordered a committee to “evaluate the security situation.”

Blue Nile, which borders South Sudan and Ethiopia, is awash with guns and is still struggling to rebuild after decades of civil war, with over 300 people killed in recent months.

Sudan has been grappling with deepening political unrest and a spiraling economic crisis since last year’s military coup led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

A surge in ethnic violence in recent months has highlighted the security breakdown since the coup.

On Sunday, thousands of protesters demanded the resignation of state governor Ahmed al-Omda Badi, with eyewitnesses reporting the crowd “tried to enter the army headquarters” before “setting fire to the state government building.”

Badi declared a state of emergency on Friday to quell some of the worst fighting in recent months.

On Monday, Blue Nile University in Damazin announced “the suspension of classes and exams” due to “the unfortunate events.”

At least two hundred people were killed in two days of fighting last week, official media said Saturday, after clashes broke out over reported land disputes between members of the Hausa people and rival groups.

The violence follows clashes earlier this year between the same groups in Blue Nile, leaving at least 149 people killed and 65,000 displaced from July to early October, according to the United Nations.

The Hausa have mobilized across Sudan, claiming they were discriminated from owning land in Blue Nile because they were the last group to arrive there.

Access to land is highly sensitive in the impoverished country, where agriculture and livestock account for 43 percent of employment and 30 percent of GDP, according to UN and World Bank statistics.

Nearly 600 people have been killed and at least 211,000 forced to flee their homes in inter-communal conflicts across the country since January, according to the UN.

Read more: Thousands protest deadly tribal clashes in Sudan’s south

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