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Sudanese children walk past an amoured vehicle of the UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur Sudanese children walk past an amoured vehicle of the UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur  (AFP or licensors)

Sudan: Over 140 people die in clashes between rival groups

Tense calm in Sudan's restive Darfur region as government deploys security forces to maintain the peace following the killing of scores of people over the weekend.

By Vatican News staff writer

Violent clashes in Sudan over the weekend left at least 140 dead in separate attacks, according to news reports.

Clashes left 55 people dead on Monday, just hours after approximately 80 people, including women and children, were killed in a separate round of intercommunal clashes in West Darfur between Saturday and Sunday. Several houses are also said to have been destroyed and an estimated 50,000 people displaced.

Authorities in West Darfur have imposed a statewide curfew, while Sudan’s transitional government in the capital has deployed security forces around the country to restore order.

Fragile peace

Sudan has been going through a fragile transition since the 2019 ouster of President Omar al-Bashir following massive pro-democracy protests.

The conflict in Darfur erupted in 2003 when ethnic minorities rose up against Bashir’s Arab-dominated government, accusing the administration of discrimination. According to the United Nations, the ensuing violence claimed about 300,000 lives and 2.5 million people were displaced.

Though fighting in Darfur has subsided over the years, ethnic and tribal tensions occasionally flare, mainly over land and access to water between nomadic and settled pastoral farmers.

News sources say that the violence on Saturday erupted between Arab nomads and members of the non-Arab Masalit ethnic group in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur State.

The separate clashes on Monday were reportedly between members of the Fallata ethnic group and the Arab Rizeigat tribe. Sources allege that the clashes appeared to be in revenge for the killing of a Rizeigat member about a week ago by the Fallata tribe.

Peace efforts

This latest surge in violence comes after the departure of UNAMID, a joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission that ended its mission in Darfur on 1 January, ahead of its complete withdrawal and replacement by Sudanese forces.

Many Darfuris, citing fears of renewed violence, protested the departure of the peacekeeping mission after 13 years of operations in the country.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed deep concern over the situation in Darfur in a statement on Sunday. He called on the Sudanese authorities “to de-escalate the situation and bring an end to the fighting, restore law and order and ensure the protection of civilians.”

The violent clashes over the weekend have been the worst since the signing of a peace agreement between Sudan’s government and rebel groups in October 2020, in a deal aimed at ending years of war in which thousands died.

21 January 2021, 13:05