Clashes intensified in West Darfur as another 19 people reported killed within the past 24 hours

CAIRO (AP) — At least 19 people have been killed in renewed tribal clashes in Sudan’s volatile west Darfur region in the past 24 hours, a medical group said Friday. Violence between Arabs and non-Arabs in the same area of Jebel Moon also killed at least 16 people earlier this week.

The Sudan Doctors Committee of West Darfur called on local authorities to protect civilians in the area from attack. Sharaf Jumma Salah, a local resident and activist, said the clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs have also left behind dozens of burnt houses in four villages. 

Adam Regal, spokesman for the General Coordination Body for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur, said on Thursday that armed men attacked villages that morning and the fighting went on for hours. He said a communications cut had made it difficult to obtain complete information from the remote area.

He blamed local Arab tribal militias known as janjaweed for the attack.

Clashes in Jebel Moon first erupted in mid-November over a land dispute between Arab and non-Arab tribes. Dozens have been killed since then and authorities have deployed more troops to the area. 

However, sporadic fighting has continued even as entire Sudan is roiled by unrest following an October military coup. The takeover upended an already fragile democratic transition in the African country, which has also faced uphill security and economic challenges since the 2019 overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government.

In Khartoum, the country’s capital, protests against the military coup have continued. Two teenagers were killed by gunfire in demonstrations there on Thursday, according to the Sudan Doctors Committee. The group, which has kept track of protester deaths and injuries since the military takeover, has tallied a total of 87 killed. 

The instability has led to deteriorating security conditions in other parts of the country, like the war-wrecked Darfur. In 2020, the United Nations closed its peacekeeping mission to Darfur, leading to fears that without a strong state presence violence would return. 

“Too often violence around Sudan is downplayed and described as seasonal inter-communal conflict with faceless perpetrators – it’s time to end this fiction, and help end the violence,” said Will Carter, the head of the Norwegian Refugee Council for Sudan. 

“Since the peacekeeping mission ended, the international community are barely even passive observers to this unfolding violence,” he added.

The yearslong Darfur conflict broke out when rebels from the territory’s ethnic central and sub-Saharan African community launched an insurgency in 2003, complaining of oppression by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum.

Al-Bashir’s government responded with a campaign of aerial bombings and raids by the janjaweed militias, which have been accused of mass killings and rapes. Up to 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million were driven from their homes in Darfur over the years.

Al-Bashir, who has been in prison in Khartoum since his ouster, also faces international charges of genocide and crimes against humanity related to the Darfur conflict.

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