Umm Dukhun city in Central Darfur, which has witnessed renewed violent tribal clashes between the Salamat and Misseriya tribes, was virtually deserted as of Thursday morning. In addition, shops and markets have been closed since hostilities resumed earlier this week.
Local sources told Radio Dabanga that only about 100 families remain in Umm Dukhun, while the rest of the town’s inhabitants –about 80,000 before clashes first erupted on 4 April– fled to neighbouring Chad.
Witnesses said this is “the greatest exodus” from Umm Dukhun after “Misseriya militias” torched houses of Salamat families, located on a neighbourhood east of the city on Wednesday.
Clashes in the area resumed after a Salamat member was accused of attacking a Misseriya in the locality’s Um-sory last Monday. Nevertheless, leaders of the two tribes reaffirmed their commitment to the peace process.
Prior to that, Umm Dukhun saw tensions rise when a member of the Misseriya tribe allegedly tried to rob a Salamat man, who was not hurt. Hostilities erupted the next day when 4,000 men from both sides began battling each other. Clashes have since spread north and to South Darfur, where the Al Taaysha tribe allegedly provided support to the Misseriya.
The UNHCR has said that as result of the battles in South and Central Darfur 50,000 people sought refuge in Chad within a short period of time, terming it the “largest influx of refugees from Sudan into Chad since 2005”.
An Umm Dukhun source disclosed that most of the families escaped to Chad at night, with all of their belongings. Most of them are seeking shelter in Kalma, Zeli, Tamazih, and Al Rot.
The border with Chad is only about four kilometres away from Umm Dukhun city, and both sides are separated by a 300 metre street. Witnesses observed a “heavy presence of Chadian forces” along the border and a number of checkpoints.
“This explains why so many people are fleeing to Chad for safety and protection,” one of them said.
Photo: UN OCHA
Related: Misseriya torch Salamat neighbourhood in Umm Dukhun, Central Darfur (29 May 2013)