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More than 80 killed in attacks on West Darfur capital

January 18 - 2021 EL GENEINA / KHARTOUM [UPDATED]
Homes torched in Kerending camp (RD)
Homes torched in Kerending camp (RD)

In the early hours of Saturday morning, large groups of gunmen attacked El Geneina, capital of West Darfur. The violence continued until Sunday morning. About 83 people were killed. At least 160 were wounded. The doctors in the town call for guarded transport, more medics and medicines.

Sources in El Geneina told Radio Dabanga that the situation witnessed “a slight improvement” around noon yesterday. They were still hearing “the sound of heavy weapons” coming from El Jebel neighbourhood and the Kerending camps for the displaced near the town. Clouds of smoke covered the sky above the town. Hundreds of camp residents sought refuge in government buildings.

The Darfur Bar Association reported that the violence was triggered by “a simple crime”. A Masalit tribesman stabbed a member of an “Arab tribe”* to death near the Kerending camps. Though the killer was arrested, relatives of the victim sought revenge.

The lawyers said in a statement yesterday that “militiamen took advantage of the incident, and attacked El Geneina from all directions”. According to them, and the West Darfur governor, Mohamed El Doma, former head of the DBA, the attackers were supported by groups that came from Saraf Omra in North Darfur, Central Darfur, and the border area with Chad.

The governor announced a curfew throughout the state, and authorised the government forces in the area to use force during their intervention.

El Doma said in a press statement that the government forces present in the area did not move until ten o’clock on Saturday. He therefore asked the Khartoum to send more forces, “as there are groups lying in wait for the state's security”.

The DBA has called for an investigation into the “delayed response” of the army commander in El Geneina, and for a disarmament campaign in the region.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement last night expressing deep concern about the clashes in West Darfur and offering his “deepest condolences to the bereaved families and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured”.

The Secretary-General calls on the Sudanese authorities “to expend all efforts to de-escalate the situation and bring an end to the fighting, restore law and order and ensure the protection of civilians, in accordance with the Government’s National Plan for Civilian Protection”. Protection of civilians in Darfur is the responsibilty of the Sudanese government since the withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping force UNAMID on December 31 2020.

Shortages

The West Darfur Doctors Committee reported that most of the wounded were transferred to the El Geneina Teaching Hospital, the Military Hospital, and the few private clinics in the town.

The Doctors Committee reported in a statement that the health staff is attempting to treat the wounded “in extremely dire conditions”. A number of the injured had to be operated.

There is not only a large shortage of doctors and nurses, equipment, anaesthesia and medicines, but the medical staff, as well as blood donors, also have problems to reach “the few hospitals in the town”, because the curfew imposed to contain the situation.

The Committee urged the authorities “to secure the health facilities in the town and provide guarded transport for medical personnel to reach the hospitals and clinics in the town, as well as the wounded stranded in the areas that were attacked, and to deliver medical supplies to the treatment centres”.

Relatives of the victims and members of the Resistance Committees demand the urgent dispatch of doctors, nurses, and medicines, the speedy transfer of the seriously wounded people to Khartoum. They further pointed to “the urgent need for water and food”.

Protection

In an emergency meeting on yesterday evening, the Security and Defence Council in Khartoum decided to send security reinforcements to West Darfur.

Police Chief Izzeldin El Sheikh said in a press statement following the meeting that they also agreed on measures to secure the West Darfur in the future. He expects the measures to have “a major impact on the restoration of stability in West Darfur and its capital”, and called on the West Darfur communities to cooperate.

Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok sent a high-ranking delegation of military, security, and legal officials, headed by Attorney General Tajelsir El Hibir, to El Geneina, “to address the situation and restore calm and stability in the state”.

In end December 2019, a similar outbreak of violence erupted in El Geneina, following the killing of an ‘Arab’ Mahameed herder by a member of the Masalit in one of the Kerending camps.

More than 80 people were killed and at least 190 others injured. The two Kerending camps burned down to the ground. Districts of El Geneina and villages north-east of El Geneina were attacked as well.

* The major tribes in Darfur are the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa. The predominantly nomadic tribes, called Arabs in Sudan, live in the larger part of northern Darfur and the predominantly non-Arab or African sedentary group, mainly composed of peasant farmers, live in the western and southern regions of Darfur.

This article was updated at 15:00 to reflect the statement of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres


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