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New wave of violence in West Darfur's El Geneina takes at least 56 lives

April 6 - 2021 EL GENEINA
Smoke could be seen to rise from El Geneina as tribal fighting continues (social media)
Smoke could be seen to rise from El Geneina as tribal fighting continues (social media)

The United Nations revealed today that 56 people have been killed and 132 others were injured in the continuing clashes that erupted on Saturday evening in the state’s capital El Geneina. The wali (governor) of West Darfur expects a state of emergency and a curfew to be imposed in the city.

Thousands are fleeing the fighting and at least one rocket-propelled grenade hit a hospital whilst another hit a UN compound.

People from El Geneina told Radio Dabanga that the sound of heavy fighting and explosions continued for the second day in a row yesterday. They said that the sound came from southern, eastern, and western areas of the city and that houses are burnt in the areas around the Kerending camps.

An eyewitness from El Geneina confirmed that smoke has been rising from the city for two consecutive days.

According to the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), the conflict started on the evening of April 3 when two Masalit tribesmen were killed on a road separating an Arab tribe residential area and a Masalit tribe one. The failure of authorities to investigate the murders or hold the perpetrators to account led to retaliatory violence.

Armed groups from both tribes took to the streets and heavy fighting erupted.

On the morning of April 4, armed groups from Arab tribes and militias from Zalingei, Saraf Omra, and the Republic of Chad resumed fighting using firearms in civilian areas in the south of El Geneina, targeting Masalit without any intervention from the security forces.

Mohamed El Doma, the wali (governor) of West Darfur, said in a press statements yesterday that the conflict is still ongoing and that he expects to impose a state of emergency and a curfew in El Geneina. According to El Doma, the attack focussed on neighbourhoods in southern and western areas of the city and could not be stopped by authorities because of the large number of weapons involved.

He expressed his regret over the spread of terror in El Geneina. On his Facebook page, he called on the people of El Geneina to be alert, cautious, and patient. He urged people to stay in their homes and report any suspect events so that the security forces can restore stability in the city.

Wounded

In a statement, the committee said that the wounded and injured are receiving medical care at El Geneina Teaching Hospital, El Naseem Clinic, and other Hospitals in El Geneina and that at least 10 operations have been conducted while hospitals are still receiving more victims.

The State Security Committee and the Ministry of Health have said that there is a lack of insurance, permanent medical institutions, and staff in the area, which threatens the hospitals’ ability to provide medical services.

The doctors’ committee also condemned an attack by gunmen on an ambulance, in which the driver and medical personnel were injured.

Concerns

Minni Minawi, head of the breakaway Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-MM), said that the violence in El Geneina is the continuation of an unresolved crisis. In a post on Twitter, he explained that failure to implement the Juba Peace Agreement and the lack of security arrangements will only lead to more issues.

He expressed his grave concern about the events that took place in El Geneina and has described the perpetrators as ‘‘intrusive armed gunmen’’. He noted that gunmen affiliated with the former regime* continue to threaten the stability of the region, especially in West Darfur.

The National Umma Party (NUP) appealed to all parties involved in the conflict in El Geneina to stop the fighting immediately. In a statement yesterday, the NUP announced that there will be communication with all relevant parties from the transitional government, the government of West Darfur, and the security forces in order to control the situation in the city.

The NUP called on all security forces to move quickly to remedy the situation and restore the authority of the state. The NUP also demanded the judicial authorities to quickly conduct an immediate and transparent investigation to determine those responsible for these recurring events and bring them to justice.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) also condemned the violence. They demanded that the transitional government order the police, the military, and security forces to immediately carry out their duty to protect people, not only in Darfur but all over Sudan.

In their statement, they held the police, the armed forces, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), and the General Intelligence forces responsible for the recurring violence. The statement also held the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice, Nasreldin Abdelbar, responsible for the renewed conflict.

In El Fasher, Nort Darfur, Lt Gen Suleiman Sandal from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) expressed his hope that the security situation in El Geneina and elsewhere would soon be resolved. He emphasised the continuation of JEM’s initiative for peaceful coexistence and stressed the need for a quick formation of joint forces for further protection in Darfur.

In Khartoum, the National Committee in charge of the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement announced a proposal to start the implementation of the agreement from April 15. In a press statement, committee-member Nour El Daem announced a proposal from the technical committee to tackle important issues that need urgent decisions, including the appointment of the governor of the Darfur region and the governors of other states.

Massacre aftermath

El Geneina is still recovering from the violence in December and January when large groups of armed men from Arab herding communities attacked El Geneina and the two Kerending camps, killing at least 163 people and leaving more than 130,000 people displaced. The violence took place just weeks after the exit of the joint United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). 

West Darfur is home to the Masalit, a non-Arab sedentary tribe. The governor and local government employees belong to this tribe. 

*Darfur has a long history of strife between often Arab herding tribes and non-Arab African herders or sedentary farmers, which were exploited by the previous regime of dictator Omar Al Bashir who supported the Janjaweed militia that carried out many attacks on farmers. Al Bashir employed these militias, largely made up of Arab nomads, to repress a revolt over ethnic discrimination in the region, mainly targeting non-Arab African farmers. According to the UN, the conflict left at least 300,000 people dead and displaced more than 2.5 million. 


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