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OCHA: 125,000 people are still displaced after West Darfur violence

June 10 - 2022 KEREINIK
People fleeing bloody attacks on El Geneina and the Kerending camps for the displaced last year (social media)
People fleeing bloody attacks on El Geneina and the Kerending camps for the displaced last year (social media)

The United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published a new report yesterday on the situation in conflict-plagued Kereinik, West Darfur. They explain that the security situation in Kereinik and El Geneina, which has also witnessed severe violence in the past years, remains calm but unpredictable. An estimated 125,000 people are still displaced.

According to OCHA's full statement, no new fighting has been reported in Kereinik since May 9, 2022, and the security situation is "calm, but unpredictable".

"The estimated number of people displaced from Kereneik following armed clashes between Arab nomads and the Masalit tribes between 22-25 April is estimated at around 125,000 people", according to OCHA. During the violence, at least 179 people were reportedly killed and another 143 injured. 36 villages across the Kereneik locality were affected by the violence, of which five were completely looted and burned, OCHA wrote. 

At the time of the violence, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) confirmed that the violence in both El Geneina and Kereinik claimed at least 200 lives, severely overstretching local health services.

The agricultural season is also in danger due to the ongoing insecurity. "Due to the insecurity, people’s movement remains limited in certain areas. According to the community leaders, farmers are not able to continue cultivating their farms due to the presence of armed groups and insecurity. The restriction of movement and access to farmland will impact the ability of families to cover food needs from their own production", the statement read.

'Farmers are not able to continue cultivating their farms due to the presence of armed groups and insecurity'

OCHA also wrote that people in rural areas struggle to access health services and essential basic services located in Kereinik. "Nomads in Rosi village have no access to health services and have to travel to El Geneina town to get medical treatment".

The organisation also explained that the insecurity poses a challenge to humanitarian operations in the region. UN agencies and humanitarian partners in El Geneina have undertaken several inter-agency needs assessment missions to Kereneik and Galala villages, and one mission took place to Umtajok and Murayat villages. On one of these missions, in the afternoon of 26 May, "gunmen attacked two international NGO-contracted trucks in Kereneik locality, injuring a driver and a passenger and robbing them of their belongings".

"The two trucks were part of the inter-agency response monitoring mission to Kereneik, however, they were attacked after they separated from the mission convoy. The inter-agency convoy safely returned to El Geneina on the same day", OCHA wrote.

It further explained that, despite the lack of security, humanitarian partners continue to meet the needs of people affected by conflict in Kereneik locality. "As of 1 June, more than 124,000 people were reached with some form of humanitarian assistance including 124,000 with one-month halffood rations; 15,000 people with shelter and non-food items (S/NFIs); 94,000 people with hygiene and sanitation supplies".

"In addition, 10 Rapid Response Kits (RRKs) were dispatched to provide health services for about 100,000 people for three months. Education partners provided examination fees for 9,525 Grade 6 and Grade 8 students in Kereneik to attend the national exams."

West Darfur violence

Kereinik and El Geneina formed the stage of violent attacks at the end of April, which led to the death of more than 200 people and the injury of at least 136 others. More than one hundred thousand were displaced as a result of the violence and the Higher Committee to Stop the Massacres in West Darfur called the attacks a ‘genocide’. Almost all of the dead were from the Masalit tribe, a non-Arab sedentary tribe of which many members are farmers. 

The UN Expert on Human Rights in Sudan, Adama Dieng, expressed his concern "in relation to intercommunal conflicts and large-scale attacks against civilians in Darfur, including the events of 22 to 24 April in Kereinik". He said that "these events must be investigated fully, and serious and comprehensive efforts taken to restore peace and hold those responsible to account. Implementation of the security arrangements envisaged in the Juba Peace Agreement needs to be accelerated and more joint security forces deployed in hotspot areas in Darfur to protect civilians and including Internally Displaced People, including women and children".

'Most of the 200 killed in the attacks on Kereinik belonged to the Masalit ethnic group'

In an Op-Ed last month, Dr Suliman Baldo explained: “Most of the 200 killed in the attacks on Kereinik belonged to the Masalit ethnic group and others settled with them from the Tama, Bargo and Arab minority groups, many of them displaced from earlier phases of the conflict in West Darfur since 2003. The media and eyewitnesses interviewed by Sudan Transparency and Policy Tracker described the attackers as herders of Arab descent backed up by RSF soldiers.”

Darfur has a long history of strife between Arab herding tribes and non-Arab African herders or sedentary farmers, including the Masalit in West Darfur. Arab tribesmen were recruited by the previous regime of dictator Omar Al Bashir to join the Janjaweed militias. Al Bashir employed these Arab militias to repress a revolt over ethnic marginalisation in the region, mainly targeting non-Arab African farmers. 

During the war that followed, at least 300,000 people were killed and over 2.5 million were displaced according to the UN.

Last year, at least 163 people died in attacks on the city and adjacent Kerending camps as Arab herdsmen again targeted Masalit people.

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