The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) clashed with armed herders from Darfur beginning on Friday, leaving at least 58 Arab fighters dead. Col. Malaak Ayuen Ajok, an SPLA spokesman, told Radio Dabanga on Monday that 30 SPLA fighters are missing. He also accused the Sudanese army of arming the herders. The fighting took place in the border region between South Darfur and the neighbouring state of Western Bahr El Ghazal.
Conflicting reports suggest that the clashes either took part in the southern part of Bulbula area of South Darfur or in Bahr El Ghazal itself, which is part of the semi-autonomous region of South Sudan. The Rizeigat tribesman typically move south with their herds for pasture during this time of year. Col. Ajok pointed his finger at the Sudanese national army for arming the herders. He said that the Rizeigat fighters during the clashes from Friday to Sunday used heavy weapons and artillery, and he questioned how the Rizeigat could have such weapons without support from the government. Radio Dabanga could not reach the army for comment. Muhammad Eissa Aliu, a leader of the Arab Rizeigat tribe in South Darfur, had told Reuters news agency that a clash on Friday left 58 killed, 85 injured. Another SPLA spokesman, Major General Kuol Deim Kuol, told Agence France-Presse that a company of 120 SPLA soldiers was attacked on Friday night by armed men wearing uniforms of the northern army, and heavily equipped. Another four Rizeigat fighters were killed in the clashes Sunday in Dayeen district, a district official told a state-run television news station.