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West Darfur attacks: Death toll rises to 80+, more than 8,000 families displaced

January 3 - 2020 EL GENEINA
(File photo)
(File photo)

More than 80 people were reportedly killed and at least 190 others injured in the tribal violence that broke out in El Geneina, capital of West Darfur, on Sunday. At least 80,000 people have been affected. 8,111 families fled their homes. The El Geneina Crisis Committee formed after the violent events accuses the West Darfur government of complicity.

Violence broke out on Sunday evening, reportedly after a young Masalit tribesman killed an Mahameed herder at El Bursa Market in Kerending camp. In response the relatives of the victim attacked relatives of the perpetrator and killed two of them, wounded others, and torched the market. The attacks continued on Monday. The two Kerending camps burned down to the ground. Districts of El Geneina and villages north-east of the city were attacked as well.

The Masalit Sultanate said in a press statement on Tuesday that many militant herders were riding in vehicles belonging to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia. Others came in private vehicles, motorcycles, horses, and camels. They torched the two Kerending camps, and attacked districts in El Geneina, a number of neighbouring villages, and the western part of Mornei camp.

Osman Jaafar, Secretary General of the Sudanese Red Crescent Society, said that 8,111 families fled the two Kerending camps that burned to ashes, and Hashaba, Mouli, and Habila villages. They are currently accommodated in schools and mosques in El Geneina.

The High-level Crisis Management Committee for the Events in El Geneina and the Kerending Camps reported on Thursday that more than 80 people died and 190 others were injured. More than 5,000 heads of livestock, 200 motorcycles, 300 rickshaws, more than 180 vehicles of all kinds, and millions of Pounds in cash were stolen.

According to the committee, the total number of affected consists of 32,555 displaced people from the burned Kerending camps and more than 50,000 residents of villages and El Geneina districts neighbouring the camps.

People who fled from Amrallah village, north-east of El Geneina, reported that gunmen riding in two vehicles attacked their village on Wednesday evening. Two villagers were killed and their shops were plundered. A source from Manjowa village, north of El Geneina, said that gunmen on motorcycles killed Ezo Ibrahim, and fled.

The Sudanese Red Crescent Society stated on Thursday that it transported 48 bodies to the morgue of El Geneina Hospital on Wednesday. They counted 241 injured.

Red Crescent Society staff took 55 injured people to El Geneina Hospital on Wednesday. 19 others were transported in a critical condition to El Geneina Airport and from there to better equipped hospitals in Khartoum. First aid was provided in the field to 167 wounded.

“The events began on Saturday, December 28, when members of the Rapid Support Forces and janjaweed militiamen gathered near the camps with all their arms, and with the knowledge of the state authorities.”  - El Geneina Crisis Committee

‘Orchestrated operation’

Commenting on the facts of the violence and the reasons for its outbreak, the El Geneina Crisis Management Committee condemned the violence in El Geneina with the strongest terms.

It demanded Sudan’s Sovereign Council and Council of Ministers to conduct a transparent and fair investigation, hold the perpetrators accountable, and be fair in dealing with the grievances.

The committee accused the West Darfur authorities of being complicit. “The West Darfur government did not do anything to protect the unarmed displaced, but rather left them to the brutality of militiamen.

“The events began on Saturday, December 28, when members of the Rapid Support Forces and janjaweed* militiamen gathered near the camps with all their arms, and with the knowledge of the state authorities.” 

The Crisis Committee called the events of El Geneina “no ordinary clashes”, but described them as “a continuation of systematic crimes in an orchestrated operation intended to reproduce the genocide that started in the region in 2003.

“Its purpose is to block the road to a peace agreement and peaceful coexistence among the people living in the state,” the committee stated, strongly denying claims “by some parties” that “the violence is part of regular incidents”.

Cartoon by Omar Dafallah, January 1, 2020

According to the committee, “Peace can only be achieved in West Darfur by restoring the Rule of Law in the state, replacing its police and army chiefs, and removing members of the former regime said to be behind the events and related to janjaweed militiamen.

The members of a fact-finding committee about the violent events took oath in front of Attorney General El Hibir on Thursday. In a press statement, he urged them “to conduct a fair investigation with complete impartiality to clarify what happened”.

‘Effective contribution’

Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok arrived in El Geneina on Wednesday, accompanied by Sovereign Council member Hasan Sheikh, Minister of Justice Dr Nasreldin Abdelbari, Attorney General Tajelsir El Hibir, Chief of Staff Mohamed Osman, General Director of the Police Force Adil Bashayer, and Director General of the Intelligence Service Abubakr Dumbalab.

Hamdok and Hemeti held a meeting yesterday with native administration leaders and notables of tribes that did not participate in the bloody incidents on Sunday and Monday.

They discussed the security situation in West Darfur and possibilities to restore security and stability in El Geneina locality.

After the meeting, the PM described the vision presented by the West Darfur leaders, “major and important components of the state’s communities”, to reporters in El Geneina as “good”.

He explained that they agreed to play the role of mediator between the two parties involved in the events. The native administration leaders promised “to contribute effectively, together with the other components, to a solution that satisfies everyone, as soon as possible”.

Hamdok also met with leaders of the Forces for Freedom and Change in West Darfur. They accused the acting military governor of financial and administrative abuses.

The PM requested them “to effectively contribute to peace and stability” in the region.

Peace talks

On Monday, the Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel alliance in the South Sudanese capital of Juba, where peace talks are being held between the Sudanese government and armed movement, responded to the events by suspending negotiations on the Darfur track. They said they hold the government in Khartoum responsible, and will only return to the negotiation table after a proper investigation into the violence.


* The janjaweed are members of ‘Arab’ herders tribes that inhabit Darfur, and North and West Kordofan. Some of the Janjaweed members come from Chad, Niger, Mali, or Cameroon. The Sudanese regime of Omar Al Bashir, ousted in April 11 last year, recruited them to fight armed movements in the region since in February 2003, when rebels stood up against Khartoum, accusing them of oppressing the non-‘Arab’ population in Darfur. In reality, the janjaweed targeted villages of ‘African’ Darfuris, with full government backing. They rarely came near strongholds of the rebel movements.

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