Scores dead, thousands displaced in West Darfur as Sudanese accuse 'Janjaweed' and 'paramilitaries'

Scores dead, thousands displaced in West Darfur as Sudanese accuse 'Janjaweed' and 'paramilitaries'
As many as 80 people have been killed in violence in West Darfur allegedly perpetrated by state-allied militias.
4 min read
03 January, 2020
At least 48 people have been killed, according to the Sudanese Red Crescent [Twitter]
Attacks on displaced persons camps and villages in Sudan's West Darfur state have killed as many as 80 people and displaced thousands, according to local organisations.

The violence reportedly broke out on Sunday after a fight in the Kerendig IDP camp in El-Geneina, capital of West Darfur state, which ended with a man from the African Masalit tribe stabbing another from the Arab Maaliya tribe, provoking a spiral of clashes eyewitnesses say is reminscent of the beginning of the Darfur conflict in 2003.

While early media reports describe the ongoing incidents as "tribal clashes", locals allege state-supported militants are the main perpetrators of the violence and have accused the local government of complicity.

At least 48 people have been killed and 241 people have been injured so far, according to the Sudanese Red Crescent.

The aid organisation has also said that 8,111 families have been forced to flee their homes in the Kerendig camp and the villages of Hashaba, Mouli and Habila, according to Radio Dabanga, an independent Sudanese media outlet based out of the Netherlands.

A local crisis committee formed in the wake of the violence alleges the death toll is higher.

More than 80 people have been killed and at least 190 others injured, the High-level Crisis Management Committee for the Events in El-Geneina and the Kerending Camp said on Thursday.

The committee has also alleged widespread looting, with thousands of lifestock and hundreds of vehicles reportedly stolen. The perpetrators are also accused of burning down much of the Kerendig camp.

Unverified photos distributed on social media show scenes including the burned remains of buildings, a charred body and several corpses wrapped in cloth.

The violence in El-Geneina has far-reaching consequences. 

Read more: Little hope for change among Sudanese refugees fleeing violence in Darfur

Sudan's transitional government has pledged a peace deal with rebel groups from the country's three conflict-ridden zones - Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan - within months.

Peace talks with rebel groups from Darfur held in the South Sudanese capital Juba were briefly suspended earlier this week over the violence in El-Geneina.

Continuing violence across the country, some of it allegedly perpetrated by government paramilitaries and state-armed militants, casts a shadow on hopes for sustainable peace.

'A continuation of systematic crimes'

The El-Geneina crisis committee has voiced accusations that have been widespread on Sudanese social media over the past week.

Activists have accused the West Darfur state government of complicity in the violence by failing to send police or security forces to the aid of those facing attacks and looting.

Furthermore, activists allege that the culprits behind the violence in El-Geneina are the Janjaweed and Sudan's paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Read more: One year after Bashir's downfall, Sudan's revolutionaries sleep with one eye open

The Janjaweed are Arab tribesman who were organised into militias and armed by the Sudanese government during the Darfur conflict, during which they were accused of war crimes and genocide. 

The RSF are an officialised offshoot of those militias that have been tasked with fighting insurgencies across the country and policing Sudan's borders. The paramilitaries have also been accused of rights abuses and crimes against humanity.

"The events began on Saturday, 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 El-Geneina crisis committee said according to Radio Dabanga.

"The West Darfur government did not do anything to protect the unarmed displaced, but rather left them to the brutality of militiamen."

It added that the incidents were not "ordinary clashes" but "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 said.

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