US condemns deadly violence in West Darfur, calls for urgent Sudan peace agreement

US condemns deadly violence in West Darfur, calls for urgent Sudan peace agreement
At least 65 people have been killed and around 30,000 displaced, according to UNAMID and UNOCHA.
4 min read
04 January, 2020
Activists have accused the local government of complicity in the violence [Getty]
The United States has condemned recent bloody violence against civilians in Sudan's West Darfur state and called on armed groups and the country's transitional government to return to peace negotiations.

"We call on all leaders to refrain from using these terrible events for political or negotiating advantage and to recommit themselves to the peace process," State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement on Friday.

At least 65 people have been killed in and around El-Geneina, capital of West Darfur state, since violence broke out a week ago, the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said on Friday. A local crisis committee formed in the wake of the violence puts that toll higher, at more than 80 dead.

Some 30,000 people have been displaced, according to the UNOCHA.

The intercommunal clashes are some of the worst witnessed in recent years that activists say are reminscent of the beginning of the Darfur conflict in 2003.

While early reports described the violence as "tribal clashes" between members of the African Masalit and Arab Maaliya tribes, eyewitnesses and activists have accused the state government of complicity in the scale of the violence.

Arab militiamen raided a camp for displaced people in El-Geneina, as well as at least three villages near the city, residents say.

Furthermore, activists allege that the culprits behind the violence in El-Geneina are the Janjaweed - Arab militias formed and armed by the government during the Darfur conflict - and Sudan's paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), an officialised offshoot of those militias.

The State Department did not confront those allegations in its statement, instead referring to "armed clashes" between tribes.

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

"The United States condemns the recent ethnic violence in El-Geneina... and welcomes the transitional government's quick deployment of additional security forces," Ortagus said.

"This tragedy demonstrates, yet again, the need for armed opposition groups and the Sudanese transitional government to conclude negotiations towards a sustainable peace, and to begin the arduous task of returning stability and security to Darfur and other conflict-affected regions in Sudan," she added.

Khartoum launched peace negotiations with rebel groups from the country's three conflict-ridden zones - Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan - in October.

The talks, based in the South Sudanese capital Juba, yielded an initial framework agreement for further discussions between the transitional government and rebel factions from Darfur last month, but have since stalled over the violence in El-Geneina.

The clashes have highlighted the fragility of the peace talks and have called into question a disarmament campaign launched in September by Sovereign Council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

Under the campaign, no one outside of the armed forces is allowed to own a weapon in Darfur. 

"The clashes highlight the need for comprehensive security sector reform, as well as prudent disarmament of tribal militias, as soon as the peace negotiations are concluded," Ortagus said on Friday.

The High-level Crisis Management Committee for the Events in El-Geneina and the Kerending Camp, formed by locals in the wake of the clashes, has alleged the West Darfur government "did not do anything to protect the unarmed displaced", but rather "left them to the brutality of militiamen".

Calling the violence a "continuation of systematic crimes... that started in the region in 2003", the committee alleged the clashes were "orchestrated" to "block the road to a peace agreement and peaceful coexistence among the people living in the state".

Other areas of Sudan have witnessed intercommunal clashes since the overthrow of former dictator Omar al-Bashir in April last year.

Clashes between the Beni Amer and Nuba on Thursday and Friday this week have killed at least eight people, the Central Committee for Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) said.

Violence between the two ethnic groups killed at least 16 people last year.

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