KHARTOUM (AFP) – At least 17 civilians have been killed in Sudan’s Darfur region, officials said yesterday, in the latest violence between rival ethnic groups that has left dozens dead this week alone.
Recent fighting has seen heavily armed forces battle in the rugged Jebel Moon mountains in West Darfur state, close to the border with Chad.
On Thursday, fighting killed 17 people and also left “dozens of injured and missing” as well as “four villages completely burned”, said spokesman for the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur Adam Regal, an independent aid organisation.
In fighting from last Sunday to Monday, 16 people were killed in clashes between the Masalit – a non-Arab people of largely settled farmers – and Arab groups of herders in Jebel Moon, according to a independent union of medics.
Darfur was ravaged by a civil war that erupted in 2003, pitting ethnic minority rebels who complained of discrimination against the government of then-president Omar al-Bashir.
Khartoum responded by unleashing the Janjaweed militia, who were blamed for atrocities including murder, rape, looting and burning villages. The scorched-earth campaign left 300,000 people dead and displaced 2.5 million, according to the United Nations (UN).
The region remains awash with weapons and deadly clashes erupt, often over access to pasture or water.
Regal accused the Janjaweed – many of whom have since joined the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, now integrated into government security forces – of taking part in recent fighting.
The latest peace deal was signed in 2020, but since a military coup in October, Darfur has seen violence spike, with hundreds killed since the takeover in fighting between herders and farmers. Regal warned that “new attacks could occur”.
Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide in Darfur, was ousted in April 2019 and jailed after mass protests against his three-decade rule.
But the latest clashes reflect a broader security breakdown in Darfur following last year’s military coup led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Khartoum, which derailed a transition to full civilian rule negotiated between military and civilian leaders.
In Darfur, the surge in violence has also seen rapes, the burning of villages, as well as UN bases being looted.