West Darfur violence: Death toll rises to 163 while situation remains unstable

According to the West Darfur Doctors Committee, the number of victims from the El Geneina massacre has risen to 163 after a severely injured person died and another body was found. The RSF claims that peace has been restored in the area but many are still displaced and unrest, instability, and protests remain present.

The attacks in, and around, the capital of West Darfur have now cost the lives of at least 163 and left more than 100,000 people displaced in attacks by Arab herdsmen on El Geneina and nearby camps for the displaced on January 16 and 17.

In a separate statement yesterday, the committee of the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) in West Darfur announced its continued commitment and support for the Governor of West Darfur, Mohamed El Doma. It also stressed that it was the FFC who enabled him to become a state official.

The committee also stated that the state apparatus was ‘impartial and dealt with all people equally’ and that it is necessary to punish all those who contributed to this violence and ensure that there will be no impunity.

Additionally, the committee voiced its rejection of ‘‘tribal speech’’ and of the state’s imposition to protect the lives and property of civilians. They added that the conflict in El Geneina is “a political struggle supported by elements of the former regime who have taken advantage of tribal divisions”.

The FFC called on humanitarian organisations and relevant government agencies to provide urgent humanitarian aid to all those affected by the conflict.

The West Darfur authorities have relocated all the judges from El Geneina and converted their homes into shelters for the new displaced. They have also imposed restrictions on journalists travelling to Darfur because of the recent security situation.

The investigation committee set up by the senior public prosecutor explained that it was unable to start work because of the current instability. However, the Commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Central Darfur, also responsible for strengthening security in West Darfur, Brig Gen Ali Yagoub, said that the security situation in El Geneina has stabilised and that life has gradually returned to normal.

In a press statement, Yagoub said that the RSF secured the city and surroundins with the help of the army and the police. Numerous forces are on their way to West Darfur to support his troops. The paramilitaries of the RSF have also secured the road linking Central Darfur with West Darfur to ensure the regular flow of transport and communication between Zalingei and El Geneina.

He also called on protestors who are preventing access to water resources in the area to cease their activities immediately.

Protests, tribal tensions

Yesterday, Governor El Doma closed El Geneina Airport because Arab tribesmen are blocking the road in protest against the policies of the West Darfur authorities. The tribesmen also continued a sit-in they set up in the city on Sunday.

The protestors demand the dismissal of El Doma and the return of their displaced relatives to their villages. Sources say they do not have confidence in the West Darfur government, security forces, and police.

It is important to note that West Darfur is home to the Masalit, a non-Arab sedentary tribe, and the governor and local government employees belong to this tribe.

The excessive violence in El Geneina was triggered by the killing of an Arab herdsman by a member of the Masalit. Though the perpetrator was arrested, the relatives of the victim sought revenge by themselves. In the early morning of Janyary 16, large groups of Arab tribesmen attacked El Geneina and the two Kerending camps “from all directions”. In the violence that continued the nexts days, at least 163 people were killed.

The protesting Arab tribesmen are reportedly also angry because the governor claimed that the Arab tribesmen who attacked the city and the camps were supported by groups from North and Central Darfur and from the border area with Chad.

Jebel Marra violence

In East Jebel Marra, South Darfur, the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdelwahid El Nur (SLM-AW) reported an attack on the areas of Deribat and Kebe on Sunday morning. Three rebel fighters were killed.

Walid Mohamed, the SLM-AW’s military spokesperson, said in a statement that the attackers came in four-wheel-drive vehicles, and on camels and horses, and “targeted unarmed civilians”.

He also said that they plundered property, stole livestock, and burnt a number of villages, forcing hundreds of people to flee to areas controlled by the SLM-AW.

The rebel combatants confronted the attackers “as part of their duty to protect civilians” which led to “heavy losses and damaged equipment”.

Last month, the SLM-AW accused the RSF and forces from an SLM breakaway splinter group of launching an attack on Douri in Jebel Marra. Douri is an area under the control of the SLM-AW. The attackers reportedly rode on horses and camels, and wore civilian clothing.

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