Jebel 'Amer — At least 60 000 gold explorers fled the gold mining area of Jebel 'Amer, North Darfur, after fierce clashes erupted between the Arab tribes of Abbala and Beni Hussein, killing dozens over the weekend.
Local sources told Radio Dabanga that Jebel 'Amer is virtually empty, as the tens of thousands of workers it houses, who stem from all over Darfur, are now heading by foot to Kabkabiya and Saraf Omra.
The fighting initially broke out on Saturday, 5 January and continued through Sunday and Monday, witnesses affirmed.
According to one of the versions of the fighting heard by Radio Dabanga, two members belonging to the Abbala and Beni Hussein tribes clashed each other and their fellow tribesmen called extra parties for support. Tensions became more violent once the back-ups of both sides arrived at the scene carrying heavy weapons.
Next, armed Beni Hussein tribesmen surrounded the gold mine at about 11:00pm on Saturday and ordered all workers to leave the site if they did not want to die, one of the victims recounted.
One of the fleeing workers called the situation "difficult" and said that the fighting parties looted the local market and gold miners, adding that not even those traveling by foot were spared. Some of those fleeing are sick and the elders are no longer able to walk, the source completed.
He claimed hearing gunfire shots coming from the direction of the mine and asserted seeing "a large number of vehicles mounted with weapons", which belongs to the Abbala, tribe heading towards the mine.
According to them man, the clashes in Jebel 'Amer arose because on Saturday Beni Hussein members asked miners to stop working in the area, claiming the soil belonged to them. The day after, the tribesmen surrounded the mine and started firing random shots at the workers, forcing all 60.000 of them to flee, without any food or water.
The source confirmed seeing bodies of gold explorers lying on the ground near the mine. He also saw 18 Land Cruisers of the Abbala tribe driving in the direction of the excavation area.
"Thousands on the run"
Radio Dabanga spoke with witnesses from Saraf Omra and Kabkabiya, who confirmed the arrival of thousands of people fleeing Jebel 'Amer to both areas. Nevertheless, they asserted that "thousands are still on the run".
About 10.000 people have arrived in Kabkabiya, local witnesses told Radio Dabanga. They said the gold miners were welcomed by the local population, who is providing them with some assistance in collaboration with a national NGO. Some of the workers are staying in the local stadium while others are staying in public areas.
In the meantime, at least 2.000 people have arrived in Saraf Omra and they are now staying at the headquarters of the locality, sources reported.
Sources from Saraf Omra and Kabkabiya stated that hospitals in both cities are "packed" with wounded from the clashes.
They appealed to local authorities to bring assistance to those on the run, as they lost everything, and provide them shelters and assistance in both Saraf Omra and Kabkabiya.
One of the gold explorers is urging local and state authorities to accelerate the provision of aid for those fleeing, as all of their belongings were looted.
Aicha Elbasri, UNAMID's spokesperson, confirmed to Radio Dabanga that the mission "received reports of fighting between Beni Hussein and Aula Daja nomadic tribes that took place on 5 and 6 January in Jabel Amer area, North Darfur."
"A number of casualties were reported as a result of fighting over gold mining revenues. Some of the injured persons are receiving medical treatment at UNAMID hospital in Kabkabiya, as well as Kabkabiya and Saraf Umra hospitals. Efforts are being made to quell tension", she reported.
The security committee of North Darfur has "strongly condemned" the events that Jebel 'Amer has been witnessing since Saturday morning. It confirmed the deaths of 11 people and the injury of others.
In a statement from Monday evening, the security committee asserted the clashes began because of a dispute between two individuals of the "Arab Abbala and Arab Beni Hussein", which then escalated.
The committee assured that, together with the North Darfur government, it is taking "major actions" to keep the area under control.
On Sunday, Osman Kibir, North Darfur's governor, confirmed the occurrence of the fighting in Jebel 'Amer and announced he sent armed forces to simmer the tensions in the region.
However, he said that because the area counts between 60 and 70 thousand gold explorers, "many more troops would be necessary to subdue the conflict".
Nevertheless, the security committee asserted that the military "is in control of the area" as of Monday, while acknowledging it would still chase down the perpetrators.
The security committee of North Darfur claims to have recently arrived in Jebel 'Amer to assess how the situation can be contained and to "calm down the people". In addition, emergency centers have been set up by the committee in the localities of Saraf Omra, Kabkabiya and al-Sref Beni Hussein, in order to "administrate the crowd".
"All procedures are being taken to guarantee the tranquility of the town and nearby villages" the statement read, adding that "assistance to all of these in need in the area" will be provided.
The committee assured it is looking for solutions to the situation together with UNAMID. It also assured that the injured persons are being transferred to hospitals in Saraf Omra, Kabkabiya and al-Sref Beni Hussein, adding that they are also working to transfer others to El-Fasher.
Lastly, it announced that all measures are being taken to arrest the perpetrators and to avoid incidents from continuing to take place in the area of Jebel 'Amer.