Radio Dabanga (Hilversum)

Sudan: 25 Villages Burnt, Random Killings - Clashes in North Darfur Go On

Photo: IRIN
Armed men in Darfur (file photo).

Jebel 'Amer — The commissioner of al-Sref Beni Hussein locality, North Darfur, confirmed that the clashes initiated in Jebel 'Amer four days ago left 25 villages burnt, 30 people killed and hundreds of displaced so far.

Hussein Haroun told Radio Dabanga on Wednesday that the conflicting parties, who are responsible for the violence in the region, have received backup from communities from Central, South, West and parts of North Darfur.

The operations of these groups against citizens are "well-coordinated", the commissioner explained. He added that these "undisciplined people" are not based on any specific areas and are "killing and burning at random".

Initial reports suggested that at least 60.000 gold explorers fled the gold mining area of Jebel 'Amer after fierce clashes erupted between the Arab tribes of Abbala and Beni Hussein on Monday.

The day after, Radio Dabanga reported that at least 20 villages had been burnt and that the fighting appeared to have expanded further than the gold mine area of Jebel 'Amer. Figures of the number of dead and wounded remain unclear.

In light of the events, the commissioner announced the formation of a committee in al-Sref Hussein city that will provide assistance to those affected by the violence arriving in the town.

He described the situation as "unfortunate" and appealed to all parties to show restraint, halt the hostilities and to move to the negotiating table to resolve the issue.

"Defuse the crisis"

The commissioner told Radio Dabanga that he raised the matter to the governor of North Darfur and to a number of civil administrations during a meeting they held on Wednesday. Present at this meeting were also different parties from Kabkabiya and Saraf Omra.

During the summit, they all discussed how to "defuse the crisis", cease hostilities and stop the "bloodshed" and decided to plan a conference in the coming weeks to resolve these issues.

Hussein stressed that all current efforts are focused on how to halt the clashes and aggressions.

Khartoum committee

Speaking to Radio Dabanga from Saraf Omra, Mohammed Issa Aliyu, member of the native administration committee, confirmed that violence continued for a fourth consecutive day in the region and appealed to the conflicting parties to cease hostilities.

He reported that a 13-people delegation from Khartoum, composed of Beni Hussein and Rizegat (representing Abbala) members arrived on Wednesday in Kabkabiya. The delegation was scheduled to travel on the same day to Saraf Omra.

The leaders would meet with the governors of North and Central Darfur, Osman Kibir and Yousif Tibin respectively, in addition to the commissioner of Saraf Omra locality and with native administrators of West and Central Darfur.

According to Aliyu, the purpose of these gatherings was to decide how many committees must be formed in order to resolve the situation in the region and immediately halt the hostilities.

Following their meetings, the parties decided that groups would travel through the affected area for two days, starting on Thursday, and would speak to the combatants. It was also decided that the committee would focus mostly in the eastern and western parts of al-Sref Beni Hussein.

Lastly, the team is calling on government troops to move to Jebel 'Amer, rescue the wounded, bury the dead and provide food, water, medicine and shelter to those who were displaced.

Government nowhere to be seen

Several eyewitnesses also spoke to Radio Dabanga on Wednesday about the tensions surrounding Jebel 'Amer.

According to them, fighting is still ongoing amid the large-scale displacement of thousands of people in "extremely bad humanitarian conditions". Equally to previous testimonies, the government is "nowhere to be seen".

They also reported that "heavily armed" Abbala men aboard Land Cruisers burned more villages on Wednesday; some of them are located "a stone's throw away" from al-Sref Beni Hussein town.

Witnesses from the locality's capital confirmed the claims above to Radio Dabanga and said the villages that were recently set on fire are called El-Hariga, Waijabag Allah and Jiruah village. The latter is located "extremely close" to al-Sref Beni Hussein town, they said.

All of them described the situation as "serious".

Central Darfur

Sources speaking to Radio Dabanga from Central Darfur claimed seeing "hundreds of border guards and other militias traveling on a heavily armed convoy" on Tuesday and Wednesday, along with others riding horses or camels.

Eyewitnesses believe they would likely take part in the fighting between Abbala and Ben Hussein tribesmen.

A number of sources from the northern border areas of Central Darfur, located near al-Sref Beni Hussein, reportedly heard sounds of gunshots and mortars throughout the whole day on Wednesday.

Besides, large clouds of smoke were rising from different parts where the clashes are ongoing and residents from neighboring villages were seemingly packing their belongings and abandoning their homes, sources recounted.

Students protest

Students from the Khartoum University took the streets on Wednesday to protest against policies of the National Congress Party (NCP).

One of these policies includes arming tribes, which resulted in the war in al-Sref Beni Hussein. The other includes engaging Rizeigat tribes near the country's southern border to fight against South Sudan in the Samaha area, East Darfur.

A student activist from the Darfur Student Association told Radio Dabanga he addressed a crowd of undergraduates at the Khartoum University and denounced the situation in Darfur.

The crowd was joined by student unions from the Nuba Mountains and from El-Manasir (north of Sudan), who also condemned the "policies and tribalism" of the NCP.

During the same event, students told Radio Dabanga that 15 elements entered the Khartoum University and declared they belonged to the terrorist organization al-Qaeda.

They said that the security services were aware of the declarations but none of them tried arresting the group.

One of the sources said the self-declared al-Qaeda members had long, thick beards and long hair and were wearing "shorter trousers". The source told Radio Dabanga he did not think these 15 men were students.

Next, the group of students headed towards a souq (market) in the city center and was dispersed by the security services. They reportedly fired tear gas and beat students with batons.

LJM

The Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) expressed its regret about the hostilities in al-Sref Beni Hussein and appealed to all parties to put an end to the clashes and to the "bloodshed".

Ahmed Fadel, LJM spokesman, blamed the central and North Darfur governments for the fighting and for the lives that were lost.

He criticized the government for its "lack of action" and warned the situation is getting out of control as the conflict is starting to spread to other states of Darfur.

Displaced and refugees

Omda Ahmed Ateem, North Darfur camps' coordinator, appealed to all parties to stop fighting immediately and expressed his regret for the lost lives.

Speaking also on behalf of refugees, Ateem told Radio Dabanga that the war in al-Sref Beni Hussein is "destroying the Darfur community".

"War is not in the interest of the people of Darfur, but it is a fundamental interest of the NCP who armed the tribes so that Darfuris would kill each other", the coordinator said.

Ateem claimed that the Arabs who are now fighting come originally from Darfur.

He appealed to all native committees of North Darfur, especially the Arab ones, to go to al-Sref Beni Hussein and help stop the war.

The coordinator urged UNAMID to move immediately to the Jebel 'Amer region and protect all sides of the conflicting parties. He added the mission should not wait for government authorities as they have "no interest" in what is going on in the area.

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Armed men in Darfur (file photo).

Fighting between ethnic groups in North Darfur has displaced more than 100 000 families since clashes started about a week ago. Read more »