11 August 2013

Sudan: More Than 100 Killed in Tribal Conflict in South Darfur

Photo: Olivier Chassot/United Nations
People displaced by fighting between government forces and rebels.

Khartoum — More than 100 people were killed in violent clashes on Saturday between two Arab tribes over land and cattle in Sudan's East Darfur state, the two sides said but local and national authorities kept silent.

Conflict between the Rizeigat and the Maalia , two pastoralists tribes, broke out on Sunday around a pasturage area located north of Al Da'ain the state capital. Both groups claim that Kilaikil area as part of their territory.

The conflict escalated after the Maalia claimed that five of their men were killed by members of the Rizeigat during the first week of August.

In retaliation for the alleged attack, members of the Maalia tribe raided the Rizeigat area on 6 August, seizing some 400 head of cattle. As the Rizeigat mobilized themselves to launch counter attacks on Maalia camps north of Kelaikil, community leaders intervened to calm the situation and a settlement was reached with the Maalia for the return of the cattle.

However, the UK-based Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO UK) reported that the planned handover of cattle on Saturday never took place and later that same day armed Rizeigat attacked Maalia camps in Almigailid, north of Kilaikil and Dar al-Salam, east of Al Da'ain.

Some 36 Rizeigat and 77 Maalia were reportedly killed during the fighting, while another 150 Rizeigat and 50 Maalia were injured. SUDO UK said there are fears the fighting may escalate further, leading to more death and injuries. It has called on both tribal groups to immediately order a ceasefire to allow community leaders and elders from each side to effect a temporary reconciliation.

"Above all civilians, especially the women and children from both sides should be protected", said SUDO UK chairperson Mudawi Ibrahim Adam.

Both the Rizeigat and the Maalia are pastoralist tribes, based in East Darfur. The centre of Rizeigat territory is in Al Da'ain town, the capital of East Darfur, while the Maalia centre is in Adila, the second largest town after Al Da'ain.

Tribal fighting, which become the major source of insecurity in Darfur since the beginning of the year, forced over 300,000 people to flee their area.

In a report to the UN Security Council, the hybrid peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) dedicated three pages to give un account about the tribal clashes which are generally over land ownership.

Also, observer agree that these clashes occur between two tribes that fought rebel groups in the past and have strong militias or a tribal militia against a neutral tribe. But in all the cases, militias are involved in these conflicts.

Analysts also underline that the emergence of strong militias eroded the authority of tribal leaders as they can no longer challenge the militia chiefs who have money and means provided by the army and security services.

Different officials in Darfur including the head of the regional authority Tijani El-Sissi said that tribal violence is a big threat to the ongoing efforts to implement a peace document signed by two former rebel groups in the region.

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