Geneva / Darfur — A surge in inter-communal attacks in West, South and North Darfur states last month forced more people to flee their homes in three days than in the whole of 2020 in Sudan, and the numbers continue to rise, according to a report published last week by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC)* based in Geneva, Switzerland.
The report refers to the violence that erupted - as extensively reported by Radio Dabanga - between armed militias from the Massalit and Arab communities between 15 and 18 January, triggering about 183,000 new displacements. Most took place in El Geneina in West Darfur, but displacement was also recorded in Gereida and East Jebel Marra in South Darfur and Tawila in North Darfur.
Around 60 per cent of those displaced are under 18, the report asserts. Displacement sites are overcrowded and people are reported to be sleeping under trees. Urgent humanitarian assistance in the form of food, drinking water, sanitation and hygiene is required.
"Darfur is on the verge of sliding back into conflict," warns IDMC's director, Alexandra Bilak. "The scale of the ongoing violence in West and South Darfur, with reports of attacks by Janjaweed militias, has already set tens of thousands of people on the road. Considering the long history of protracted displacement in Sudan and the few incentives for return, there is little hope that the people fleeing will be going home anytime soon."
Displacement has declined in recent years in Sudan, but many of its triggers remain unaddressed. Ethnic disputes between herders and farmers over scarce resources overlap with disasters such as flooding and political instability.
'Darfur is on the verge of sliding back into conflict' - IDMC' director Alexandra Bilak
Former rebel leaders were appointed as ministers in a new transitional government this month, but several armed groups did not sign the 2020 agreement and any peace remains fragile.
This latest wave of violence comes shortly after the mandate of the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) ended on 31 December and a new mission called the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) was launched.
"This mission and the government now have a major task to work together towards addressing the causes of inter-communal disputes and prevent further escalations of violence and displacement," says Bilak.
Sudan's successive conflicts gave rise to one of the world's largest displacement crises, when the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) peaked in 2005 at 6.1 million, including those displaced in areas that are now part of South Sudan. Sudan was still home to at least 2.1 million IDPs in early 2020. This reflects the continued insecurity and the many obstacles displaced people face in their pursuit of durable solutions.
*The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre provides data and analysis and supports partners to identify and implement solutions to internal displacement.