According to the United Nations, at least 56 people have been killed in four days of violence in Sudan’s West Darfur area, with gunfire reported in the city of El Geneina.
Thousands of people are fleeing the war, which has resulted in the destruction of a power plant in El-Geneina, at least one rocket-propelled grenade hitting a main hospital, and another crashing into a UN compound, according to the UN.
“The number of deaths has risen to 56 and more have been injured,” the UN humanitarian coordination office said, with clashes pitting Arab groups against the non-Arab Massalit people.
“People are fleeing into neighbouring Chad,” it added.
Beginning in mid-January, a conflict between the Massalit and Arab groups erupted, causing over 100,000 people to leave their homes.
Residents in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur and close to the Chadian border, have recorded days of combat, including gunfire and shelling.
“On 6 April, shooting continues to be heard across the town,” the UN said. “The local power station was destroyed last night and there is no electricity”.
On Monday, the government declared a state of emergency and sent troops to West Darfur.
“This recent round of inter-communal violence further deteriorates an already dire situation for vulnerable people,” the UN added.
The United Nations announced that flights and aid operations to the region, which is a major humanitarian center, have been halted, affecting an estimated 700,000 people.
Two government helicopters, however, flew in from Khartoum, the capital, to evacuate the injured.
Mohamed Abdel Rahman, a resident of El-Geneina, said the shooting lasted about an hour on Tuesday morning.
“There was calm overnight, but this morning we heard gunfire,” he said.
According to the UN, the vast Darfur region was devastated by a civil war that erupted in 2003, killing about 300,000 people and displacing 2.5 million people.
It erupted when ethnic minority rebels rose up against the Arab-dominated government of dictator Omar al-Bashir.
Khartoum retaliated by forming the Janjaweed, a notorious Arab-dominated militia drawn from the region’s nomadic tribes.
The dispute has dwindled over the years, with the most recent in a series of peace agreements signed in October.
However, the country is awash with automatic weapons as a result of years of war. Clashes continue to erupt, often over land and water.
Residents who were displaced during the war’s worst years are returning to find their homes occupied by others.
Similar clashes killed more than 200 people in January, just two weeks after a joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission ended operations, mostly in West Darfur.
Sudan is in the midst of a difficult transitional era following the ouster of long-time President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 as a result of widespread anti-government protests.
In Sudan’s major conflict areas, including Darfur, the transitional government has pressed for peace with rebel groups.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN