Sudanese Bury Victims of Darfur Violence as Troops Deploy

Massacre highlights the country's ongoing plight with endemic violence, as it transitions to democracy

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok meets newly appointed governors across Sudan in the capital Khartoum on July 26, 2020
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok meets newly appointed governors across Sudan in the capital Khartoum on July 26, 2020Credit: ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

Sudanese in the western Darfur region on Monday buried their dead from the latest bout of violence, an aid worker said, after more than 60 people were killed over the past two days and as the country's transitional authorities deployed more security forces in an effort to halt the clashes.

Among those killed were nine women, aid worker al-Shafei Abdalla told The Associated Press. Videos circulated online Monday showing people digging graves while bodies were prepared for burial.

The clashes between Arab tribes started Saturday and lasted until late Sunday, as around 400 armed men attacked the village of Masteri in the West Darfur province near the border with Chad, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which provided the casualty figures. More than 60 others were also wounded, and several houses in the village were looted and burned down.

The attack on Masteri was the latest in a series of clashes that threaten to derail Sudan's fragile transition to democracy. After a popular uprising led Sudan's military to overthrow longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, a military-civilian government is to hold power until elections are held, possibly in late 2022.

Sudan’s Security and Defense Council, which includes top military and civilian leaders, met late Sunday in the capital of Khartoum. The council ordered an urgent deployment of troops to the region and other parts in the country to “achieve security and stability,” said Interior Minister Lt. Gen. al-Tarifi Idris.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, a longtime UN economist, said a joint force from the military and police would be deployed to safeguard the agricultural season across the Darfur region, where about 2.8 million people are estimated to be severely food insecure from June to September, according to the OCHA.

The attacks on Masteri came in the middle of the agricultural season, increasing humanitarian needs in the region. The cause of the clashes remained unclear, but violence often takes place during the agricultural season in Darfur. Last week, local authorities imposed a 24-hour curfew in Genena, the provincial capital of West Darfur province.

Irfan Siddiq, the British ambassador in Sudan, called the latest attacks in the Darfur region “shocking.”

“Horrific numbers of people killed. Protection of civilians in Darfur remains urgent, and peace agreement must priorities this,” Siddiq tweeted Monday, referring to the peace talks between the transitional authorities and the country’s rebels.

The violence poses a challenge to government efforts to end decades-long rebellions in areas like Darfur, where most people live in camps for the displaced and refugees. The Darfur region remains scarred by war after a rebellion against al-Bashir in the early 2000s was brutally suppressed.

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