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On January 16, the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan confirmed the biggest forced displacement in Darfur in recent years.
Since January 5, the surge of violence between the Rezeigat Abbala and Beni Hussein tribes has killed more than 100 people and forced an estimated 100,000 to flee. First, a dispute over the rich, gold mining area of Jebel Amer in North Darfur led to clashes between the tribes. Additionally, the capital city of Al-Sref Beni Hussein was taken and held under siege by Abbala gunmen. Finally, ongoing fighting between government forces and rebels in the restive Jebel Marra has forced some 30,000 people to flee since late December.
Gold mine sparks renewed violence in Jebel Amer
The Jebel Amer is a gold mining area in the Al-Sireaf locality of North Darfur. The Sudanese Ministry of Minerals has confirmed the existence of 4,000 gold mines in this region, which produce 15 tons of gold per year and attract foreign investments. Recently, a land dispute between members of the Arab tribes of Rezeigat Abbala and Beni Hussein sparked violence in Jebel Amer. The two tribal groups called for support and received backup from communities from across the Darfur region, spreading the conflict to other areas.
According to Radio Dabanga, at least 60,000 workers fled the region in the first two days of clashes that started on January 5. Reports from January 9 suggested that a total of 25 villages have been set on fire as a result of coordinated violence. On 13 and 14 January, UNAMID deployed a team, consisting of civilians, military, and police personnel to investigate the situation in the affected areas. The team found evidence of mass displacement due to clashes between the two tribes.
Capital under siege
On January 10, armed men from the Rezeigat Abbala tribe enclosed the capital of Al-Sref Beni Hussein locality and burned at least 25 villages in a continuation of the tribal clash that began on January 5. On the same day, local citizens reported witnessing members of Abbala closing down vital roads that lead to the capital, including the ones between Al-Sref Beni Hussein and Saraf Omra. The closing of roads “severely affected the provision of food as al-Sref Beni Hussein is completely inaccessible.” The displaced people are living on the streets, valleys, and by creeks because schools and government institutions are full and unable to accommodate everyone. The residents of Saraf Omra and of Al-Sref Beni Hussein are facing a sharp shortage of food, fuel, and water, according to Radio Dabanga.
Osman Kibir, governor of North Darfur issued a decision to send out troops to al-Sref Beni Hussein in order to “stabilize the situation and enforce the rule of law.” Security authorities and members of the state’s government arrived at the locality to meet with different parties including all native administrations, delegations of the five states of Darfur, and leaders from the Abbala and Beni Hussein tribes involved in the conflict.
On January 17, a cease-fire treaty was signed between administrative leaders of the Arab tribes of Abbala and Beni Hussein in the presence of Osman Kibir, the governor of North Darfur. Despite the signing of the cease-fire treaty, witnesses have claimed that tensions still remained between the two groups. The roads between Al-Sref Beni Hussein and Saraf Omra and between Kabkabiya and Saraf Omra remain closed.
On January 4, the Sudanese Air Force bombed large areas near the central town of Golo and West Jebel Marra in Central Darfur. Civilians fled in the directions of Kass, South Darfur, and Nertiti, while others are seeking refuge from mountains, valleys, or under trees. According to Omda Ahmed Ateem, coordinator of North Darfur camps, the government has closed off all access ways to East Jebel Marra, trapping civilians in the area.
On January 9, rebels from the Sudan Liberation Army faction led by Abdel Wahid Mohamed al-Nur have seized the towns of Golo and Rockero in west Jebel Marra. About 30,000 people fled their homes in Golo and Gulo towns in Jebel Marra to seek shelter in Nertiti town and nearby villages. Residents of Nertiti city claim that the town was receiving 150 displaced every day, from January 5 to January 10. The majority of the displaced are women, children, and elderly.
Photo: An elderly man displaced from Darfur in 2011 (Enough / Laura Heaton)