83 killed in Sudan’s West Darfur attack, sparked by fight between Arab and African Muslim tribesmen

At least 83 people were killed and 160 others injured in an attack that took place at El Geneina, capital city of Sudan’s West Darfur state, according to authorities. A curfew has been imposed in West Darfur in the wake of the incident.

“The death toll from the bloody events in El Geneina has climbed to 83 and the injured to 160 since Saturday,” Xinhua news agency quoted the Doctors’ Committee of West Darfur state as saying in a statement on Sunday.

In the meantime, Sudan’s Security and Defense Council on Sunday decided to send security reinforcements to West Darfur to protect the citizens and vital utilities there, according to a statement by Sudan’s Sovereign Council.

The council, chaired by the Chairman of the Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, held an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss the violent events which took place in El Geneina on Saturday, the statement noted.

As per Reuters,

“The attacks followed a fight, reported by both local organizations and residents, in which a member of the Masalit tribe killed a man from an Arab tribe.

“Armed militias took advantage of the incident and attacked El Geneina from all sides” human rights group the Darfur Bar Association said.

…Such incidents have occurred in Darfur since conflict broke out in 2003 when the government of Omar al-Bashir armed militias to help repress a revolt.

Brokering lasting peace there and in other parts of Sudan has been one of the main challenges facing the authorities since the overthrow of Bashir in April 2019.

…Violence has increased in Darfur in recent months, and two weeks after U.N. peacekeepers stopped patrolling the region ahead of a full withdrawal.”

Sudan has been racked with civil war for many decades now. The southernmost part of the country split off to form the independent nation of South Sudan in 2011 – South Sudan’s population is 60% Christian while 32% follow indigenous African religions (euphemistically called ‘folk’ religions). What remains of Sudan, i.e. the Republic of Sudan, is over 90% Muslim. But if you thought that peace would reign in Sudan after it had been converted into Dar-ul-Islam (house of Islam), after a partition on religious lines, think again.

The Western part of Sudan is a region called Darfur – further divided into 5 administrative states, West Darfur being one. The people here, many of whom are Muslims of non-Arab ethnicity, became increasingly marginalized because of structural inequity in Sudan that denies non-Arabs equal justice and power sharing. The Arab government of Sudan has been accused of practicing racism against black citizens and carrying out an Arab apartheid campaign, segregating Arabs and non-Arabs.

Major armed conflict broke out in 2003 in Darfur – one side composed of the Sudanese military, police and the Janjaweed, a Sudanese militia group whose members are mostly recruited among Arabized indigenous Africans and a small number of Bedouin (nomadic Arab tribes), with the other made up of rebel groups recruited primarily from the non-Arab Muslim Fur, Zaghawa, and Masalit ethnic groups.

Victims of rapes carried out in Dafur by govt-backed Janjaweed militiamen said that Arabic terms such as “abid” and “zurga” were used, which mean slave and black. One victim, Sawelah Suliman, was told by her assailant, “Black girl, you are too dark. You are like a dog. We want to make a light baby.”

A high-ranking international aid worker stationed in the region told Washington Post in 2004 –

“These rapes are built on tribal tensions and orchestrated to create a dynamic where the African tribal groups are destroyed. It’s hard to believe that they tell them they want to make Arab babies, but it’s true. It’s systematic, and these cases are what made me believe that it is part of ethnic cleansing and that they are doing it in a massive way.”

The war in Darfur claimed upto half a million victims per some estimates, and ex-President Omar al-Bashir (who ruled Sudan for 30 years before being removed in a military coup) was accused of war crimes and genocide.

Sudan constitutionally became a secular state last year after its transitional government agreed to separate religion from the state, ending 30 years of Islamic rule and Islam as the official state religion. But it appears that neither this new-found secularism or Islamic rule, which in many parts of the Muslim world is nothing but a form of Arab imperalism, has managed to end the conflict between different Muslim groups in the troubled country.

(With IANS inputs)


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