CAIRO (AP) — Sudanese authorities said tribal clashes killed three people Sunday and wounded at least 79 others in the country’s east, the latest in a series of outbursts of tribal violence that could derail the country’s fragile transition to democracy.
The fighting in the city of Kassalla first erupted on Thursday between the Bani Amer tribe and the Nuba tribe, according to Maj. Gen. Mahmoud Babaker, the governor of Kassalla province.
Babaker said clashes flared up again over the weekend, with many houses set on fire before authorities deployed troops to restore security in the city. At least 59 people from the two sides were arrested. The three deaths occurred Sunday and were all members of the Bani Amer tribe.
Tribal clashes across Sudan pose a significant challenge to efforts by the transitional government to end decades-long rebellions in some areas. The country is on a fragile path to democracy after a popular uprising led the military to overthrow longtime autocratic President Omar al-Bashir last year. A military-civilian government is now in power.
The city of Kassala is around 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. Footage circulated online showed dozens of people clashing in the streets and burned houses sending thick clouds of heavy black smoke to the air.
In an address to the nation, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, said on Sunday the military and other security agencies would act decisively “to secure the country, lives and property.”
“We all would stand united against the plotters who are the enemies of the people … and the enemies of the people’s glorious revolution,” Burhan said. He was apparently referring to Islamists and those allied with the regime of former regime of al-Bashir.
The violence came as authorities struggle to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Sudan’s health care system has been weakened by decades of war and sanctions. The country of 43 million people has at least 1,164 confirmed cases including 64 deaths.
Tensions between the Bani Amer and Nuba tribes — mainly over water but also other resources — started in May last year the eastern city of al-Qadarif, where seven people were killed. The fighting was renewed again in August in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan, killing over three dozen people.
Last week, tribal clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in the province of South Darfur left at least 30 people dead and a dozen wounded, authorities said.
A key priority of Sudan’s military-civilian government has been ending the insurgencies in Sudan’s far-flung provinces in order to slash military spending, which takes up much of the national budget. Rebel groups have for months engaged in talks with the transitional authorities to establish peace.