CAIRO (AP) — Sudanese in the western Darfur region on Monday buried their dead from the latest bout of violence between between Arab tribes, 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 to the area.
Nine women were among those killed in the village of Masteri in West Darfur province near the border with Chad, aid worker al-Shafei Abdalla told The Associated Press. Videos circulated online Monday showing people digging graves while bodies were prepared for burial.
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.
The clashes in Masteri started Saturday and lasted until late Sunday, and around 400 armed men attacked the village, according to the U.N. 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 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 U.N. 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.
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.
Also Monday, new civilian governors for Sudan’s 18 provinces were officially sworn in at the presidential palace in Khartoum. Their appointment last week was seen as a key step forward in the country’s democratic transition.
However, only two women were among their number, tasked with leading the Northern and the Nile River provinces. Hamdok, the prime minister, acknowledged last week the lack of women’s representation was “unambitious,” and proposed higher representation within the provincial governments.