United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on authorities to protect citizens in Sudan’s West Darfur after unknown armed men killed more than 80 people and injured at least 160 others in the Krinding refugee camp and elsewhere in Genena, the capital of Sudan’s West Darfur state, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency.
Governor Mohamed Abdallah Al Douma also deployed hundreds of troops across the state to restore security.
A statement issued by Guterres’ spokesperson said the head of the world body “expresses his deepest condolences to the bereaved families and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured.”
The trouble began Friday when a member of the Masalit tribe killed a member of an Arab tribe in a personal dispute, Douma said. He said the killer was arrested and the state public prosecutor opened an investigation into what happened.
Early Saturday morning, armed men from different parts of Darfur planned and launched what appeared to be revenge attacks, Douma said.
“And I see no reason for attacking the camp because — I don’t know if the killer is from this camp or not, but even if he is, it was an individual act,” Douma told South Sudan in Focus. “But they burned down more than a third of the camp and killed a number of people that we are still counting.”
Thousands of internally displaced persons fled the camp because of the violence. Douma said the attackers also looted property.
On Sunday evening, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors reported 83 deaths and more than 160 injured people, but Douma expects the death toll to climb.
He told South Sudan in Focus that West Darfur state is awash in firearms, machine guns and heavy artillery, all of which were used during the attacks.
“That’s why we strongly need to disarm all civilians in this state and not just try to collect firearms on a voluntary basis, that’s not going to happen; we need to disarm people. There is a frightening number of weapons in the hands of civilians,” Douma said, adding that the peace deal signed in Juba in October cannot be implemented unless Darfur civilians are disarmed.
The United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) began withdrawing from the region at the end of December as its mission to protect civilians ended.
Sudan’s Attorney General Taj al-Ser Ali al-Hebr told VOA from Khartoum that his office is sending a team of prosecutors and investigators to West Darfur state to open criminal cases against the perpetrators of the weekend’s violence.
“It’s a committee I put together from the office of public prosecution that will go and investigate this incident as crimes, and it’s comprised of four prosecutors who are very experienced in criminal investigation. They will find out who perpetrated this violence and what are the reasons behind it,” Hebr said.
The Darfur Bar Association released a statement expressing its concern about the situation in West Darfur state.
Saleh Mahmoud, a human rights lawyer and president of the Darfur Bar Association, said information indicates at least 100 people were killed and local medical facilities are not equipped to treat the victims.
“One small hospital in Genena is already occupied, there’s no service for the wounded. People are dying due to bleeding inside the hospital. Worse than that, I think also the performance of the regular forces was not appropriate,” Mahmoud told South Sudan in Focus.
He said authorities should conduct a full investigation, and all perpetrators should be brought to justice.
“There are accusations that the military is also implicated in the commission of killings inside houses and in the streets,” including women, children and the elderly, Mahmoud told VOA.
He said there was a critical absence of security forces and called their performance delayed and insignificant on Saturday.
In October 2020, Sudan’s transitional government signed a peace agreement with several armed groups from Darfur. The agreement provided for a joint security force comprised of 12,000 members tasked with securing the region of Darfur. The force has yet to be established.