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UN Criticizes Sudanese Authorities' Failure to Stop West Darfur Violence

FILE - Sudanese children sit together following violence in Sudan's Darfur region, Feb. 2, 2021.
FILE - Sudanese children sit together following violence in Sudan's Darfur region, Feb. 2, 2021.

The U.N. human rights office is urging Sudanese authorities to speed up the deployment of security forces to West Darfur, in an effort to protect civilians from ethnic and tribal clashes in the region.

The latest resurgence of violence nearly one week ago has left more than 130 people dead and more than 200 injured, with thousands forced to flee their homes.

This is the third eruption between Masalit and Arab tribes since former Sudanese dictator Omar-al-Bashir was ousted and a transitional government took power in April 2019.

Marta Hurtado, spokeswoman for the U.N. human rights office, says her agency is appalled by the carnage and disturbed by authorities' slow progress in holding the perpetrators of the violence accountable.

"Similar to previous situations of violence in Al Geneina, the authorities failed to stop the clashes despite a robust security force presence in the town," she said. "We urge the authorities to fully uphold their role of protection for the population without discrimination. In this regard, we call on the government of Sudan to accelerate the implementation of the National Plan for the Protection of Civilians."

Clashes over land and access to water resources have been going on for decades between the Masalit, who are mainly farmers, and the Arab herder tribes. The United Nations estimates the war in Darfur that broke out in 2003 killed some 300,000 people and displaced 2.7 million.

Hurtado says all tribes responsible for violence in Darfur must be disarmed and the state must maintain order and ensure the rule of law. This, she says, means authorities must prevent armed civilians from taking the law into their own hands.

"We acknowledge that, after the latest clashes, the authorities have taken steps to contain the situation in the area," she said. "We also welcome the government's commitment to addressing the root causes of the violence, especially disputes over land, pasture and water resources — disputes that are at the heart of the entrenched tribal divisions."

The human rights office is calling for an independent, impartial and thorough investigation into the acts of violence. It says effective accountability for crimes and justice for the victims will pave the way for reconciliation and lasting peace.