UN says tribal clashes in Sudan kill 359 people since July

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CAIRO (AP) — Four months of sporadic tribal clashes have killed up to 359 people in Sudan’s troubled south, the United Nations estimated Thursday, a period that has marked a sharp uptick in violence across the chaotic nation’s rural periphery.

The surging violence in The Blue Nile state, which began in July, has displaced some 97,000 people, many of whom have fled to neighboring states, and injured a further 469, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Thursday’s figures are the latest estimate that accounts for the four-month period.

Two weeks ago, at least 230 people were killed in 48 hours of violence following an alleged land dispute between the Hausa tribe, with origins across West Africa, and the Berta and Hamaj people.

The increase in violence comes as the country’s ruling generals and the main factions of the sprawling pro-democracy movement engage in internationally-backed talks to revive the country’s democratic transition. Last month, the military reportedly agreed to a draft constitutional document written by the country’s Bar Association to establish a civilian-led government to lead the country to elections, set to be held within the next 24 months. The preliminary agreement has been rejected by several pro-democracy factions who refuse to negotiate with the military.

Sudan has been plugged into turmoil since the country leading military figure, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, mounted a coup in October 2021 that upended the country’s brief democratic transition after three decades of autocratic rule by Omar al-Bashir. The former president was toppled in April 2019 following a popular uprising that paved the way for a civilian-military power-sharing government.

Since its takeover, the military has ruthlessly cracked down on near-weekly pro-democracy marches, killing as least 118 protesters, according to statistics published by the Sudan Doctors Committee. The coup has put further strain on Sudan’s inflation-riddled economy, prompting a withdrawal of international aid amid rising bread and fuel shortages, caused in part by the war in Ukraine.

Many analysts interpret the rising tribal violence as a product of the power vacuum caused by the military takeover, with the ruling generals’ clampdown focused on Khartoum and the country’s heartland, while the peripheries descend into chaos. Local activists and Sudanese outlets reported a lack of military presence during the Blue Nile’s most recent deadly clashes in late October.

In response, protesters gathered in Damazin — the provincial capital of Blue Nile — later that week, and stormed the headquarters of the local government and a military facility. Sudan’s ruling military later sacked one of Blue Nile’s senior military commanders.

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