Death toll in tribal clashes in southern Sudan rises to 60

Police fired tear gas in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Sunday against hundreds of anti-coup protesters, who also drew attention to increasingly deadly tribal clashes in the country’s south.

The capital has been the scene of almost weekly protests since army commander General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan launched a power grab last October that thwarted the transition to civilian rule.

As a result of the coup, key donors withdrew funding, exacerbating a prolonged economic crisis and sparking communal unrest in remote parts of the country.

The Blue Nile State, which borders Ethiopia, was the latest crucible of tribal clashes, and authorities on Sunday raised the death toll to 60 from 33 the day before in fighting that began nearly a week ago.

“Al-Damazeen is bleeding,” read a banner held by a protester in Khartoum, referring to the capital of the Blue Nile province.

Other demonstrators in the capital chanted “Sudan is one nation” and “No to racism, no to tribalism.”

In the city of Wad Madani, about 200 kilometers south of Khartoum, protesters redirected their demonstration to a local hospital to “donate blood to our brothers injured in the Blue Nile tribal clashes,” protest organizer Ammar Mohammed told AFP.

“Violence is not the solution”

Clashes in Blue Nile State between the Berti and Hawsa tribes first erupted on Monday.

The violence occurred after the Berti tribe rejected a request by the Haws to create a “civilian body to oversee access to land,” a prominent member of the Haws told AFP on condition of anonymity.

But a senior Berti member said the tribe was reacting to the “disturbance” of its lands by the Haws.

Dozens of Haws blocked the western entrance to the western city of Kassala with burning tires and rocks “in solidarity with our people in the (Blue) Nile to stop their killing and displacement,” protester Mohammed Abkar said.

A revised death toll of 60 was provided by Blue Nile Health Minister Jamal Nasser, who also told AFP that 163 people were injured.

“Violence is never the solution,” UNICEF tweeted Sunday in a country where the UN estimates half of the population will be driven to extreme hunger by September.

Security vacuum after the coup

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, the main armed group in the Blue Nile region, denied involvement in the clashes on Sunday.

Pro-democracy demonstrators accuse Sudan’s military leadership and former rebel leaders who signed the 2020 peace deal of escalating ethnic tensions in the Blue Nile region for personal gain.

Security forces set up roadblocks on the Nile bridges connecting Khartoum with its suburbs to contain protesters who have vowed to take to the streets en masse to protest against Burhan, according to AFP reporters.

The latest coup in Sudan sparked regular protests and continued crackdown by security forces, which have killed at least 114 people, according to pro-democracy medics.

According to doctors, nine people were killed on June 30, when tens of thousands of people gathered against the military.

Earlier this month, Burkhan unexpectedly promised to give way to a civilian government.

But the country’s main civilian umbrella group dismissed his move as a “ruse” and protesters continued to push for the army commander’s resignation.

Sunday’s rallies followed a period of relative calm in Khartoum in recent days.

Experts say last year’s coup created a security vacuum that has fueled a resurgence of tribal violence in a country that has regularly flared up in deadly clashes over land, livestock, access to water and pastures.

Blue Nile guerrillas fought former President-leader Omar al-Bashir during the 1983-2005 Sudanese civil war, taking up arms again in 2011.

Due to massive protests against his rule, the army overthrew Bashir in 2019.

The following year, a power-sharing civil-military government reached a peace agreement with key rebel groups, including those from the Blue Nile, as well as from the war-ravaged western region of Darfur.

Both areas remain underdeveloped and awash with weapons, and Darfur has also seen an increase in violence in recent months.