KHARTOUM: Fighting between two Arab tribes vying for control of a gold mine has killed dozens of people in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region, a tribal leader and local media said yesterday.
The clashes erupted on Wednesday, pitting the Bani Hussein against the Rizeigat, tribal groups which began fighting in January over the use of the gold mine near El Sireaf in North Darfur, Masar Al-Duma Atim, a Bani Hussein leader, told Reuters.
“Between 40 and 50 people were killed in El Sireaf on Wednesday,” he said. “They attacked us at 9 a.m.”
Another Bani Hussein official said Rizeigat tribesmen had arrived in all-terrain vehicles, stealing cattle and firing on civilians in El Sireaf. “We’ve alerted the government and army but they are doing nothing,” he said, asking not to be named.
The Rizeigat tribe, the army spokesman and the international peacekeeping force UNAMID could not be reached for comment.
Years of international peace efforts have failed to end conflict in the western region of Darfur, where mainly African tribes took up arms in 2003 against Sudan’s Arab-led government, which they accuse of discriminating against them.
Violence is down from its peak in 2004-05, but has picked up again this year as Arab tribes, many of which were armed by government early in the conflict, are now fighting among themselves over resources and land.
Sudanese newspapers also reported the latest clashes. Al-Ahram said more than 100 people had been killed and 30 wounded, while Akhir Lahza put the death toll at 39.
Around 300,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in Darfur this year due to fighting between the army, rebels and rival tribes, according to the United Nations.
The initial fighting over the gold mine in January killed 500 people and destroyed more than 68 villages, a pro-government Sudanese lawmaker said in February.
Gold has become Sudan’s top export and earner of foreign currency. Half a million people search for gold in mostly unlicensed mines and sell it to traders and the central bank.
The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir and some aides on charges of masterminding war crimes in Darfur. They deny the charges and refuse to recognize the court.
Events in Darfur are hard to verify as Sudan restricts travel by journalists, aid workers and diplomats.