UN says renewed tribal clashes kill 13 in southern Sudan

CAIRO (AP) — Renewed tribal clashes in southern Sudan have killed at least 13 people and injured more than two dozen others since late last week in the latest violence to hit the chaotic nation in recent months, the U.N. said Monday.

The violence in the Blue Nile province came as the country’s ruling generals and the main factions of the sprawling pro-democracy movement have made progress in internationally backed talks. The discussions aim to find a way out of last year’s military coup that plunged Sudan into worsening turmoil.

Clashes between the Hausa and Birta ethnic groups began Thursday over a land dispute in the Wad al-Mahi District, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The fighting, which lasted for four days before subsiding Sunday, displaced at least 1,200 people who were taking refuge in schools there, it said.

Government offices and the town’s market were closed, making it difficult for its residents to get their daily needs, it said. Authorities also imposed restrictions on people’s movements in the area amid fears of revenge attacks, it said.

The U.N. migration agency said the Jabalaween tribe, who are on the side of Brita group, expelled their rivals, the Hausa, from the area, which has been inaccessible to humanitarian agencies.

The fighting between the two tribes originally began in mid-July. A total of 149 people were killed and 124 others were wounded as of Oct. 6, according to OCHA.

The fighting in the Blue Nile triggered violent protests in other provinces where thousands, mostly Hausa, took to the streets to protest the government’s lack of response to the clashes.

It is the latest tribal violence to hit Sudan, which is home to several long-running ethnic conflicts. The country was already in turmoil since the military took over the government in a coup last year.

The military’s takeover removed a civilian-led Western backed government, upending the country’s short-lived transition to democracy after nearly three decades of repressive rule by autocrat Omar al-Bashir. A popular uprising forced the removal of al-Bashir and his government in April 2019.

In July, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the country’s leading military officer who mounted the coup in October last year, said the military would withdraw from politics and allow political forces to form a civilian government to complete the country’s transition.

The Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change — an alliance of political parties and protest groups — said the military has agreed on a draft constitutional document written by the country’s Bar Association. The document allows the appointment by “revolutionary forces” of a civilian prime minister to lead the country through elections within 24 months.

Khalid Omar, a former minister and leading pro-democracy activist, said they engaged with the military and international parties, and they found that the generals “are serious in handing over power to civilians.”

“This is a positive sign that we should seize and build on,” he told a news conference Monday in the capital of Khartoum.

He said they would discuss the draft constitutional document with other political and protest groups, with the aim of ending the coup.

The pro-democracy movement has yet to agree on a prime minister to form a transitional government amid growing differences and disputes among the alliance members. Many groups, including the Communist Party and the Resistance Committees, which led anti-coup street protests, reject negotiations with the military. They demand that those behind the deadly crackdown on the protests be tried in court.

More than 100 people were killed and thousands were injured in the violent crackdown on the near-weekly street protests since the coup.

Osman Mirghani, a Sudanese analyst and the editor of the daily newspaper al-Tayar, said such disputes were a main obstacle to ending the political deadlock.

“For over three months, they are unable to agree among themselves to name a prime minister,” he said in a phone interview. “Time is on the side of the military.”

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