By midnight, the streets had emptied as residents stayed home, worried about what would come next. “All the people are waiting,” he said. “There is some patrolling of security forces in the streets. We don’t know what will happen in the morning.”
At one level, the bloodshed was another tragic episode in the long-running cycle of violence between ethnic Arab pastoralists and non-Arab farming communities in Darfur.
The worst violence occurred in the 2000s, when Janjaweed fighters backed by the Sudanese military carried out a ruthless campaign that led to charges of war crimes and genocide. Earlier this month, Ali Kushayb, a Janjaweed commander, went on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he faces 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He denies the charges.
Hopes that the cycle of violence in Darfur would be broken after the ouster of Sudan’s longtime dictator, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, in 2019, have come to nothing. Planned reform of Sudan’s security forces has yet to start. And things have only worsened since the October coup, led by General al-Burhan, that has plunged the distant capital, Khartoum, into political chaos.
Since General al-Burhan ousted Sudan’s civilian prime minister, his efforts to forge a new government have been frustrated by an array of centrifugal forces, most notably the street protesters who clash regularly with the riot police, demanding a return to civilian-led rule.
And tension is quietly building with his deputy, Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, a former Janjaweed commander from Darfur who now commands the powerful R.S.F. paramilitary force, according to western diplomats.
A proposed new security force for Darfur, combining local armed groups with official Sudanese forces, envisaged under a 2020 peace agreement, has yet to come into being. As a result, even small incidents can flare into violence.
The current clashes started on Friday, a day after the bodies of two Arab nomads suspected of cattle rustling were found near Kereneik, the U.N. official said. Arab fighters seeking revenge attacked the village, prompted clashes with local armed groups that spiraled until the attack on Sunday.