West Darfur Clashes Trigger Mass Exodus into Chad

The U.N. refugee agency reports recent deadly ethnic and tribal clashes in Sudan’s West Darfur region have forced nearly 2,000 people to flee for their lives into neighboring Chad.

A fresh eruption of violence on April 3 between Masalit and Arab tribes over land and water resources has killed scores of people, injured hundreds and displaced thousands. The deadly clashes in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, have forced 1,860 people to seek refuge in Chad in the past week.

U.N. refugee spokesman Babar Baloch says most of the refugees are women, children and the elderly living in villages near the Chadian border. He says they have crossed near the town of Adre, in Ouaddai province, just 200 meters away from the volatile border.

“Refugees arriving in Chad speak of houses and properties being destroyed, and of sites hosting displaced people being targeted. Some of the new arrivals had already been displaced by earlier clashes last year and in January this year as well,” he said.

Sudan’s transitional government and two rebel groups signed the Juba Peace Agreement in October 2020. However, one major rebel group refused to sign this landmark agreement. The deal is also unpopular with many whose lives have been upended by the conflict that broke out in 2003.

U.N. aid agencies are urging the Sudanese government to speedily deploy thousands of security forces to keep the peace in Darfur. Balloch says security must be quickly restored in Darfur.

“There have been many cycles where people have been forced to leave their homes trying to seek safety within Sudan. But, also many of those who cannot find safety, they have to run across the border and the fear is if security is not restored, then we may see more refugees arriving in Chad,” he said.

Balloch notes Chad’s Ouaddai province already is hosting 145,000 refugees from Darfur. He says UNHCR teams have been rushing to receive and assist the newly arriving refugees. He describes conditions on the ground as dire, noting people lack shelter and have to sleep outdoors.

He says people have little protection from the sweltering heat, where temperatures can rise to 40 degrees Celsius during the day. He adds food and water are urgently needed.

Balloch says it is unclear from where the money to support the refugees will come. He notes the UNHCR has received just 16 percent of its $141-million appeal for humanitarian operations in Chad this year.

Source: Voice of America