(EAST DARFUR) – Heavy fighting has erupted Monday in East Darfur state between Ma’alia and Rizeigat tribes amid fears that the deadly clashes could leave hundreds dead and injured.
- Maalia and Rezeigat delegations arrive at Al-Tawisha in North Darfur before the signing of a cessation of hostilities deal on 22 August 2013 (Photo: Hamid Abdulsalam/UNAMID)
Sudan Tribune correspondent quoted sources in East Darfur state capital, Ed-Daein as saying the security situation in the city is very tense following outbreak of fighting inside the locality of Abu Karinka which is considered a Ma’alia stronghold.
He noted that East Darfur governor, al-Tayeb Abdel-Karim, chaired an emergency meeting for the state’s security committee to discuss repercussions of the situation, pointing to a looming fierce war between the two tribes if authorities do not make decisive measures to stop the clashes.
The correspondent pointed that Ma’alia have evacuated hundreds of families from Abu Karinka with the approach of confrontations, saying the fate of those families is unknown because most of them have scattered in the desert in search of survival.
Other sources said that Rizeigat mobilized thousands of fellow tribesmen from several areas in Darfur and elsewhere to join the fight against Ma’alia claiming the latter refused to comply with repeated calls for reconciliation and seized their land.
On Saturday, the state governor said that mobilization of the armed tribesmen could lead to the deadliest clashes ever between the two sides.
He stressed that his government has sent large military reinforcements to create a buffer zone between the two tribes and prevent a security breakdown.
Reliable sources revealed to Sudan Tribune on Saturday that the federal government plans to deploy two army battalions to the area backed by two warplanes to monitor movement of the conflicting parties.
Meanwhile, the hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has expressed serious concern over the recent escalation of tensions between the Rizeigat and the Ma’alia tribes in East Darfur.
It urged in a statement circulated on Monday the “leaders and members of both tribes to exercise maximum restraint, engage in meaningful dialogue to resolve their dispute and refrain from all acts that would lead to violence and displacement.”
The mission welcomed the deployment of additional troops by the Sudanese government to create a buffer zone between the two tribes, calling on it to further intensify its efforts to avoid potential eruption of conflict.
UNAMID added that it “shall continue to protect affected civilians, facilitate and support all efforts by the Sudanese government, native administration, leaders of the two tribes and other stakeholders to de-escalate the tensions and achieve reconciliation between the Rizeigat and Ma’alia in accordance with its mandate.”
In Khartoum, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Sudan ad interim, Geert Cappalaere, for his part, expressed deep concern at reports of clashes between Ma’alia and Rizeigat.
He called, in a statement on Monday, on warring tribes to stop fighting immediately, exercise restraint to prevent further escalation, and support mediation efforts to resolve the underlying causes of this conflict by peaceful means.
“These towns are full of ordinary people, most of them women and children, who are just trying to live in peace. They should not have to carry the burden of renewed conflict. I would like to remind all parties to this conflict that they have an obligation to protect civilians and to allow them unhindered access to humanitarian assistance.” he said.
The conflict between the Rezeigat and the Ma’alia tribes in East Darfur state is considered one of the longest and most deadly in the region.
Both the Rezeigat and the Ma’alia are pastoralist tribes, based in East Darfur. The centre of Rezeigat territory is in Ed Daein town, while the Ma’alia centre is in Adila, the second largest town after Ed-Daein.
Last month, 20 people were killed and several others injured in renewed clashes between the two tribes in East Darfur state.
In August 2014, 200 Ma’alia and 123 Rezeigat tribesmen were killed in clashes which took place in the Umm Rakubah area in East Darfur’ Abu Karinka locality.
Armed clashes between the two tribes in 2013 killed over 149 people and forced an estimated 51,000 people to flee their homes and seek shelter in Adila, Abu Karinka and Ed-Daein localities.
Last March, the reconciliation conference between the two tribes, which was held under the auspices of Sudan’s first vice-president, Bakri Hassan Salih in the locality of Merowe in the Northern state, stalled over the right of land ownership known as Hakura (traditional land grant).
Tribal fighting has intensified in four of Darfur’s five states during the past two years leading to thousands of deaths and injuries and forcing over 300,000 people to flee their homes. They are usually triggered by land disputes, pasture rights and fighting over water resources. More than 7,000 people were killed in those clashes since 2007.