Sudanese armed groups on Monday attacked a protest camp in the war-scarred Darfur region, killing more than a dozen people, activists said, a day after security forces violently broke up another sit-in in the region.
Both protest camps in North Darfur province called for better security conditions and an end to attacks by government-sanctioned armed groups, according to a local organisation that helps run displacement camps in the Darfur region.
Sudan’s transitional government is struggling to end decades-long rebellions in different areas of the country, including Darfur, where most people live in displaced and refugee camps. Longtime leader Omar al-Bashir, who was overthrown in a popular uprising in April 2019, faces international charges of genocide and crimes against humanity over a scorched-earth campaign against rebels in Darfur in the 2000s.
The protesters, mostly internally displaced people and refugees, began their camps about a week ago outside the government buildings in the nearby towns of Kutum and Fata Borno.
In Fata Borno, government-sanctioned armed groups attacked the protesters and broke up their sit-in, killing at least 13 protesters and wounding 11 others, said Amany Hasabu, an activist in the area.
The Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), which spearheaded the protests against al-Bashir, condemned the attack. It said the attackers burned houses and a market, and looted livestock in the area.
The SPA urged the ruling sovereign council to “immediately interfere, stop the attacks and arrest all those who took part and ordered them“.
The provincial government in North Darfur declared a state of emergency across the province, starting Monday until further notice. It said in a statement that more troops would be deployed to Fata Borno and nearby towns to restore securing and stability. The statement did not provide a casualties toll for the violence.
On Sunday, security forces dispersed the protest camp in Kutum, killing at least one protester and wounding a dozen others, including four children, said Yacoub Abdallah, coordinator of displacement and refugee camps in Darfur.
The protesters had called for authorities to deploy more security forces to prevent attacks from armed groups on their farms, and to impose a ban on motorcycles and weapons that are used in such attacks.
Yacoub said police attacked the protesters after they chanted against military and police officials who were visiting the sit-in area to meet with the protesters.
The authorities in Kutum said the violence erupted when a government convoy came under attack after a meeting between security officials and the protesters to discuss their demands.
Mohammed Ibrahim Abdel-Karim, acting governor of North Darfur, said in a statement that security officials, who met with the protesters Sunday, immediately met some of the protesters’ demands and vowed to work on achieving the rest.
The acting governor said the officials left the area on a plane, but that “lawbreakers” wielding stones and knives attacked government vehicles carrying reporters, guards and other officials, forcing them to shelter in a police station in Kutum.
Abdel-Karim said the men then attacked the police station, burning it to the ground, along with a dozen vehicles, including the convoy cars.
He called the attack “unjustified”, and said authorities were pursuing those behind the violence. He did not provide further details on who was behind the attack.
Footage shared online showed people carrying the wounded and black smoke billowing out of burning buildings.
Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy after the military removed al-Bashir from power last year in the face of mass protests. A military-civilian government is now in power and al-Bashir has been imprisoned in the capital, Khartoum, since his ouster.