KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — A U.N. humanitarian agency said Tuesday that tribal clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s West Darfur province have displaced about 40,000 people, with thousands crossing to neighboring Chad.
The violence grew out of a skirmish late in December between two people, one of whom, an Arab, was stabbed to death.
The clashes have killed a total of 54 people and wounded dozens, according to according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
“Thousands of people had crossed the border into Chad seeking refuge in villages near the border,” said Jens Laerke, a spokesman for OCHA.
He said that those displaced within the province had taken refugee in schools and government buildings.
At least 3,700 people, including more than 2,000 women and 500 children under 5, have crossed the border between West Darfur and Chad, said Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency.
“The conditions were dire, and most refugees were staying out in the open; food and water were urgently needed”, Mahecic said.
Efforts by the government that included deployment of “sufficient” troops to the region helped stabilize the situation in West Darfur.
Top government officials including Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of the Sovereign Council, and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, visited the region and expressed their commitment to prosecute the perpetrators.
Separate tribal clashes in the eastern Red Sea city of Port Sudan killed at least 15 people and wounded over 120 others last week, according to local authorities.
The violence in West Darfur and Port Sudan poses a challenge to efforts by Sudan’s transitional government to end decades-long rebellions in areas like Darfur.
The government has been engaging in peace talks with rebel groups since October, aiming for peace to help a fragile path to democracy survive following the military’s overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April after nearly three decades in power.