By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
February 26, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) – The African Union (AU) on Tuesday called for an end to hostilities between two Sudanese tribal groups after renewed clashes between the two rivals have left dozens dead.
Fighting between the Abbala and Beni Hussein tribes broke out in early January in North Darfur’s El Sereif area over control of the region’s gold mines.
Sudan’s state news agency (SUNA) said on Sunday that at least 60 people were killed and many more displaced as a result of renewed fighting between the two feuding Arab tribes, despite a ceasefire agreement signed last month aimed at ending hostilities.
In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune, the chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, expressed grave concerns at the resumption of fighting, urging the two tribes to exercise maximum restraint.
She called on the parties to end further hostilities which she said has “caused considerable casualties and renewed suffering and displacement of the civilian population in the area”.
Dlamini-Zuma also urged the two sides to refrain from taking any action that could jeopardise the 17 January agreement on cessation of hostilities they signed ahead of the April 2013 reconciliation conference to be convened by the wali (governor) of North Darfur.
In the statement, the AU chief commended the joint AU-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) for its support to ongoing reconciliation efforts between the tribes.
Dlamini-Zuma called on all parties involved in the conflict to ensure UNAMID and the the wider humanitarian community are allowed "full and unhindered" access to areas affected by the recent fighting, to enable them to assess the situation and deliver much-needed assistance to the affected population.
UNAMID on Sunday airlifted 37 wounded civilians, including one woman and two children, from El Sereif locality to the capital El Fasher for medical treatment, following the clashes which began when well-armed Abballa militia and government border guards driving land cruiser vehicles and riding horses and camels attacked El Sereif area.
The latest outbreak of violence is said to be the worst since the tribes signed the peace pact last month.
According the United Nations, at least 100 people have died since fighting first broke out last month, however, senior Sudanese law maker Adam Sheikha on Monday told reporters that over 500 people had been killed and some 865 have been wounded so far.
Sheikha was quoted by Reuters as saying that attackers had used government-issued weapons and vehicles during the attack, while some were on government salaries.
North Darfur continues to witness a number of tribal conflicts and remains one of the most volatile states in the region, with different rebel groups regularly clashing with forces from the Sudanese army.
The violence has also forced an estimated 100,000 people to flee their homes – the largest displacement in Darfur in recent years.