In Darfur, civilians pay price in new wave of deadly violence

Ibrahim Arbab had no option but to flee.

Having heard of a mass killing in a nearby village, the 34-year-old and his family late last month sought shelter in el-Geneina, the capital of Sudan’s West Darfur state. Thousands of others did the same.

“The Janjaweed will definitely come after you,” Arbab said, referring to the feared militias who have long been accused of committing atrocities in Darfur, in the west of Sudan.

At least 60 people were killed – mostly unarmed civilians from the Black African Masalit tribe – when some 500 armed men attacked Masteri village, according to the United Nations, the latest in a string of attacks that have left several villages burned and markets looted.

Locals blamed the Janjaweed, nomadic Arab militias which were extensively armed by Sudan’s former President Omar al-Bashir after mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in 2003 accusing the central government in the capital, Khartoum, of political and economic marginalisation.

“He was sitting inside his house, when the Janjaweed came in and asked him if he had a gun,” Arbab said in a telephone interview. “They searched his house before shooting him on his chest with two bullets and one on his head – in front of my sister.”

At el-Geneina, the pain is too much for the displaced survivors and relatives of victims.

“The local county is now full of widows and bereaved,” said Arbab. “I just can’t stay with them, it’s heartbreaking seeing them, they refuse to eat or drink.”

Buthaina Ali, who, like Arbab, hails from the village of Nguoro, fled with her mother and grandmother after the attack in Masteri.

“We know when they attack one village nearby, they will come to us as well, so we left everything behind and came here,” said the 25-year-old.

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