CAIRO (AP) — Tribal clashes in Sudan’s West Darfur province forced more than 11,000 people to flee into neighboring Chad over the past month, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday.
Clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs erupted late in December in the West Darfur town of Genena, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the border with Chad. At least three dozen people, including women and children, were killed and around 60 others were wounded.
Babar Baloch, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency, said 4,000 of the 11,000 have fled during the last week alone.
Baloch estimated the clashes have displaced some 46,000 inside the country. Most of those were already internally displaced people, and when the attacks happened in West Darfur, including on displacement camps, people fled and found temporary refuge in schools, mosques and other buildings in Genena, he said.
He said UNHCR teams on the ground heard accounts of people fleeing after their villages, houses and properties were attacked, many burned to the ground.
Baloch warned that the number of people fleeing to Chad to escape tensions in the region could reach 30,000 in the coming weeks. He said the rate of arrivals “risks outpacing our capacity” and more resources and support are needed.
The UNHCR said the refugees who crossed the border were scattered in several villages in Chad’s Ouddai province, already hosts 128,000 Sudanese refugees.
“The conditions are dire. Most are staying in the open or under makeshift shelters, with little protection from the elements. Food and water are urgently needed, while health conditions are a concern,” said Baloch.
Clashes in West Darfur have posed a challenge to efforts by Sudan’s transitional government to end decades-long rebellions in areas like Darfur.
Negotiating an end to the rebellions in Sudan’s far-flung provinces including West Darfur has been a crucial goal for the transitional government. It’s looking to revive the country’s battered economy through slashing military spending, which takes up much of the national budget.
The transitional military-civilian Sovereign Council took power in August, just months after a pro-democracy uprising led Sudan’s military to overthrow former autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April.