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Violence spikes in Sudan’s West Darfur

Plus a strike in Haiti, extremism in Germany, executions in Saudi Arabia, and more

Displaced people in West Darfur, Sudan, in 2020 Associated Press/Photo by Mustafa Younes, file

Violence spikes in Sudan’s West Darfur

Late on Monday, protesters gathered outside the government building in El Geneina, the capital of Sudan’s West Darfur state. They raised banners condemning authorities for failing to stop renewed fighting among rival ethnic groups in the region that left 19 dead last week.

Rising violence in the mountainous region has killed dozens of civilians and displaced thousands of others. The unrest between herders and farmers continues amid larger insecurity in the rest of the country after an October military coup.

The roots of the fighting reach back to Darfur’s 2003 civil war. At the time, ethnic minority rebels fought against the Arab-majority government led by longtime former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted in 2019. Deadly fighting between armed tribal groups in the region has been ongoing since then, often over access to resources. In 2020, the majority of the rebel groups signed a peace deal with the transitional government. But the coup last October against the transitional government ruined the process, sparking renewed violence. By mid-November, fighting erupted between the ethnic Arab herders and non-Arab farmers over a land dispute.

Last Thursday, armed men attacked villages in the rugged Jebel Moon mountains, where they burned down at least three villages and displaced many residents. Earlier fighting in the same region in January left at least 250 people dead, including 10 children.

As many as 12,500 people have fled the violence into neighboring regions, with some crossing the border into Chad.

The spokesperson for an aid group active in the region said many were already in displacement camps before fleeing again. They often now seek shelter in overcrowded schools, a situation that has disrupted aid delivery and educational systems. (The aid group spokesperson asked for anonymity due to security concerns.)

Adam Rijal, the spokesman for the General Coordination for Displaced Persons and Refugees in Darfur, called the fighting a systemic campaign to displace the local population and access the region’s land and minerals. Rijal previously said the Janjaweed — a militia recruited by the Sudanese government during the 2003 conflict and blamed for mass assaults and murders — were involved in last week’s violence. 

“Someone wants access to these resources, and they are pitting some groups against others so that they can have the resources of the area,” he told Voice of America. “The area is also conducive to rearing livestock because of the fertile land with plenty of water and lush vegetation.”

An empty emergency room at the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, during a February strike

An empty emergency room at the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, during a February strike Associated Press/Photo by Odelyn Joseph, file

World radar:

  • HAITI: Doctors, nurses, and other health professionals on Wednesday ended a three-day strike over increasing kidnappings. The strike shut down public and private health institutions, with only emergency rooms operating in most places. The United Nations Security Council said the Caribbean nation recorded a 180 percent jump in kidnappings for ransom over the past year.

  • GERMANY: The country’s top security officials this week said they would revoke 1,500 extremists’ gun licenses, tighten background checks for gun purchases, and crack down on violence-inciting messages online. The measures fall under a 10-point plan Germany hopes will help combat far-right extremism. German police reported nearly 21,500 crimes by right-wing extremists in 2021, including arson and verbal and physical assaults.

  • SAUDI ARABIA: The kingdom executed 81 convicted people last Saturday in its largest known mass execution in modern history. Their crimes ranged from murder to membership in militant groups. The deaths exceeded a previous record from 1980, when Saudi Arabia executed 63 militants found guilty of seizing the Grand Mosque in Mecca a year earlier.

  • INDIA: A court in the southern Karnataka state upheld a ban on hijabs in classrooms, potentially setting a precedent for similar measures in other states. A government-run school announced the ban in January, sparking protests by the country’s Muslim minority and counter-demonstrations by Hindu students. Several schools in the state adopted similar rules. Other countries across Europe have considered bans on hijabs and full-face coverings as they grapple with tensions due to growing populations of religious minorities.

  • MOZAMBIQUE: Tropical Cyclone Gombe killed more than 50 people after making landfall last week. Authorities said the storm destroyed about 12,000 homes, 116 schools, and 16 health units. Southern Africa has recorded multiple cyclones this season.

  • GLOBAL HEALTH: As authorities across Latin America and Southeast Asia imposed public health restrictions to curb COVID-19 cases early in the pandemic, those same measures also reduced the number of mosquito-borne dengue virus infections. A study published in The Lancet this month estimated about  720,000 fewer dengue cases occurred in 2020 in the regions where the virus is endemic. The researchers said the findings would likely apply to other similar mosquito-borne viruses, such as Zika. Researchers are waiting to see whether cases will surge again as countries return to pre-pandemic movement.

A school designed by Diébédo Francis Kéré in Burkina Faso

A school designed by Diébédo Francis Kéré in Burkina Faso Associated Press/Francis Kéré

Africa brief

Diébédo Francis Kéré, a Burkina Faso–born architect, became the first African to win architecture’s most prestigious honor. The 56-year-old, who holds dual German-Burkinabé citizenship, received the annual Pritzker Architecture Prize for his innovative and sustainable designs across Burkina Faso and other African countries, as well as in Europe and the United States.

He notably designed a primary school in his village of Gando back in Burkina Faso. The 2001 project did not use concrete but local clay fortified with cement to mold bricks that help to keep the interior cool. The building’s raised tin roof also provides cover from heavy rain and helps air to circulate. You can view some of his works here.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter and deputy global desk chief. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.



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