KHARTOUM, CAIRO: A Sudanese paramilitary group killed at least 20 people, including children, who were visiting their farms in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region for the first time in years, a tribal chief, Ibrahim Ahmad said on Saturday.
“Two months ago, the government organized a meeting between the original landowners and those who took their fields” during the long-running war in Darfur, Ahmad told AFP by telephone.
“An agreement was reached whereby the landowners would return to their fields — but armed men came on Friday and opened fire, killing 20 people, including two women and children.”
The killings took place in Aboudos, some 90 km south of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur province, the tribal chief said. Several people were also wounded in the attack, he said.
The death toll “could well increase, because some of the wounded are in a serious condition,” he added.
The assault in the troubled province came a week after government-linked armed groups stormed a protest camp in North Darfur and killed 13 people, said Mohamed Abdel-Rahman Al-Nayer, a spokesman for a rebel group known as the Sudan Liberation Movement.
Darfur has been devastated since 2003 by a conflict between ethnic minority rebels, complaining of marginalization, and forces loyal to now ousted President Omar Bashir, including the feared Janjaweed militia.
The fighting killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million others, according to the UN.
Bashir was deposed by the army in April last year following months of mass protests against his rule, triggered mainly by economic hardship.
A power-sharing transitional government between civilians and the military was sworn in during September last year.
In January this year, a coalition of nine rebel groups — including factions from Darfur — signed a preliminary agreement with the government after weeks of talks.
The flashes of violence in Darfur have threatened to destabilize the country’s fragile political transition.
Sudan’s government has vowed to end the conflicts in the country’s far-flung provinces in hopes of slashing military spending, which eats up 80 percent of the national budget.
Rebel groups from Darfur and southern Sudan have for months engaged in peace talks. As part of a wider effort to hold former officials to account, the public prosecutor has pledged to investigate alleged atrocities in Darfur.
Yet sporadic violence continues, with each new attack fueling fears that ruling authorities may not deliver on their promises.
“The militia that committed this crime is supported by the old regime,” Al-Nayer said.