Conflict in Sudan’s south lays bare deep scars

People who fled ethnic clashes in Sudan’s Blue Nile state wait at a clinic at a camp for displaced people in Damazin, some 450 km south of Khartoum. (AFP file photo)
People who fled ethnic clashes in Sudan’s Blue Nile state wait at a clinic at a camp for displaced people in Damazin, some 450 km south of Khartoum. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 27 August 2022

Conflict in Sudan’s south lays bare deep scars

Conflict in Sudan’s south lays bare deep scars
  • Blue Nile, a region awash with guns bordering South Sudan and Ethiopia, is still struggling to rebuild after decades of civil war

KHARTOUM: After his family was massacred and home torched, Sudanese farmer Ayoub Haroun sought refuge in a school alongside some of the tens of thousands fleeing recent bitter ethnic conflict.
More than a week of bloodshed last month in Sudan’s Blue Nile state left at least 105 people dead and scores wounded, as rival groups fought in a complex conflict involving deep-seated grievances, control of land and battles for power.
“The gunfire was constant, all day long every day,” said Haroun, now sheltering in the former school in Blue Nile’s Damazin city, some 450 km south of the capital Khartoum.
But while the violence was the culmination of long-simmering ethnic tensions — between the Hausa people and other rival groups including the Barta — it has further emphasized a wider security breakdown since a military coup last year led by army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan.
Since the October coup, regular pro-democracy demonstrations across the country have been met with a crackdown by security forces that has left at least 116 people dead.
Before unrest erupted in Blue Nile, the western region of Darfur had already seen months of ethnic clashes which killed hundreds of people.
“We were left no option but to defend our lands,” said Al-Jaily Abdalla, from the Hamaj people.
“Our homes were burnt to the ground, destruction spread everywhere, and there were multiple deaths.”
Haroun, a Hausa, was left homeless, one of some 31,000 people from both sides forced to flee their houses, according to the UN.
“My brother and nephew were killed and my home was burnt along with the homes of the rest of my family,” he said.
Each side blames the other for starting the violence — and has accused the government of backing the other.
The clashes triggered angry protests across Sudan, with Hausa people demanding justice for those killed.
Other protests called for “unity” and an “end to tribalism” in the impoverished northeast African nation.
In late July, senior leaders from rival groups agreed to a ceasefire, but a more permanent peace deal and reconciliation is needed.
Blue Nile, a region awash with guns bordering South Sudan and Ethiopia, is still struggling to rebuild after decades of civil war.
Conflict there raged from the mid-1990s to 2005, then erupted again in 2011, as ethnic minority rebels battled former President Omar Bashir.
After the ouster of Bashir in 2019, rebels including from Blue Nile signed a peace deal, the latest in a string of agreements hoped to put an end to conflict.
Sudanese pro-democracy demonstrators have accused the country’s military leadership and ex-rebel leaders who signed the peace pact in 2020 of exacerbating ethnic tensions in Blue Nile for personal gain.
Authorities have rejected such accusations.
Since the clashes, calls have intensified to suspend the agreement.
“It didn’t bring any peace at all,” said Obeid Abu Shotal, a leader from the Barta, who sees the Hausa people as a non-indigenous group.
But the conflict today is less about battling the government, and more about who has the right to the land.
The Hausa people, prominent in West Africa, began arriving in Blue Nile over a century ago “in search of grazing lands for their cattle,” according to the International Crisis Group think tank.
Today, some 3 million Sudanese are Hausa, a people with a reputation as skilled farmers.
But tensions remain with groups who see the land as theirs — and violence erupted when Hausa elders asked civil authorities to manage their own affairs, said Hausa leader Abdelaziz Al-Nour.
Some saw that as a means to take the land.
“The land of Blue Nile is a red line for us,” said senior Barta leader Abu Shotal, insisting it “only belongs to original people” of the region.
Calm was restored after a heavy deployment of troops were sent to Damazin, the state capital, and an overnight curfew remains in place.
In the market, some shops are still shuttered, while other show the signs of damage from the fighting.
“The market used to be busy,” said Mohamed Adam, a grocery shop owner. “Now work has been much less and everyone left.”
Haroun, living in a school and mourning his murdered family members, wants just to rebuild his life.
“We just want things to go back to how they were,” he said.


UK tells tourists to avoid Turkiye quake epicenter

UK tells tourists to avoid Turkiye quake epicenter
Updated 8 min 11 sec ago

UK tells tourists to avoid Turkiye quake epicenter

UK tells tourists to avoid Turkiye quake epicenter
  • No travel guidance issued against visiting rest of the country
  • Flights by British carriers continue as normal to Turkish airports outside affected area

LONDON: The UK Foreign Office has advised British travelers against visiting southeastern parts of Turkiye in the aftermath of the three earthquakes that hit the country on Monday.
It did not issue specific guidance not to travel to the country, but told people to check with their airlines if they already had flights booked to avoid being disrupted by cancelations.
The three airports closest to the epicenter — at Gazientep, Hatay and Ceyhan — are currently closed to commercial flights.
There are also no flights currently from the UK to Adana, which is 220 km west of Gazientep.
However, flights to popular tourist destinations such as Istanbul, Bodrum and Dalaman have not been canceled, and Adana can be reached via internal flights from western Turkish airports.
Turkish newspaper the Daily Sabah reported: “Currently, only planes carrying aid and rescue teams are allowed to land and take off from (Gazientep and Ceyhan).
“Hatay Airport, whose runway was damaged because of the earthquake, was closed for all flights.”
As of this time, no British operators have canceled flights to Turkiye outside of the region affected.
Hugh Fraser, founder of Corinthian Travel, told the Daily Mail: “Southeastern Turkiye and the area in the vicinity of Gaziantep has many spectacular attractions and is noted for its delicious regional cuisine, but has traditionally been the preserve of the second or third-time cultural visitors to Turkiye.
“The earthquake is a human tragedy but it is unlikely to have much impact on Turkiye’s major centers of tourism — Istanbul, Cappadocia, and the Aegean Coast — all of which are located hundreds of miles away to the west.”
So far, over 5,000 people are confirmed to have died in the disaster in Turkiye and neighboring Syria, with tens of thousands injured and homeless.
The World Health Organization has said the death toll could rise to as high as 20,000, with people left exposed to sub-zero temperatures.
UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “The UK is sending immediate support to Turkiye, including a team of 76 search and rescue specialists, equipment and rescue dogs.
“In Syria, the UK-funded White Helmets have mobilized their resources to respond. We stand ready to provide further support as needed.”


‘Everyone has been impacted’: UK charity describes ‘race against time’ to find survivors

‘Everyone has been impacted’: UK charity describes ‘race against time’ to find survivors
Updated 8 sec ago

‘Everyone has been impacted’: UK charity describes ‘race against time’ to find survivors

‘Everyone has been impacted’: UK charity describes ‘race against time’ to find survivors
  • Devastation “beyond words,” says Action For Humanity CEO

LONDON: Rescuers and aid organizations face a “race against time” to find survivors of Monday's deadly earthquake in Turkiye and Syria and bring assistance to those in most need, a British charity said on Tuesday.

Following the two 7.8 and 7.5-magnitude earthquakes that wrought devastation in both countries, Action For Humanity, the parent charity of the UK’s largest Syria-focused NGO Syria Relief, released a statement describing the devastation impacting the lives of everyone in the areas worst hit. 

Two members of their own staff, a medical professional and a monitoring evaluation and learning (MEAL) manager in Idlib, Syria, were killed with members of their family.

Dozens of other staff have lost family members and “everyone has been impacted,” the statement said.

“The devastation is beyond words, virtually every village in Northwest Syria, and every life has been impacted,” Othman Moqbel, CEO for Action For Humanity said. “Two of our own team, the Action For Humanity family, were killed — a medical professional and a member of our MEAL team in Syria — people motivated to do all they can to save the lives of Syrians, lost theirs to this tragedy,” he added.

He continued: “They were killed alongside family members. Also dozens of our team have lost parents, cousins, uncles, aunties, nephews and nieces. Their lives have been ripped apart.

“Across Syria, traumatised families have been spending spent 30 hours out in freezing cold as they are afraid to stay in buildings that are at risk of collapsing. They fear more earthquakes. The death toll rises by the minute.

“We are in a race against time to find survivors and provide warmth, food, shelter and medical aid.”

Moqbel also said it was vital that governments, but also members of the global public, help to support the emergency response.

“Syria is suffering from being underfunded and forgotten throughout nearly 12 years of war,” he said. 

“There was no hospital capacity already before this week, just suffering, there was not enough food before this week, just poverty, after neglecting Syrians for so long, we owe it to do all we can to help them. 

“We have mobilized staff to provide emergency aid and are working with our peers to provide a coordinated emergency response — which is so vital in times of large scale humanitarian need like this,” he added.

Action For Humanity has launched an emergency appeal, raising funds for items such as emergency holistic kits, support for the medical facilities, fuel and temporary collective shelter for those made homeless by the disaster.

It also deploying its mobile health clinics to support those impacted on site and health systems already under strain.


3 Britons missing in Turkiye after deadly quakes

3 Britons missing in Turkiye after deadly quakes
Updated 16 min 17 sec ago

3 Britons missing in Turkiye after deadly quakes

3 Britons missing in Turkiye after deadly quakes
  • UK FM: ‘We assess that the likelihood of large-scale British casualties remains low’
  • PM Rishi Sunak: ‘The UK stands ready to help in whatever way we can’

LONDON: Three British nationals are missing in Turkiye following Monday’s series of earthquakes, and the UK Foreign Office is providing support to at least 35 Britons affected by the disaster, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Tuesday.

The earthquakes struck southern Turkiye and northern Syria, killing at least 5,000 people. More than 6,000 buildings collapsed due to the shockwaves, with vital electricity and gas infrastructure damaged amid freezing winter temperatures.

“We assess that the likelihood of large-scale British casualties remains low,” Cleverly told the UK Parliament. “The Turkish government has declared a state of emergency and they are requesting international assistance on a scale that matches the enormity of the situation that they are facing.”

The UK has already authorized the deployment of a medical assessment team, Cleverly said, adding: “The further stages of requirement will evolve over time. We will, of course, work closely with our international partners to make sure we address that.

“Many of the 3.5 million Syrian refugees hosted by Turkiye reside in the affected provinces. Turkiye’s outstanding disaster relief response capability has been severely tested by the sheer scale of this catastrophe.”

He said: “Turkiye will lead the disaster relief response in the areas of Syria where it has the presence.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared 10 provinces in the country as disaster zones.

On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “The UK stands ready to help in whatever way we can.”


Doctor says bodies “everywhere” in collapsed Iskenderun hospital

Doctor says bodies “everywhere” in collapsed Iskenderun hospital
Updated 45 min 18 sec ago

Doctor says bodies “everywhere” in collapsed Iskenderun hospital

Doctor says bodies “everywhere” in collapsed Iskenderun hospital
  • There was little amongst the debris to suggest the building was a busy medical facility less than two days before
  • One of the hospital's surviving physicians, who identified himself only as Dr. Deveci, said he found the scene at his workplace hard to witness

ISKENDERUN, Turkiye: Rescue teams and survivors peered through the twisted remains of an Iskenderun hospital on Tuesday, searching for signs of life a day after a major earthquake struck Turkiye and neighboring Syria.
There was little among the debris to suggest the building was a busy medical facility less than two days before.
One of the hospital’s surviving physicians, who identified himself only as Dr. Deveci, said he found the scene at his workplace hard to witness.
“I’m devastated. I see bodies inside, everywhere. Although I’m used to seeing bodies because of my expertise, it’s very difficult for me,” he said.
Much of Iskenderun, a port city located in Turkiye’s southern Hatay province, lay in ruins after the magnitude 7.8 quake hit just after 4 a.m. on Monday. More than 1,200 buildings were destroyed in Hatay alone.
“A doctor said there are about 15 people here, including the patients,” taxi driver Kerim Sahin said as he looked for a colleague in one part of the hospital.
“At the moment, they’re all trapped inside. Nobody can go near the building, only one cabinet is supporting the third floor.”
Sahin said the scale of the damage meant further rescue efforts were reliant on excavation equipment arriving from nearby cities.
The death toll in Turkiye had risen to 3,549 people, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday as he declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces. In Syria, the toll stood at just over 1,700, with tens of thousands injured or left homeless in several Turkish and Syrian cities.
Turkish authorities say more than 12,000 search and rescue personnel are working in the affected areas, plus another 9,000 troops.


UAE pledges $100 million in quake relief to Syria, Turkiye

The UAE has dispatched planes to both Turkiye and Syria with relief items and rescue teams following Monday’s quake. (UAE MoD)
The UAE has dispatched planes to both Turkiye and Syria with relief items and rescue teams following Monday’s quake. (UAE MoD)
Updated 44 min 24 sec ago

UAE pledges $100 million in quake relief to Syria, Turkiye

The UAE has dispatched planes to both Turkiye and Syria with relief items and rescue teams following Monday’s quake. (UAE MoD)
  • The sum would be equally split between Syria and Turkiye, with each getting $50 million
  • It was not immediately clear if the funds for Syria included the $13.6 million previously announced

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates Tuesday pledged $100 million to Syria and Turkiye, one of the largest sums yet following a massive earthquake that killed more than 5,400 people across both countries.
The oil-rich Gulf nation — which had already pledged some $13.6 million to Syria — is spearheading regional relief efforts, having dispatched planes to both countries with relief items and rescue teams following the 7.8-magnitude quake that struck early Monday.
On Tuesday, Emirati President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan “ordered the provision of $100 million for the relief of those affected,” Emirates News Agency said.
The sum would be equally split between Syria and Turkiye, with each getting $50 million, according to the news agency.
It was not immediately clear if the funds for Syria included the $13.6 million previously announced.
Major General Saleh Al-Ameri, commander of joint operations at the UAE’s defense ministry, said Tuesday that three military planes had been dispatched to Turkiye, carrying search and rescue teams who have since commenced operations.
A total of seven flights are planned to the quake-hit countries, including two to the Syrian capital Damascus, he told local media.
Syria’s official SANA news agency said Tuesday that an Emirati plane carrying 10 tons of food supplies had arrived at the Damascus international airport.
The UAE reopened its embassy in the Syrian capital in December 2018.
In March last year, Assad made a visit to the UAE — his first to an Arab state in more than a decade of brutal civil war.