KHARTOUM, (Reuters) – Arab militias clashed with displaced Darfuris in a row over a water pump that left one dead and an unknown number injured, peacekeepers said on Tuesday.
An Arab nomad was beaten and later died on Monday after residents of West Darfur’s Hassa Hissa camp found him and a companion trying to take a pump from one of their boreholes, officers from the joint U.N./African Union UNAMID force said.
Around midday on Tuesday, a group of gunmen returned to the camp, near the town of Zalengei, seeking revenge, officers said. “The group of about 30 militiamen was advancing towards the camp, shooting into the air,” UNAMID spokesman Kemal Saiki said. “UNAMID sent in some troops to calm the situation down.”
Saiki said equipment around five water holes in the camp, home to more than 40,000 people, was set on fire.
Zalengei, the birthplace of Darfur rebel leader Abdel Wahed Mohamed Ahmed al-Nur and other key figures in the conflict, is one of the most politically charged towns in Sudan’s western region.
African Union peacekeepers and Sudanese police withdrew from camps surrounding it after violent protests greeted the signing of the 2006 Darfur peace agreement that was opposed by Nur.
UNAMID, which replaced the AU force in January, and the police, have not been able to set up a permanent presence since. Three government workers who arrived to test water in Hassa Hissa in July 2006 were bludgeoned to death after residents accused them of trying to poison their supply.
The Darfur conflict started in 2003 when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government, accusing it of marginalising the region.
Camps around Zalengei sprung up to take in villagers fleeing attacks by government troops and mostly Arab militias trying to quell the revolt.