Conflict Alerts # 533, 21 July 2022
In the news
On 14 July, a Hausa farmer was reportedly killed over a land dispute between the Hausa, Birta and Funj tribes in the Blue Nile state, after the Birtas rejected the Hausas’ request for a “civil authority to supervise access to land.” The incident led to violence between the groups in the Qaisan area, along Sudan’s border with Ethiopia. Clashes between the groups, allegedly sparked by revenge, also took place in Roseires and Damazin towns.
On 18 July, the death toll from clashes rose to 79, leaving another 199 injured. The Federal Health Ministry said ten people had been airlifted for treatment after they were seriously injured. On the same day, Sudan Tribune reported that the Hausa community had issued a statement pledging revenge in the Blue Nile State. The Blue Nile governor accused the former military government of militarizing the region and arming civilians.
On 19 July, thousands of Hausas protested across different cities, including the capital Khartoum, calling for justice for the Hausa victims; in some cities, government buildings and offices were reportedly set on fire. The UN said over 17,000 people had fled and were sheltered in different local schools.
On 20 July, the death toll rose to 105. The State health minister said calm had been restored after the army deployed on 16 July.
Issues at large
First, a brief background on the Blue Nile state in Sudan. It is located in Sudan’s southeast, bordering Ethiopia and South Sudan. The state has rich agricultural and grazing land, minerals and livestock, with agriculture and mining being the fastest growing sectors. With a population of more than a million, the Blue Nile state is home to forty ethnic groups and tribes, namely the Funj, Birta, Uduk, Ganza, Maban, Ingessana, and so on.
Second, the Hausa demands in Sudan. The Hausa constitutes one of Africa's largest ethnic communities, with ten million people spread across several countries. An estimated three million Hausas live in Sudan. The Hausa, significantly a Muslim agricultural community, has its roots in West Africa but migrated and settled in Sudan by the end of the 19th century. However, even as recently as the late 2010s, Hausas are considered outsiders. They demand the rights to supervise access to land in Sudan and inclusion in the regional administration. Sudan Tribune explains that the Hausas aim to establish a chiefdom in the Blue Nile; the regional administration has rejected these demands, especially after the Hausas chose a leader to represent them earlier in 2022.
Third, increased instances of violence across Sudan’s border regions. Apart from violence in the Blue Nile, similar instances have been recorded in West Kordofan and South Kordofan states and border states of the Darfur region in the west. The ICRC estimates that of the three million people displaced in Sudan, 80 per cent live in Darfur. Similarly, Sudan has been facing problems along borders with South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Chad.
Fourth, the general unrest in Sudan. The country has been witnessing a nationwide uprising since the military coup in October 2021. The protesters have been calling for an end to the military government and the installation of civilian rule. However, protests have been met with force, and in late June, nine protesters were killed during demonstrations. As of 20 July, more than 100 protesters have died during the protests.
First, the violence in the Blue Nile state indicates the failure of successive governments and administrations to address the tribal grievances in the state, leading to a feeling of alienation among the Hausas in the state.
Second, the increasing instances of violence can be attributed to the instability created by frequent shifts in the federal government, from the fall of longtime dictator Omar al Bashir in 2019 to the subsequent civilian rule, which was toppled by the military in October 2021. The violence and anger among people add to the mistrust of the Sudanese in the ruling military government. Repeated violence will likely worsen the unrest sparked by the political crisis and the reeling economy.