KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Authorities in Sudan’s North Darfur state announced a night curfew on Wednesday after armed groups looted a U.N. World Food Programme warehouse and facilities used by a former peacekeeping mission.
According to initial reports, the warehouse in El Fasher looted by unknown armed groups late on Tuesday contained up to 1,900 tonnes of food destined for hundreds of thousands of people in the area, a United Nations statement said.
Looting and burning destroyed the stores, according to state news agency SUNA. On Wednesday, gunfire could be heard near the warehouse, a resident told Reuters.
“One in three people in Sudan needs humanitarian assistance. Such an attack severely impedes our ability to deliver to the people who need it most,” U.N. humanitarian coordinator Khardiata Lo N’diaye said.
“We call upon the government of Sudan to step up efforts to protect and safeguard humanitarian premises and assets throughout Sudan,” she said.
There has been a sharp increase in violence that has forced people from their homes in Darfur over the past year, which humanitarian workers and analysts attribute to armed factions jostling for position after a peace deal was signed with some rebel groups in late 2020, as well as the return of fighters from neighbouring Libya.
On Jan. 1, 2021 peacekeepers from the joint United Nations-African Union mission UNAMID stopped patrolling ahead of a full withdrawal. Its facilities have been repeatedly looted, and those in El Fasher were looted from Friday to Monday, SUNA reported.
A national Sudanese force that was meant to replace UNAMID is yet to be deployed, and a coup in October that upended a national transition towards democratic elections added to uncertainty over the region’s future.
The Coordination Committee for Refugee and Displacement Camps, an NGO, blamed militias and armed groups aligned with authorities in Khartoum for the looting.
Many of the displaced fled their homes when the military and allied militias moved to crush an insurgency in Darfur from 2003, in a conflict that left an estimated 300,000 dead.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Giles Elgood)