Armed clashes in Sudan's South Kordofan province killed more than two dozen people, including paramilitary troops, over 48 hours, authorities said Wednesday. It marked the third outbreak of violence this month that could derail the country's transition to democracy.
The fighting poses a significant challenge to efforts by Sudan's transitional government to end decades-long rebellions in some areas of the country. Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy after a popular uprising led the military to overthrow former autocratic president Omar al-Bashir in April last year.
Fighting broke out this week between armed residents in a market in the city of Kadugli, the provincial capital of South Kordofan, said Deputy Chief of Staff of Sudan's military Abdalla al-Bashir. He said 26 people were killed over two days.
Al-Bashir said the dispute was over an arms sale and that it escalated in the past two days in the market and in some villages in Kadugli. The city is located around 715 kilometres (444 miles) south of Sudan's capital, Khartoum.
Authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew for three days to stabilize the situation, he said.
Brig. Gamal Ammer, spokesman for the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, said at least nine soldiers were killed and at least 26 other people, including 10 civilians, were wounded in the clashes, which erupted Monday night. He did not clarify who the other 16 wounded were.
Ammer said RSF troops did not take part in the clashes but did not clarify how they were killed and wounded. The RSF grew out of the notorious Janjaweed militias implicated in the Darfur conflict, and the force is now part of the military.
Abdalla al-Bashir, who was in Kadugli on Wednesday, said the violence was not the result of tribal clashes but rather a ``dispute between individuals'' dating back to April when ``outlaws'' looted livestock in a village south of Kadugli. He did not elaborate. He said an investigation was opened and that those involved would be prosecuted.
Mussa Mahmoud, the secretary general of the provincial government, blamed an ``outlawed group'' for the clashes. He also did not elaborate.
Last week, tribal clashes in the provinces of South Darfur and Kassala left at least three dozen people dead and dozens wounded. The fighting poses a significant challenge to efforts by the transitional government to end decades-long rebellions in some areas.
The violence came as authorities struggle to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Sudan's health care system has been weakened by decades of war and sanctions.
The country has more than 1,660 confirmed cases, including at least 80 deaths.
The transitional authorities face mounting challenges, mainly reviving an economy battered by decades-long civil wars and international sanctions.
A key priority for the transitional government is to end the insurgencies in Sudan's far-flung provinces in order to slash military spending, which takes up much of the national budget. Rebel groups have for months engaged in talks with the transitional authorities to establish peace.