Land has become an increasingly scarce resource in Western Sudan due to mounting desertification and environmental degradation.
Competition over arable and grazing land is one of the major factors leading to clashes between Beni Halba and Gimir pastoralist communities in South Darfur.
Fighting over contested land between the two communities in 2013 left more than 160 people dead.
Beni Halba and Gimir are pastoralist communities with Arab identity inhabiting South Darfur. Disputes between the communities, primarily over land, have occurred in the past but could often be solved by ways of traditional mediation. In 2013, however, the two communities fought each other fiercely over contested land. The fighting started in early March and the two communities clashed several times throughout the year, leaving more than 160 people dead (UCDP, 2015). Armed forces, which had been sent to the area by the central government to create a buffer zone between the two communities, had retreated, thereby making the outbreak of violence possible. Sources reported that attacks by Beni Halba were supported by the “Central Reserve Forces”, also known as “Abu Tira”, a pro-government militia. After the clashes, both sides accused each other of breaking a recent peace treaty, of which several had been signed and broken in the years prior to the incident in 2013 (Radio Dabanga, 2013; CORI, 2013; UCDP, 2015).
Competition over scarce land
Land is an increasingly scarce resource in western Sudan due to a variety of factors such as desertification, deforestation and environmental degradation. Ensuing competition over arable and grazing land, in turn, is one of the major factors leading to (often violent) conflict between local communities. In the present case, the Gimir accused the Beni Halba of trying to oust them from areas they had lived on for centuries, while the latter claimed the area for themselves. The disputed land is of particular importance for both animal husbandry and the production of gum arabic (Pantuliano, 2007; UN News Centre, 2007; Reeves, 2013; der Standard, 2013).
The role of the Government of Sudan
In addition, representatives of the Gimir community accused the central government of supporting the Beni Halba, of which Sudan's Second Vice President at the time- al-Haj Adam Youssef - originates from. Sources reported that on several occasions, government security forces that were supposed to protect the Gimir either did not intervene during the attacks by Beni Halba or retreated shortly before the attacks started. Furthermore, it has been reported that border guards and Central Reserve Forces were involved in the attacks (CORI, 2013; UCDP, 2015).
Numerous peace treaties have been signed between the two communities throughout their conflictual history. However, the truces were usually broken after a short period of time. In 2014, after a year of negotiations between the leaders of the two communities, a reconciliation agreement was signed on March 17, in Nyala, South Darfur, in the presence of Sudan’s second Vice-President, Hassabu Mohamed Abdalrahman. Both delegations confirmed their full commitment to implement the terms of the agreement (Radio Dabanga, 2014). Since then no more violent clashes have been reported.