Photo Credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAHImpoverished tribes in war torn Darfur, the scene of decades of misery and genocide, now have one of the oldest reasons for fighting known to man: gold.
More than 800 people have been killed and 150,000 displaced since January as poor, but heavily armed tribes fight over the Jebel Amer gold mining region. That is more than double the number of people killed in political and ethnic fighting in 2012, and world leaders fear the mad dash for precious metal could be plunging the region into a new era of violence. Humanitarian groups say the Sudanese government, led by accused war criminal President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, is pitting tribes against each other in a bid to get the most possible out of some 4,000 mines.
“Ten years after the genocide began, state-sponsored violence has once more taken hold of the region,” said Akshaya Kumar, a policy analyst for the Enough Project, a Washington-based humanitarian organization. “Cash-strapped and dollar-starved, Sudan sees gold as its new oil. The recent gold discoveries are fueling atrocities again in Darfur.”
When South Sudan split from Sudan two years ago, it took with it much of the nation’s oil wealth. With shrinking oil revenues, al-Bashir is seeking to increase the $2.2 billion worth of gold produced by the mines annually. And his strategy to keep control of the vast region’s gold, amid hundreds of thousands of amateurs in a virtual free-for-all, relies on fighters battle-hardened from decades of ethnic and religious war.
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