(Bloomberg) -- Surging violence in Sudan’s peripheries has forced more than 410,000 people to flee their homes this year, the United Nations said, casting a shadow over the African nation’s prospects of emerging from decades of war and dictatorship.

Intercommunal battles and armed attacks, mainly in the Darfur region as well as the southern areas of Kordofan and Blue Nile, fueled a rise in the number of displaced people between January and August to six times that of the year before, the head of Sudan’s UN mission said Tuesday.

“More needs to be done to effectively protect civilians,” Volker Perthes said as he presented the latest report to the Security Council. “I am increasingly concerned about security developments.”

Sudan is in flux after the 2019 ousting of long-time President Omar al-Bashir, who reigned with an iron fist and turned the country into an international pariah isolated from global markets. While its interim rulers have implemented tough economic reforms, the UN’s Integrated Transition Assistance Mission warned the path to democracy has “significant challenges,” including tensions between the military and civilian parts of government and a lack of accountability for past crimes.

Sudan has been wracked by civil conflict for much of its six decades since independence, with people in outlying regions bristling at Khartoum’s centralized rule, Islamist policies or neglect under leaders like Bashir. His overthrow sparked new peace initiatives with rebels in Darfur and two southern border states who’d fought the government for years, but after a brief hiatus, violence has ignited again, including over resources and between communities. Authorities have struggled to restore calm following the withdrawal of an African Union-UN peacekeeping mission. 

While Sudan has made good progress in preparing for elections, more needs to be done to support the UN mission’s work in bolstering security, Perthes said.

“By filling critical gaps in what remains a modestly sized mission, I hope we can effectively respond to the evolving needs of the transition in Sudan,” he said.

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