Civilians attacked in Darfur as Sudan fighting continues into third week
Sudan's two biggest armed groups, the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), escalated a crisis sparked by their generals three weeks ago.
There is significant fire damage in El Geneina in Sudan's West Darfur region after clashes in the town over the past week. @planet imagery from 28 April shows burn marks in several blocks in the town. pic.twitter.com/TGc6zTrtoh— Benjamin Strick (@BenDoBrown) April 29, 2023
Evidence suggested that there was widespread destruction in Darfur, as experts feared the fighting between the two groups could inflame longstanding hostilities in the region.
Several images and videos shared online purportedly showed massive fire damage in the state capital of El-Geneina following clashes last week.
At least 74 people were killed on Monday and Tuesday in battles between rival tribes for control of the city, according to a provisional toll issued by a national doctors' syndicate.
“[The UN refugee agency] is extremely concerned that if the fighting isn’t brought to an immediate end, it could unleash communal conflicts that will have an absolutely devastating effect on the very fragile social fabric of Darfur and risk repeating previous conflicts,” said Toby Harward, the principal situation coordinator for UNHCR in Darfur, as quoted by The Guardian.
Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s armed forces, and RSF chief Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, popularly known as Hemedti - both of whom are de-facto leaders of the country - ignited the conflict after a series of disagreements over a plan to transition to civilian rule.
Both forces are using heavy weaponry, including artillery and warplanes, and often attack civilians and essential infrastructure.
In the early 2000s, former Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir sent his forces to quell a rebellion in Darfur. Burhan and Hemedti were both leaders in Bashir’s forces, which have been accused of committing horrific war crimes in the region.
The UN estimates around 300,000 people were killed in the fighting in Darfur, and millions more were displaced.
Bashir, who was toppled from power in 2019 in a popular uprising, has been indicted for war crimes and genocide by the ICC. He currently remains in Sudan.