UN Security Council concerned over imminent attack in Sudan's North Darfur

UN Security Council concerned over imminent attack in Sudan's North Darfur
Sudanese paramilitary forces are encircling the only capital they haven’t captured in the western Darfur region, the United Nations said.
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Internally displaced Sudanese walk on a main alley in Abu Shouk camp, nearly 20 kms north of El-Fasher, the capital of the North Darfur state, on November 5, 2019. [Getty]

The UN Security Council on Saturday expressed its "deep concern" over an imminent attack on al-Fashir in Sudan's North Darfur region by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

War erupted in Sudan one year ago between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary RSF, creating the world's largest displacement crisis.

Al Fashir is the last major city in the vast, western Darfur region not under control of the RSF. The RSF and its allies swept through four other Darfur state capitals last year, and were blamed for a campaign of ethnically driven killings against non-Arab groups and other abuses in West Darfur.

The Security Council, in a statement, "expressed their deep concern over an imminent offensive by the Rapid Support Forces and their allied militias" against the city of al-Fashir.

"They called on the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces to end the build-up of military forces and to take steps to de-escalate the situation," the statement said.

Top UN officials warned the Security Council last week that some 800,000 people in al-Fashir were in "extreme and immediate danger" as worsening violence advances and threatens to "unleash bloody intercommunal strife throughout Darfur." 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres again called on the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and government forces to refrain from fighting in the North Darfur area around Al Fashir, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The year-old war in Sudan between rival generals from the paramilitary and government forces who are vying for power has sparked “a crisis of epic proportions,” UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo said last Friday.

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It has been fueled by weapons from foreign supporters who continue to flout UN sanctions aimed at helping end the conflict, she said, stressing that “This is illegal, it is immoral, and it must stop.”

The UN humanitarian office said Friday that escalating tensions and clashes around Al Fashir over the last two weeks have already resulted in the displacement of 40,000 people, as well as a number of civilian casualties.

“The security situation has effectively cut off humanitarian access to El Fasher,” the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs known as OCHA, said.

According to humanitarian officials, El Fasher is an important location to reach other parts of the vast Darfur region, including for aid shipments from neighboring Chad and via a northern route from Port Sudan on Sudan’s northeast coast.

“Currently, more than a dozen trucks with life-saving supplies for 122,000 people are stranded in Ad Dabbah in neighboring Northern State, as they cannot move onward to El Fasher due to insecurity and lack of guarantees for safe passage,” OCHA said.

Dujarric said the secretary-general’s personal envoy for Sudan, Ramtane Lamamra, is engaging with the rival parties to de-escalate tensions, which are reported to have dramatically escalated.

OCHA also said it’s “imperative that the parties allow safe passage for civilians to leave El Fasher for safer areas.”

Sudan plunged into chaos in mid-April 2023, when long-simmering tensions between its military, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan , and the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary commanded by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo broke out into street battles in the capital, Khartoum.

Fighting has spread to other parts of the country, especially urban areas and the western Darfur region.