Concern over rising violence in Darfur

The latest satellite images show that the Sudanese paramilitary Rapid Support Force (RSF) and other militant groups have been attacking and burning villages in war-torn Darfur in recent days, raising fears of more mass killings in the region, world media reported.

Reports also indicate that there are signs that the current war, now entering its second year, may claim more lives than the violence of two decades ago, as the RSF is now better armed with the help of countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Egypt.

Risk of new crimes

The surge in violence around El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, has prompted warnings from US officials, the United Nations (UN) and analysts monitoring the fighting about the risk of new crimes against black communities in the region, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The predominantly ethnic Arab RSF and local militant groups have already, the newspaper said, killed thousands of people since the war for control of Sudan broke out a year ago between the paramilitary group and the country's army.

Last year's battle for the town of El Geneina in West Darfur claimed the lives of around 15.000 people, UN investigators said in a recent report, noting that around 2.000 people were killed in the massacre at the displaced camp in November.

Sudanese refugees wait to be registered by South Sudanese authorities after crossing the border near the town of Renka on February 14, 2024.

Why is Sudan still at war?

According to the New York newspaper, the RSF has allied with Arab leaders in Darfur, whose traditionally nomadic herding communities have long competed with black farming communities for land in the mineral-rich region, in its war against the Sudanese army. The RSF and other militant groups have used the war to extend their rule over Darfur, often targeting people already displaced by violence in the early 2000s.

Violence in and around El Fasher was the topic of a UN Security Council meeting on April 19, when UN officials said some 36.000 people had fled to El Fasher from surrounding villages in recent days.

An estimated 1,8 million people have fled Sudan because of the war, while 6,7 million are internally displaced.

Experts monitoring the violence in Darfur and Sudanese activists say the RSF's prolonged siege of El Fasher – the only regional capital in Darfur still held by the Sudanese army – could cost many more lives.

UN agencies also warn that hundreds of thousands of Darfur residents are suffering from starvation after more than a year of war in which both the RSF and the Sudanese army have prevented humanitarian aid from reaching the population.

Mutassim Ali, a Sudanese human rights activist who has spent decades researching the conflict in Darfur, said there are signs that the current war may claim more lives than the violence of 20 years ago because the RSF is now better armed.

The WSJ also recalls that in August it announced that the United Arab Emirates had supplied the RSF with a large quantity of weapons, while the Sudanese army had meanwhile bought drones from Iran and other support from Egypt.

Intensification of the conflict

Satellite data revealed that the number of Sudanese settlements burned rose to 30 in March, the highest monthly total recorded since fighting broke out between the country's army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Force (RSF) last April, the Guardian reports.

The paper points to an analysis by the London-based Center for Information Resilience (CIR) which confirms growing concerns that Sudan's civil war is steadily intensifying, with 22 villages destroyed or damaged by fire in February and 10 destroyed in January and December. Anouk Theunissen, head of the CIR's Sudan team of investigators, said the data showed a "worrying development" in Sudan's brutal war between two rival military factions.

Most of the recently damaged villages were in Darfur, a vast region in western Sudan, where 17 villages were targeted last month. Among them was El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur and the scene of escalating fighting as the RSF seeks to capture the city.

Reports from mid-April also indicated that 40.000 people in El Fasher had fled their homes after the RSF and allied militant groups stormed villages on the city's western outskirts, killing at least 11 Jews, the newspaper said, noting that the RSF was accused of ethnic cleansing, as well as rape and looting, in rampages against the ethnic Masalites across Darfur.

Hundreds of thousands of displaced people have sought shelter around El Fasher, prompting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to recently warn of serious humanitarian consequences if the situation worsens further.

The fires are just one facet of a bitter war that has forced more than eight million people from their homes – the biggest global displacement crisis – and millions more to the brink of starvation.

In an effort to address the country's desperate lack of humanitarian aid, international donors pledged more than two billion euros at a conference in Paris in mid-April. On that occasion, the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Analena Baerbock, warned that a million people could die of hunger in Sudan this year.

The problem of foreign interference

UN officials are warning that Sudan's war has sparked a "crisis of epic proportions" fueled by weapons from "foreign backers" who continue to defy UN sanctions aimed at helping end the conflict, the Associated Press reports.

Sudan descended into chaos in mid-April 2023, when tensions between its army, led by General Abdel Fattah Burhan, and the RSF paramilitary unit, under the command of Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, escalated into street battles in the capital Khartoum, AP recalls, adding that the fighting has spread to other parts of the country, especially in urban areas and in the western region of Darfur.

Mohamed Ibn Chambas, chairman of the African Union panel on Sudan and senior representative for the "Silence the Guns in Africa" ​​initiative, called external interference "a major factor complicating efforts to negotiate a ceasefire and stop the war."

Ali Burhan, who led the military takeover of Sudan in 2021, is a close ally of neighboring Egypt and its president, former army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi.

In February, Sudan's foreign minister held talks in Tehran with his Iranian counterpart over unconfirmed reports of drone purchases for government forces.

Rapid Support Force leader Dagalo also reportedly received support from the Russian mercenary group Wagner, the AP noted, pointing to a recent UN report that said the RSF also received support from Arab allied communities and new military routes to supply passing through Chad, Libya and South Sudan.

Two decades ago, Darfur was synonymous with genocide and war crimes, particularly by the notorious Janjaweed Arab militias, against populations identifying as Central African or East African. That legacy appears to have returned, the AP reported, adding that International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan said in late January there were reasons to believe both sides may be committing war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide in Darfur.

Destruction of Sudan

The forces of two rival generals have been ravaging Sudan, Africa's third-largest country, for a year, sparking a wave of violence that has driven 8,6 million people from their homes, the New York Times reports.

Sudan occupies a key position on the African continent. It has a significant coastline on the Red Sea, one of the world's busiest sea lanes. It shares borders with seven countries – the Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya and South Sudan – many of which are threatened by instability.

Sudan's year-long war has already destroyed the capital Khartoum, once a major center of trade and culture on the Nile, the paper said, citing claims by residents and aid workers.

Global freedom has taken a big step back, Freedom House has warned

The UN has warned that more than a third of Sudan's 48 million people face catastrophic levels of hunger, and nearly 230.000 severely malnourished children and new mothers face death in the coming months if they do not receive food and health care.

Dozens of hospitals and clinics have been closed, aid workers say, while the closure of the country's schools and universities, which have historically attracted many foreign students, has caused what the UN says is "the world's worst education crisis".

Civilians have been killed, aid camps and homes have been burned, and refugees fleeing previous violence are crossing the border into Chad, vowing never to return home, the paper said, pointing to UN data that of the millions displaced by the conflict, more than 6,6 million remained in Sudan.

Nearly 1,8 million others have fled to neighboring countries, including South Sudan, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia and the Central African Republic.

Multiple attempts to reach a ceasefire have failed, the New York Times points out, adding that UN calls for a temporary cessation of hostilities have largely been ignored.

Taken from RFE

 

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