WHILE global attention has focused on the capital, Khartoum, conflict is spiraling in western Sudan, characterised by bloodshed, widespread clashes and looting of aid. The situation is dire in the El Geneina region of West Darfur where since Tuesday last week, at least 19 people have been killed, thousands of others displaced, dozens of settlements burnt and destroyed.
Health facilities, the central market, humanitarian premises, and public buildings have been looted. The violence began on April 25 in Geneina, the regional capital, with heavy armed clashes between various local armed groups. Militia members from the ethnic Massalit and Arab communities have joined the fray.
“The stories coming out of there describe a hell on earth,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). Mohamed Osman, Human Rights Watch Researcher for Africa, recounted similar horrors. “Talking by phone with people in West Darfur over the past days, we heard tragic stories that we’ve long been hearing from Darfur: repeated displacement, the deaths of loved ones, and losing everything owned,” Osman said.
Egeland recounted how displaced families saw their precarious shelters turned to ashes, humanitarian offices looted and warehouses pillaged. “Nothing is left,” Egeland said. NRC volunteer, Elsheikh Mohamed Omer, is among those killed. The NRC office and guesthouse have also been looted. Omer had been displaced.
He was killed in an informal settlement on Sunday when he had been working as part of a team who supported camp management through community outreach, messaging and data collection. The work is currently suspended due to the security situation. NRC’s colleagues have had their homes burnt and looted.
“This is devastating,” Egeland said. “It’s the fourth time in three years that civilians and internally
displaced people in El Geneina are caught in senseless violence.” Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has had to suspend its operations. It reported the El Geneina Teaching Hospital, the main referral hospital in the area, had been attacked and looted. Osman said international scrutiny of Darfur is needed, especially given the massive evacuation of aid workers.
“With risks to civilians spiralling throughout the country, communities in Darfur should no longer have to rummage through ashes to see if they have anything left to hold onto,” Osman said. The country is beset by a conflict that began on April 15 after a fallout between the Sudan Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces in Khartoum. Over 500 people have been killed. Conflict is not new to West Darfur. It was impacted by ethnic cleansing by government forces in the entire Darfur from 2003.
Scorching violence intensified in West Darfur, with regular and premeditated attacks on civilians since 2021. In April that year, attacks left at least 144 people dead and 233 injured. Almost 40 000 people were forced to flee.
– CAJ News