No respite for Sudan civilians two months into brutal war
AUTHOR: AFP | PUBLISHED: June 15, 2023
Air strikes and artillery exchanges resumed in Khartoum the moment the latest brief ceasefire bid ended | Credit | AFP
Army warplanes bombed the Sudanese city of El Obeid Wednesday, as the country prepared to mark two months of suffering since a power struggle between rival generals plunged the country into a devastating war.
Since April 15, the regular army headed by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces commanded by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo have been locked in urban combat that has left whole neighborhoods of the capital Khartoum unrecognizable.
The fighting quickly spread to the provinces, particularly the western region of Darfur, and has killed at least 1,800 people, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project’s (ACLED) latest figures from last month.
On Wednesday, the regular army carried out air strikes for the first time in El Obeid, the capital of North Kordofan state, which has been surrounded by the RSF since the war began, witnesses told AFP.
In another escalation, the army accused RSF of killing the governor of West Darfur state, calling it a “brutal act.”
Nationwide, around 2.2 million people have fled their homes, more than one million of them escaping Khartoum, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Of those, more than 528,000 have sought refuge in neighboring countries, according to the UN agency.
Those that remain have run out of food, water and medicine, Khartoum resident Ahmed Taha told AFP.
“We have nothing left. The entire country has been completely devastated,” Taha said. “Everywhere you look, you’ll see where bombs have fallen and bullets have struck. Every inch of Sudan is a disaster area.”
‘Suffering and suffering’
US and Saudi mediation efforts are at a standstill after the collapse of multiple ceasefires in the face of flagrant violations by both sides.
Aid agencies have pleaded for the opening of safe humanitarian corridors to allow assistance in but to no avail.
Entire districts of Khartoum no longer have running water, mains electricity is only available for a few hours a week and most hospitals in combat zones are not functioning.
A record 25 million people — more than half the population — are in need of aid, according to the UN, which says it has received only a fraction of needed funding.
Saudi Arabia has announced an international pledging conference for next week.
Despite dangers and other obstacles, latest figures from the UN say aid has reached 1.8 million people, still a fraction of those needing assistance.
“We have been suffering and suffering and suffering the scourge of this war for two months,” said Khartoum resident Soha Abdulrahman.
The conflict’s other main battleground Darfur was already scarred by a two-decade war that left hundreds of thousands dead and more than two million displaced.
Homes and markets have been burnt to the ground, hospitals and aid facilities looted and more than 149,000 sent fleeing into neighbouring Chad.
The Umma Party, one of Sudan’s main civilian groups, said El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, had been turned into a “disaster zone”, and urged international organizations to provide help.
The Sudanese army on Wednesday accused the RSF of “kidnapping and assassinating” West Darfour state governor Khamis Abdullah Abakar, calling it “a new chapter to its record of barbaric crimes that it has been committing against all the Sudanese people.”
‘Crimes against humanity’
Also referring to Darfur, the head of the UN mission in Sudan, Volker Perthes, on Tuesday said there was “an emerging pattern of large-scale targeted attacks against civilians based on their ethnic identities, allegedly committed by Arab militias and some armed men” in RSF uniform.
If these reports are verified they “could amount to crimes against humanity”, he said.
Daglo’s RSF have their origins in the Janjaweed militias which former strongman Omar al-Bashir unleashed on ethnic minorities in the region in 2003, drawing charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The paramilitaries remain highly mobile and adept at the sort of urban combat that has gripped Khartoum and Darfur’s cities but the regular army has so far enjoyed a virtual monopoly of the skies.
However, an army official said Wednesday that the paramilitaries had begun using drones, which an RSF source said they had obtained “from commandeered army centres”.
Both sources spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
According to a military analyst from the region who requested anonymity for his safety, the RSF might have obtained the drones from the Yarmouk weapons manufacturing and arms depot complex, which they overran just days after the collapse of US and Saudi-brokered ceasefire talks.