Political Reports

Why Darfur Deserves a Special Attention?

Amani Africa – Sudan Events

Since the outbreak of fighting in Sudan on 15 April 2023, the part of the country that has come to experience the most violence is Darfur. Outside Khartoum, Darfur is the region where the fighting affected most parts of the region. It is in Darfur that the fighting has taken worrying levels of intercommunal dimension. It is also here that the fighting not only endangers to tear apart the already fragile and violence ridden relations between various communities, but also to result in mass atrocities. This is accordingly a situation that warrants special attention of the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC).
It is in Darfur that the fighting has taken worrying levels of intercommunal dimension. It is also here that the fighting not only endangers to tear apart the already fragile and violence ridden relations between various communities, but also to result in mass atrocities.
Although the signing of local peace agreements led by local leaders and committees initially sought to minimize the degeneration of the fighting between the Sudanese Armed Force (SAF) and the Rapid Support Force (RSF) into widespread inter-communal violence, it was unable to forestall it.
El Geneina, capital of West Darfur and a city close to the border with Chad, is perhaps the most affected by the violence. It reportedly witnessed the killing of significant number of people, widespread damage and destruction of both public and private property and lootings. According to OCHA’s Humanitarian update for 22 June, ‘[t]here are also reports of ethnically-motivated targeted killings, sexual violence, widespread burning of homes and mass displacement of non-Arab residents–particularly in and around the city of Ag Geneina (sic)–by the RSF and allied Arab militias.’
According to various reports, the violence in West Darfur taking the form of ethnic cleansing turns out to be one of, if not the, deadliest thus far and most atrocious. According to Sudan’s Doctors Union, the conflict in El Geneina has led to the death of over 1000 people. It has also forced tens of thousands into internal displacement or into crossing to Chad to seek refuge.
It is the fact that the outbreak of fighting between the RSF and SAF has come to intersect with existing conflict dynamics that makes the situation in Darfur particular and deserving of its own special attention. Despite some improvement in the overall conflict situation, Darfur did not recover peace fully. Not only that the conditions that led to the outbreak of war in 2003 have not been fully resolved but the war and most importantly the atrocities committed along ethnic lines targeting in particular non-Arab communities also created new grievances.
It is the fact that the outbreak of fighting between the RSF and SAF has come to intersect with existing conflict dynamics that makes the situation in Darfur particular and deserving of its own special attention.
In recent years and particularly since the ouster of Bashir and with new recruitment drives and the deepening of ties between the RSF and Arab militias, these conflict issues have become more acute and induced recurring incidents of violence. This is most notable in Western Darfur. According to the 2022 report of the UN Sanctions Committee, ‘[t]he city of El Geneina and neighboring areas of West Darfur have experienced regular and significant outbreaks of violence since 2019. In April 2021, the upsurge of violence had reached catastrophic dimension.’ It went on to report that ‘[l]ocal sources argued that the events took the form of ethnic cleansing, directed against the Masalit and other non-Arab communities.’
The fighting between the RSF and the SAF therefore seems to affect Darfur in two ways. First, it has adda a new axis of conflict in Darfur between entities that previously fought against Darfur armed groups jointly. Perhaps, most importantly, this fighting has made the resurgent conflict dynamics in Darfur much more violent and destructive. Media reports indicate that the attacks in El Geneina are largely by Arab militias and the RSF and they mainly targeted non-Arab groups, particularly the Masalit.
On 14 June, West Darfur’s Governor, Khamis Abdullah Abbaker, was killed in El Geneina shortly after he implicated the RSF for the atrocities being committed in the town. Reports attributed the killing to Arab militias and the RSF, although the paramilitary group denied the assertions. Following this killing, the OCHA update reported that ‘at least 15,000 people, including Sudanese refugees and 3,000 Chadian returnees have reportedly crossed into Chad.’

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