Tragedy struck in Khartoum on Saturday as at least 15 civilians lost their lives due to the shelling of their residences, a medical source disclosed. The victims’ bodies were transported to Al-Nau hospital in Omdurman, an area encompassed within greater Khartoum, the medical source conveyed, choosing to remain anonymous.
A protracted conflict that has raged since April between the military forces commanded by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) under the leadership of his former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, has engulfed densely populated regions. This power struggle between the two rival commanders has severely disrupted essential services throughout Sudan and left substantial portions of the capital and the extensive western territory of Darfur in ruins.
Currently, delegates from the warring factions have convened in Jeddah for discussions mediated by Saudi Arabia and the United States. However, the combat within Sudan continues unabated, undermining the prospect of a lasting resolution.
In the course of nearly seven months of this conflict, the death toll has surpassed 10,400, according to a conservative estimate compiled by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. The United Nations has reported that more than six million people have been compelled to seek refuge, both within Sudan’s borders and in neighboring countries.
In recent weeks, the RSF has embarked on an offensive targeting army bases in the war-ravaged region of Darfur, which has been marred by decades of conflict and atrocities perpetrated against civilians by various armed groups, including the RSF’s precursor, the Janjaweed militia.
On Saturday, the paramilitary force asserted that it had “liberated” an army base in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, where a communications blackout has stoked fears of additional horrors. This development has raised concerns and invoked the events of June in El Geneina when human rights organizations and eyewitnesses reported massacres, widespread sexual violence, and mass graves.
The RSF’s recent territorial gains have compounded the suffering of the beleaguered residents of Darfur, with more than half a million people having fled the violence to seek refuge in neighboring Chad, located a mere 30 kilometers from El Geneina.
These incidents in West Darfur and other accounts of ethnically motivated killings, conducted by the RSF and affiliated militias, have prompted a renewed investigation by the International Criminal Court into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The seizure of the army base in El Geneina marks the third such capture by the RSF in the span of a week, following the conquests of Zalingei, the capital of Central Darfur, and Nyala, the state capital of South Darfur, which is Sudan’s second-largest city.
A stark and urgent message was conveyed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday, cautioning against signs of an “imminent large-scale attack” in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state. Blinken underscored that such an attack would place civilians, including hundreds of thousands of displaced individuals, at “extreme danger.”
Darfur, an expanse comparable in size to France and home to a quarter of Sudan’s 48 million inhabitants, has been plagued by this relentless conflict, leading to what the UN’s humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, has labeled “one of the worst humanitarian nightmares in recent history.”
Amid this catastrophic backdrop, both sides involved in the conflict have positioned themselves as facilitators of peace during the resumed negotiations in Saudi Arabia. However, the objectives at this stage appear to be limited to enabling the delivery of humanitarian aid and advocating for a sustainable ceasefire.
Previous ceasefires negotiated during the conflict were rapidly violated by both sides, each accusing the other of obstructing, attacking, or looting aid efforts.
On Monday, the RSF released a video featuring its commander, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who has largely remained out of the public eye throughout the conflict. In the video, Daglo assigned blame for the war to Burhan and praised his forces for their “victory” in Darfur. He asserted that the RSF “has no problem with peace” but made it clear that the group would not accept “a ceasefire that allows the army” to regroup.