Tens of thousands die in Sudanese conflict

Tens of thousands die in Sudanese conflict
Smoke rises from Sudan's capital in April 2023

The conflict between two factions of Sudan’s government over the last week has killed tens of thousands of people, such as over 500 in the regional capital of Geneina, a city in Sudan’s backward west. Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries in Africa, such as to Egypt, Sudan’s northern neighbor, and to Sudan’s western neighbor Chad, even though Chad is one of the poorest and most backward places on Earth (so backward that countless people die of diarrheal diseases there, and much of the population goes hungry). Countless thousands of people in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, a desert city with over 5 million people in its metro area, have now run out of clean water and food.

And the fighting continues with no end in sight. The conflict pits Sudan’s regular army and air force against the RSF, a militia originally created by Sudan’s government to ethnically cleanse Darfur province of non-Arabic-speaking black people. (Sudan consists mostly of Arabic-speaking black people, with a minority of white Arabs and a large minority of non-Arabic-speaking black peoples).

Now, the Washington Post reports that both sides fighting in Sudan are targeting doctors and activists and silencing the civilian voices seeking to document war crimes and provide services in the face of social collapse. It notes that “war engulfed the African nation April 14 and shows little sign of abating after more than 1 million people fled their homes. Both the military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have repeatedly pledged to respect cease-fires and humanitarian law, only to break those promises within minutes. Each side blames the other for sparking and continuing hostilities.”

The conflict is a power struggle between the two men who jointly directed a 2021 coup against a civilian-military government. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan is the head of the military and the de facto head of state, and Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo — known as Hemedti — commands the RSF.

In the country’s capital, Khartoum, and many cities across Sudan, the RSF has taken up positions inside civilian homes, hospitals and even churches. Residents blame the RSF for widespread looting, rapes and forced evictions of residents into streets under crossfire to turn their homes over to RSF members. Social media is filled with images of military airstrikes pummeling the capital and images of homes pulverized by heavy weapons.

As bombs and artillery shells rained down on hospitals, committees of civilians began documenting attacks, setting up crude clinics, and gathering resources such as water. Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, is the hottest capital city on Earth, routinely above 100 degrees even in Spring.

Now those activists are being targeted by the RSF and the military. This week, troops arrested three activists from a civilian committee in Bahri, a dusty town just north of Khartoum. The neighborhood is mostly under the control of the RSF, but fierce battles have raged there every day. Its industrial area houses a munitions factory and is the target of frequent airstrikes and artillery rounds.

Doctors at Bahri’s Globe Hospital and Hag al-Safi Hospital have also been repeatedly abducted and forced to treat RSF fighters, Makki said. Only about 16 percent of the capital’s hospitals are still functioning; many have lost power or water, run out of supplies or been hit by shelling. “The RSF come, and the doctors say: ‘We have wounded civilians here. Let us treat them first,’” a doctor says. “But the RSF said no, we must be first.”

A member of the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said she and the other doctors on the committee have received death threats. Many fled, and others stopped going to work, changed their numbers and went into hiding, she said. At least 11 doctors have been killed; one was stabbed, and others were killed in crossfire or when their homes were hit. She said most of the threats come from figures associated with former Sudan president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who was forced out of office in 2019 following massive street protests.

On May 17 the U.N. humanitarian office in Geneva said 25 million people, more than half of Sudan’s population, need help. That is 10 million more than before the fighting started and the highest number ever recorded for the country. The office called for $2.6 billion in aid from the international community.

The rival sides are holding talks in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia’s biggest port, with no apparent progress.

On May 15, the Professional Pharmacists Association of Sudan condemned the RSF’s hijacking of a convoy of medical supplies headed to regional hospitals, which have also been hit hard by the fighting. Its statement called the RSF’s theft of supplies “a death sentence for the residents of the regions,” noting that 95 percent of all pharmaceutical production takes place in the capital. About 830,000 people fleeing the fighting have gone to other towns within Sudan and about 220,000 to neighboring countries, according to the United Nations.

The Washington Post reports that

Community leaders have also been targeted in the city of Geneina in the western region of Darfur, said an activist there, who listed their names in a message: Mahamed Badwi, an engineer, activist and writer; Motaz Abujalli, a journalist and human rights activist; and Adam Taiar, an activist and member of the medical committee. All were killed April 24, he said, by militias aligned with the RSF that went to their homes. The activist spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.The activist said the militias — referred to locally as the Janjaweed, or “devils on horseback” — were carrying out ethnic killings and have also looted and burned the palace of the sultan of the Masalit tribe. The Janjaweed are ethnically Arab militias; the Masalit are a local African tribe that fought the central government and the Janjaweed for nearly 20 years until a peace deal three years ago.

“Janjaweed militia and RSF are using [gunmen] to shoot people who have influence like leaders, intellectuals and professionals,” the activist wrote, saying it was too dangerous to go home. The phone network was too weak to support calls, so he texted quick answers to questions. “No way to get out of the town … two days I haven’t met my family … even my young brother injured today … most of my friends were killed … I have no doubt I will be killed by them.”

The death toll in the town as of this past Friday was 556, he said, citing a list kept by clinics. On Tuesday, seven members of one family were killed when the RSF fired heavy weapons into a civilian area.

Lt. Gen. Khamis Abdullah Abkar, the governor of West Darfur, confirmed that more than 500 people have been killed in Geneina since the fighting erupted and that militia members were going house to house in some areas looking for individuals. The hospital was not functioning, and hundreds of wounded people needed urgent medical care, but there was no way to take them to help, he said.

Many people would like to leave Sudan, where at least 5,000 civilians have died in factional fighting between two warring factions of the government. Many people have run out of food as shops close.

But some can’t leave, for an odd reason: because Western Embassies that had their passports fled the country without returning their passport. For example, a month ago, Ahmad Mahmoud submitted his passport and visa application to the Swedish embassy in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. He never imagined they would not give him back his passport, which he needs to travel even to neighboring countries like Egypt.

But when fighting broke out between the Sudanese army and air force on one side, and the Rapid Support Forces militia on the other, Swedish diplomats suspended consular services and fled Sudan without warning.

Street battles in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, have left patients and doctors trapped in hospitals for days without supplies, or even water, despite intense heat. Weeks ago, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors and Sudan’s Doctors Union said 70 percent, or 39 out of 59 hospitals, in Khartoum and nearby jurisdictions had already had to cease operations. The World Health Organization warned then that the remaining hospitals were rapidly running out of blood, medical equipment and supplies.

At Al-Moalem Medical City hospital, food and bottled water ran out just four days into the fighting. “The worst thing was seeing the injured men and chronic patients struggling to survive,” said a doctor.”They were already vulnerable, and we felt paralysed trying to help them.”

The inmates of a prison north of the capital escaped, adding to public-safety worries. Kobar prison, which is in the northern part of the capital, was broken into and prisoners let out. Prisoners said they were not being fed, which is why they broke out.

Other cities have also seen fighting, such as Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state. Darfur was the site of mass killings in the past, with the RSF killing vast numbers of Darfuris. Nyala’s poorly-maintained water system provides some of the world’s worst water supplies, resulting in endemic diseases for citizens there.

LU Staff

LU Staff

Promoting and defending liberty, as defined by the nation’s founders, requires both facts and philosophical thought, transcending all elements of our culture, from partisan politics to social issues, the workings of government, and entertainment and off-duty interests. Liberty Unyielding is committed to bringing together voices that will fuel the flame of liberty, with a dialogue that is lively and informative.

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