Clashes Spread to Darfur Region, Where Other Armed Rebels Roam
A camp for the displaced in El Geneina, West Darfur, Sudan, on Feb 6, 2022.
By Abdi Latif Dahir
As clashes between rival military forces in Sudan entered their second day, violence had spread to an area of the country long tormented by conflict and displacement: the restive western region of Darfur.
Adam Regal, a spokesperson for the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur, an aid agency, said that 12 people had been killed and wounded Saturday in a camp for displaced people in the North Darfur region. He also said that clashes had spread to the cities of Nyala in South Darfur, El Fasher in North Darfur and Zalingei in Central Darfur, forcing many people to flee displacement camps and their homes in those towns.
In Nyala, residents reached by phone said that intense fighting was going Sunday morning between the army and the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group for the control of the airport.
“The security situation, in my estimation, is difficult and dangerous,” Regal said in a text message.
On Saturday evening, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors asked doctors in El Fasher to come to the nearest hospital and provide care, citing “the large number of injured and critical conditions that require urgent surgical intervention.”
For two decades, Darfur has been beset by genocidal violence that has killed as many as 300,000 people and displaced more than 2 million others. The violence was overseen by former dictator Omar al-Bashir, who was indicted on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The Rapid Support Forces emerged from militias that supported the Sudanese government in its assaults on Darfur.
Even after a popular uprising deposed al-Bashir in 2019, the violence in Darfur has not abated. Ethnically motivated attacks, largely against ethnic African communities, have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes in the past two years. In late March, violence in West Darfur alone drove about 30,000 people to seek shelter across the border in Chad, according to the United Nations.
Many people in Darfur also face food insecurity because of floods and conflict over land and grazing areas.
With the army and the Rapid Support Forces now clashing in Darfur, analysts worry that the violence could draw in other armed rebel groups in the region, many of which have crisscrossed the porous borders to fight as mercenaries in countries including Chad and Libya.
“When the generals were on the same team, they did untold damage to Darfur,” said Kholood Khair, founding director of Confluence Advisory, a think tank in Khartoum, Sudan. “But as enemies, they could do a lot more.”