AFRICA/SUDAN - North Darfur: conflict takes on an ethnic dimension

Wednesday, 5 June 2024 civil war   massacres  

UN file

Khartoum (Agenzia Fides) - The war in Sudan has taken on an ethnic dimension, especially in Darfur, where militiamen of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are accused of killing civilians based on their ethnicity. The latest victims are nine people killed by the RSF because of their ethnicity while fleeing the ongoing conflict in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, to the city of Mellit.
Since May 10, El Fasher has been the scene of fierce fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), supported by some of their allied armed movements, and the RSF. The fighting has caused numerous civilian casualties and serious damage to homes and civilian infrastructure. The situation in the city, which is home to nearly 1.5 million people, including residents and internally displaced persons who had found refuge there, is dramatic. The RSF is continuing its offensive to take over the city and is accused of deliberately shelling populated areas with heavy artillery to force residents to flee. The RSF's persistent quest for control is explained by the fact that North Darfur, with its capital, is the only part of the Darfur region not yet controlled by the RSF. Since the end of last year, the RSF has taken control of four of the five states in the Darfur region: South, West, Central and East Darfur.
The capture of El-Fasher would give the RSF the opportunity to attack regular army positions in northern Sudan and to supply itself via Libya with the help of Russian mercenaries. The local population, and in particular the Masalit, are accused of siding with the regular army against the predominantly Arab RSF.
Non-Arab populations such as the Masalit, Zaghawa and Furs have been the target of attacks by the RSF and its precursor, the Janjawee militia, for more than 20 years. When war broke out in April 2023 between the regular army commanded by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the RSF led by Mohamed Hamdan "Hemedti" Dagalo, the latter again attacked the non-Arab population in Darfur.
Some of the armed groups in the region joined forces to repel the attacks of Hemedti's fighters and formed the "Darfur Joint Force". Initially, it was a neutral alliance tasked with protecting el-Fasher. The governor of Darfur, Minni Minnawi, an ethnic Zaghawa, took over the leadership of the formation, which includes the "Minnawi's Sudan Liberation Movement", the "Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)", the "Sudanese Alliance and the Gathering of Sudan Liberation Forces". In November 2023, Minnawi and JEM leader Gibril Ibrahim sided with the regular army.
Both militias are involved in fighting for control of el-Fasher. Three other groups (Sudanese Alliance, Gathering of Sudan Liberation Forces, Sudan Liberation Movement-Transitional Council) have so far remained neutral in the conflict, focusing on protecting civilians in el-Fasher. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 5/6/2024)