/ 30 May 2023

Sudan fighting hits home

Traces Of Clashes In Sudan
Gutted: Businesses and homes have been torn apart in Sudan’s capital. (Photo by Omer Erdem/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Over the past month there have been several attempts at a ceasefire between the warring armies in Sudan, with little success. 

But reports from Khartoum, Omdurman, El Geneina and Nyala suggest that the latest ceasefire, which was brokered by the United States and Saudi Arabia and came into force last week, is tentatively holding.

The conflict began in mid-April, with Sudan’s armed forces fighting against a paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), for control of the state. At least 865 people have been killed, with thousands injured and hundreds of thousands internally displaced or forced to flee the country.

For those who chose to stay, the violence is not confined to the contested streets of the capital and other major cities, where most of the fighting has taken place. It is increasingly entering people’s homes and businesses, with reports of widespread looting and destruction of property.

When the fighting broke out, Omar Naser, a Khartoum-based artist, spent days locked inside his house with his family. Then the fighters arrived. 

“It was in the middle of intense fighting in Khartoum, and one night, our door was knocked out and we were told to leave,” he said. 

He has subsequently sought refuge in neighbouring Egypt.

Naser said the fighters came from the paramilitary RSF, and his story is all too common.

Another resident, Hanin Omer, said that in her neighbourhood of Khartoum, RSF fighters were systematically looting and occupying homes. She and some family members left before the fighters arrived.

 “We left my father and brothers behind in the care and protection of God,” said Omer. “This was the worst thing to happen since the beginning of this war.”

The RSF deny allegations of looting, claiming that people wear their uniforms to steal and make them look bad.

In El Geneina in Darfur province, the fighting has precipitated general lawlessness. 

“We are attacked everywhere by gangs and thieves,” said resident Rahman Adil. His uncle was shot dead by unidentified gunmen. “I hold Hemedti and Burhan responsible.”

Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, is the leader of the RSF, while General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan is in charge of the armed forces. Neither has so far shown significant willingness to end the fighting. 

This article first appeared in The Continent, the pan-African weekly newspaper produced in partnership with the Mail & Guardian. It’s designed to be read and shared on WhatsApp. Download your free copy here.