Crisis Unfolds in Darfur as Paramilitary Forces Accused of Atrocities
In Sudan’s ongoing civil war, the Darfur region has become a battleground for horrific atrocities as the Rapid Support Forces (R.S.F.), a powerful paramilitary group, gains ground. Recent weeks have witnessed the R.S.F.’s successful capture of three out of Darfur’s five state capitals, leaving residents, analysts, and United Nations officials concerned about the region’s fate.
The latest victim of this devastating conflict is El Geneina, where rampaging Arab militiamen accused Dr. Rodwan Mustafa, a local doctor, of aiding enemy fighters, prompting his desperate escape with his family. The road out of El Geneina now bears witness to bloodied corpses, burned displacement camps, and the pervasive stench of death.
As the R.S.F. advances, there are fears of the entire region falling under its control. Despite their recent victories, neither the R.S.F. nor Sudan’s regular military appears capable of achieving outright victory, resulting in a grim stalemate that exacerbates the suffering of civilians. Moreover, the R.S.F.’s successes have been marred by ethnic violence reminiscent of the genocidal events that drew global attention to Darfur over two decades ago.
The capture of El Geneina earlier this month saw over 800 casualties, with reports of homes being razed, sexual violence, and killings of the Masalit ethnic group. The United Nations refugee agency documented the grim aftermath, emphasizing the gravity of the situation.
Filippo Grandi, head of the United Nations refugee agency, expressed concern, drawing parallels to the atrocities that shocked the world in Darfur two decades ago. The recent violence, while not a full replication of the early 2000s, raises alarm bells, particularly regarding ethnic violence as a consequence of the national power struggle rather than a coordinated campaign.
The R.S.F. attempts to present itself as a responsible governing force, blaming Sudan’s army for recent deaths in El Geneina. However, promises of transparency from a group with roots in the feared Janjaweed militias are met with skepticism. Reports indicate that undisciplined fighters within the R.S.F. have committed abuses, casting doubt on the group’s credibility. Additionally, the International Criminal Court’s ongoing investigation into possible war crimes in Darfur underscores the severity of the situation.
The conflict’s focus has shifted back to Darfur after months of battles in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. With the R.S.F. securing victories in Nyala, Zalingei, and El Geneina, El Fasher remains the last stronghold of the army in Darfur. Analysts suggest that if El Fasher falls, most of Sudan west of the Nile will be under R.S.F. control.
The outcome of the battle depends on the decisions of Minni Minnawi, the regional governor of Darfur, whose forces are concentrated around El Fasher. While Minnawi has refrained from taking sides, doubts persist about his fighters’ strength to confront the formidable R.S.F. The situation highlights the significant ground lost by Sudan’s military, forcing the shift of government functions to Port Sudan in the east.
As the crisis deepens, the international community watches closely, mindful of the potential for further atrocities and the enduring impact on the people of Darfur caught in the crossfire of this relentless conflict.