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JOHANNESBURG — The war between the Sudanese army and a paramilitary group has entered its seventh month, causing nearly 190 days and nights of terror, loss and trauma for much of the North African country’s population -East.
According to the United Nations, around 9,000 people were killed and 5.6 million others were forced to flee their homes during the conflict.
“Six months of war have plunged Sudan into one of the worst humanitarian nightmares in recent history,” UN Deputy Secretary-General Martin Griffiths said in a statement.
NPR spoke to Sudanese from different backgrounds — hospital doctors, a young activist and a former governor — about how things have changed for them since fighting began in April between Sudan’s armed forces and the powerful paramilitary group. Rapid Support Forces.
Duaa Tariq, 30, was among grassroots activists who helped organize mass peaceful protests in 2019, mainly in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, that brought down the dictatorship of former leader Omar al-Bashir for decades – only to see a military coup in 2021. derailing his generation’s dreams of democracy. The outbreak of conflict this year further dashed those hopes.
But Tariq, who has a huge head of curly hair and an equally big smile, isn’t intimidated. In April, she told NPR how she and her fellow activists continued to resist the new conflict with small acts of disobedience, like singing revolutionary songs in the street between bombings or painting political messages on walls.
Six months later, Tariq says street graffiti protests are simply too risky.
“In terms of resistance, resistance can take many forms… There is no possibility of physically protesting in the street, even with graffiti, because the militias are occupying all the houses,” she says. Tariq – who had a baby during the conflict – was herself forced to leave her home, which she says was taken over by the militia and looted of “everything we have”.
Yet Tariq and other activists have found different ways to resist, creating dozens of what they call “emergency response rooms” around Khartoum that she says carry out “all kinds of aid humanitarian, mutual aid and psychosocial support. We now have procedure rooms for women. also, which deal with the needs of women and things like sexuality, like sexist violence (gender-based violence).
“When it comes to sexual violence and rape, women suffer a lot… there are a lot of cases of rape that have been recorded and documented,” she explains. “It is very dangerous to be a woman right now, in this dangerous war and in this conflict zone, because you always feel threatened and targeted.”
Women from different ethnic communities have been particularly targeted, she says. “There are women who are raped in front of their families, women who are constantly raped by law enforcement, and women are taken away. There are a few cases where women have been taken from their homes. Yes, “So it’s very dangerous for women right now and it’s only getting worse.”
The children don’t fare much better, Duaa says.
“I see a lot of changes in the children,” she says. “They are very affected by the militarization of the region, and especially now the militia is distributing toys to children and giving food to people and everything, people are afraid not to take it.”
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The country’s health system has been hit hard by the conflict, with many hospitals closed, a shortage of medicines and essential supplies and doctors risking bombings – and their own lives – to treat their patients.
Ahmed Khojali works as an emergency doctor in the neonatal ward at Albolouk Hospital in Khartoum, which he says is only operating at around 60% capacity. He describes the six-month conflict as “a lifetime.”
“Time,” he said, “has been totally frozen since the start of this war because I barely find time to feel, think or feel sorry for anything… even to sleep or work.”
It describes how what would have been routine days of seeing patients before the war are now punctuated by violence and near misses and how horror reigns amidst what was once mundane.
“We were about to take a short break at the office to have breakfast and drink tea with the delicious dessert brought from home that day, when suddenly a huge explosion hit the north courtyard of our hospital, innocently killing one of the men there and seriously injuring others.
Dr. Amna Gasim also works at Alblouk Hospital, as a pediatrician. She says that in recent months, four shells have fallen near her workplace, where many employees are virtually living, unable to return home or see their families.
His ability to care for his patients is hampered by a lack of resources.
“One of the most difficult stories is…the parents who bought their 12-year-old daughter, who was their only child, who had been infertile for eight years, were diagnosed with kidney failure and had need emergency dialysis,” she said. .
Except that wasn’t an option and the child died.
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The former governor
During the brief period of hopeful transition between the people power revolution that toppled Bashir and the coup that installed the current government, Adeeb Yousif was the governor of Central Darfur State.
Yousif, who received his Ph.D. in conflict resolution at George Mason University in the United States, still lives in Darfur and laments that most media focus on the war in the capital, to the detriment of other regions where the conflict rages.
“Darfur is in a very critical situation and (…) people are suffering,” he said. “I think things on the ground are getting worse.”
In the early 2000s, Darfur became synonymous with genocide when an Arab militia known as the Janjaweed committed war crimes against non-Arab tribes in the region. The current paramilitary group fighting the military, the RSF, is an offshoot of the Janjaweed.
Yousif says the current violence once again has an ethnic component. “It’s more of an ethnic conflict than a political conflict,” he says.
Eric Reeves, an American academic who has conducted research on Sudan, echoed this assertion in an email, saying that RSF was engaged “in what unambiguously constitutes a genocidal campaign” against the Masalit people in the town of ‘El Geneina, in West Darfur.
“We are not doing any better this time in our response to the genocide that began in earnest in Darfur in 2003: “Never again!” “…again,” he said.
Yousif says the humanitarian situation in his region is appalling because Darfur was already full of internally displaced people, and now more people are being added. Added to this is major food insecurity.
“Also keeping in mind that this year the rainy season is very short. The cultivated land this year is very limited and on top of that there are insects, which means that the harvest season will be very bad. . (and) lead to a shortage of food.”
“We can expect famine in Darfur,” he warns.
NPR’s Emmanuel Akinwotu contributed reporting from Lagos, Nigeria.