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The cycle of violence in Sudan: “A genocide is underway in West Darfur” | Global development

Global development

The UN, independent researchers and charities highlight the brutality of a conflict that has left 9,000 dead and 5.6 million displaced in the past seven months.

Tue, November 21, 2023, 2:00 a.m. EST

On horseback, on camels and on motorcycles, the paramilitaries arrived at the beginning of November on the outskirts of Ardamata. Fighters from the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces (RSF) took the men to the houses, which they then set on fire; at least 800 people were killed and survivors were ordered to bury the dead.

The RSF went door-to-door in Ardamata, West Darfur, according to the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, rounding up and killing people from the Masalit ethnic group.

Investigators from the nonprofit Center for Information Resilience (CIR) have collected footage from Ardamata that appears to confirm attacks on civilians. CIR’s Sudan Witness project monitors human rights violations in the region, closed to foreigners and journalists, using open source information, satellite imagery and data provided by NASA, as well as collecting images of geolocated social media.

The Masalit have been targeted as supporters of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in tensions and outbreaks of violence around El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur.

The much-feared RSF, led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, has been fighting SAF forces loyal to General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan since April 15, when the two leaders began a power struggle that plunged Sudan into war again civil. The UN says more than 9,000 people have been killed and 5.6 million displaced in the past seven months.

RSF now holds four of the five Sudanese army bases in the Darfur region and took control of Nyala and Zalingei in October. Fighters were accused of carrying out an ethnic massacre in El Geneina, where mass graves were identified in July. The town of Ardamata marks a new increase in the control of RSF forces over the region.

CIR researchers verified videos of militiamen rounding up and whipping men dressed in civilian clothes in Ardamata. A video shows men being beaten with rifles by men in uniform, some of whom wore RSF insignia and called them “sons of dogs”.

Footage shows men and boys arrested in Aradamata – video

“They killed all the men they encountered in my neighborhood,” says Ibrahim Abakar (pseudonym), a 40-year-old resident of Ardamata. “I was praying when I heard the sound of an explosion. A shell killed my friends and almost cut off my feet.

The UN says at least 8,000 people have fled Ardamata and crossed the border into Chad. Abakar is trying to reach Chad, but has been told he will have to pay 100,000 Sudanese pounds (£133) to militias near the border to be able to cross. Nearly 450,000 Sudanese have crossed the border into Chad since June.

Another Ardamata resident, Mubarak Osman, says the gunmen arrived and surrounded the town before the attack. He and six other men were ordered to bury dozens of bodies in mass graves.

The CIR says satellite images show fires in residential areas of Aradamata between November 2 and 10, including in a camp for displaced people.

Adam Mousa Obama of the Darfur Victim Support group, which posts videos of RSF abuses, says the group particularly targets men, to seize their land and eliminate them as an indigenous group in Darfur. The RSF grew out of and is largely made up of the Janjaweed militias that fought on behalf of the Sudanese government during the war in Darfur and were responsible for atrocities described as crimes against humanity, according to Human Rights Watch.

“When they took Ardamata, they announced that all the boys had to come out. When they did, they started shooting them all. They want to destroy all indigenous people,” Obama says. “Young people have the power and the ability to fight. They don’t want them to stay alive.

Obama says it’s time for world leaders to “stop the killing… It’s a shame for humanity that this continues.” A genocide is underway in West Darfur.

Filippo Grandi, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, warned last week of the possibility of a repeat of what happened in Darfur in the 2000s. The UN expert on genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, warns of “an endless cycle of violence”.

“The latest reports from the Darfur region paint a deeply disturbing picture of continuing systematic and indiscriminate attacks against civilians, particularly along ethnic lines,” says Nderitu. “The current dynamics in the region could lead to further massacres in an environment of total anarchy and impunity. The risks of genocide and related atrocity crimes in the region remain extremely high.

The RSF has denied any responsibility for the violence in Ardamata, blaming the Sudanese army.

Mohamed Suliman, a senior disinformation researcher at the Civic AI Lab at Northeastern University in Boston, says RSF used social media to try to build an image of legitimacy, denying alleged crimes and promising to investigate, but not didn’t do it. followed up on claims that it would investigate the violence.

Activists warn that the RSF are better armed than the Janjaweed of more than a decade ago.

Images verified by the CIR and posted on a pro-RSF account on X, formerly known as Twitter, show soldiers using a multiple launch rocket system. The footage, filmed on cellphones, shows the missile system mounted on a flatbed truck. Cheers are heard during the shooting.

Footage shows use of MLRS missile system in Khartoum North – video

“These weapon systems have the capacity to cause significant damage and their use poses a risk to the civilian population,” explains Anouk Theunissen, team leader of the CIR Sudan Witness project. The CIR also verified a video showing medical workers being kidnapped from a hospital in Nyala.

Medical personnel forced into so-called RSF command building in Nyalaa – video

One activist in the town told the Guardian she had to flee Darfur by taking a series of cars through remote areas after the RSF besieged residents’ homes and held her parents hostage in their home.

Humanitarian crisis

The conflict is creating a humanitarian crisis in El Fasher, North Darfur, says Dr Mohammed Shatta, who coordinates operations on the ground for the charity Relief International.

Shatta says people are struggling to get water, medicines are running out and checkpoints in the city are making it difficult for patients and medical staff to move to health facilities. “El Fasher has become like a ghost town. You see parts of the city where you don’t see anyone. It’s so quiet you can hear your own breathing,” he says.

Kashif Shafique, country director of Relief International Sudan, says he is concerned about the use of heavy artillery and airstrikes. “We have not yet seen such violence… Thousands of people living in El Fasher have already been displaced following previous conflicts. This escalation is pushing families, particularly women and children, to uproot themselves again and flee to neighboring states and countries, such as Chad. These sites are already unable to cope with the number of refugees arriving in search of safety.

Adam Mousa Obama of Darfur Victim Support points out that El Fasher has already hosted many displaced people from other parts of Darfur. Two of Darfur’s rebel groups – which have so far stayed away from the fighting – said this weekend they would join forces with the SAF against the RSF.

“If real fighting breaks out in El Fasher, I don’t think a single civilian will survive,” Obama said.

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