Fierce fighting in Sudan takes on an ‘ethnic dimension’, says the UN

Fierce fighting broke out on Sunday in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, but also in Darfur, where tribal fighters and militias joined the clashes. This violence is now taking on an “ethnic dimension” which can make it “crimes against humanity”, according to the UN.

Residents of the Sudanese capital Khartoum were awakened on Sunday, July 2, to the sound of “violent fighting with all types of weapons,” one of them told AFP, and “fighter planes flying over” completing a second. The fighting bears witness to the fierce struggle for power between the army and paramilitaries in Sudan, where the spread of disease and malnutrition among displaced children is a concern for humanitarians.

Clashes are particularly intense in Khartoum, but also in Darfur, a large region the size of France bordering Chad, where tribal fighters, local militias and armed civilians have joined the conflict between soldiers and paramilitaries. Violence, which now takes on an “ethnic dimension”, which can make it “crimes against humanity”, according to the UN.

100 sexual assaults

Since the outbreak on April 15, the conflict has left nearly 3,000 dead and 2.8 million displaced and refugees. The government’s anti-violence agency says it has identified a hundred sexual assaults, a figure likely to be as underestimated as the human toll, both victims and caregivers unable to move under bombs.

This body at the head of the census of rapes in Sudan reports “25 sexual assaults in Nyala”, the capital of South Darfur, “21 sexual assaults in El-Geneina”, the capital of East Darfur and “42 others in Khartoum”.

In Khartoum, “most of the survivors” identified the paramilitaries of General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) as the perpetrators, and in Darfur, “all the survivors accused the RSF”, reports the same source.

Most of the RSF at war with the army led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane are Janjaweed, Arab militias that ravaged Darfur and its non-Arab minorities in the early 2000s on behalf of the dictator Omar el-Bashir, who was deposed in 2019.

Today, this new war has pushed nearly 180,000 Darfurians to flee to Chad, according to the United Nations. Within Sudan itself, nearly 2.2 million people have been displaced. “Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women and children” are crammed into “nine camps in White Nile State”, which run from south of Khartoum to the border with South Sudan, reports the NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

“The situation is serious: cases of measles are suspected, and child malnutrition is a vital emergency,” warns the NGO in one of the poorest countries in the world, where one person in three was already starving before the war.

“From June 6 to 27, we treated 223 children possibly suffering from measles, 72 were hospitalized and 13 died in the two hospitals we support,” says MSF.

The danger of the rainy season

Humanitarians continue to demand safe corridors to access the wounded and especially the displaced, but so far no ceasefire announced has been respected.

NGOs insist that time is running out because Sudan has entered its rainy season, which runs from June to September. With the downpours that suddenly fall on this arid territory, floods are frequent, blocking roads and claiming victims every year. And their stagnant waters favor epidemics ranging from malaria to cholera and dengue fever.

Despite the urgency, the meager diplomatic efforts the Americans and Saudis have made so far have come to naught as the two belligerents focus on a military victory rather than a negotiated outcome.


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