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Violent Unrest Continues in Darfur Despite Fragile Sudan Ceasefire Agreement

by Joshua Brown
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In Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region, armed fighters caused a major chaos in the city of Genena on Thursday. They started to fight each other and stole things from homes and stores. This happened even though there was an agreement for peace between two main generals in Sudan whose disagreement caused hundreds of deaths. The issue in Khartoum (the capital of Sudan) has now extended to other parts of the country.

On Thursday, both sides agreed to extend the truce for 72 hours. The US and Saudi Arabia helped make this agreement, although it hasn’t stopped the fighting. However, it gave thousands of Sudanese people enough time to run away to safer places and many countries have been able to rescue hundreds of their citizens by land and sea.

For the first time since April 15, Khartoum and its neighboring city Omdurman have started to become a lot calmer. This is because two groups – the military who are led by General Abdel Fattah Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo – have agreed to a cease fire. Before this truce, these two forces had been clashing in residential areas and turning them into dangerous war zones.

The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken talked to the generals and recognized that a 72-hour cease-fire wasn’t perfect, but it did help decrease the violence.

The British Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, is telling people from the UK who want to leave Sudan that they need to get to an airfield near Khartoum before Thursday night. He said things could get worse in the coming days, so it’s important to make this move soon. So far, Britain has flown 897 people on eight flights to Cyprus. They’re going to keep doing these evacuations as well.

Fighting continues in Sudan’s capital city and is getting even worse in the western area of Darfur. This conflict has been going on for almost two weeks between the army and a paramilitary group called RSF. The fighting is now involving tribal militias who are connected to long-standing disagreements between people who identify as Arab, and those who see themselves as East or Central African.

In the early 2000s, African tribes living in Darfur had said for a long time that they were treated badly. They started to rebel against the Khartoum government which then fought back by attacking them with weapons. The International Criminal Court later declared this as an act of genocide. Arab militias, called Janjaweed, destroyed many things and hurt people greatly. Later on, the Janjaweed changed into the RSF group.

Early Thursday morning, a group of people wearing RSF uniforms attacked and began fighting in several areas of Genena (a city with around 500,000 people close to the border with Chad). The fighting made many families leave their homes as more tribal fighters joined the battle. Amany, who is from Genena but didn’t want anyone to know her last name because she was scared, said that the attack is coming from all sides and everyone is running away.

In Genena, the capital of West Darfur province, it was unclear who was fighting who. There were a lot of people with different affiliations and some areas saw armed clashes. The military stayed in their barracks and didn’t come to help so people had to arm themselves for protection, according to Dr. Salah Tour from the Doctors’ Syndicate in West Darfur.

The syndicate found out that dozens of people died and hundreds got hurt in Genena. Almost all of the medical facilities, including the biggest hospital, have been not working for several days already and no one can get to the only still active hospital because of all the fights going on around it. On top of that, some people called “criminal gangs” stole stuff from the main hospital, took cars and equipment, and even ruined its blood bank.

Some of the fighters were riding motorcycles, and were causing chaos everywhere – smashing windows at offices, shops, and homes. Adam Haroun, a political activist from West Darfur, commented that it was like a warzone out there as one could hear gunshots going off randomly in the background.

Haroun and other people living in the city told us that their main open-air market was destroyed. All government offices, U.N. buildings, and aid agency compounds were damaged and even set on fire. Two major camps for the people who had been displaced from their homes (mainly women and children) have also been burned down, said Abdel-Shafei Abdalla from a local group trying to manage the camps.

In Darfur, there have been a lot of fights especially around Nyala which is the capital city of South Darfur. People near Nyala have had to abandon their homes because they are too scared to step outside and get food and water. Even worse, earlier this month some fighters from the RSF group wrecked and took stuff from places like the World Food Program and other aid centers in Nyala.

At least 512 people have died and another 4,200 got injured in Sudan since April 15. 295 of those people who died were civilians and 1,790 of them were hurt according to the country’s Health Ministry. The Doctors’ Syndicate also reports that many civilians have been killed and injured as well.

On Thursday, people living in Khartoum heard gunshots and loud noises. The military’s airplanes attacked the Rapid Support Forces camp located in Kafouri, a wealthy area of the city. The RSF confirmed they were bombed.

People in Khartoum and other cities don’t have access to food, water or electricity. Organizations who wanted to help are unable to do so. Sudanese people and foreigners are running away from a potential new increase of fighting.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said that 14,000 Sudanese people had moved to Egypt, with long lines of buses at the border and many more thousands running away to nearby countries or the Red Sea city of Port Sudan. Iraq and Yemen said they helped over 200 citizens escape from Sudan too.

Canada did its first plane ride to get people away on Thursday. This is because other countries had been helping Canadians leave the country before then but some people said this was too slow.

Hassan Ali, who has Dutch citizenship, made it out of Sudan and is now in Cyprus thanks to an evacuation flight. Before that, he spent a few days stuck at home with no water or regular electricity.

Most of the time we stay inside our houses unless there’s an emergency, like if we need food or medication. A lot of people have been going to the hospitals looking for safety, but unfortunately many of these places are getting attacked too. People have left all their stuff behind them, because they don’t have money and they can only take one bag with them.

Three writers – Menelaos in Cyprus, Jill in London and Edith at the United Nations – shared in reporting this story.

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