Sudan’s western cities under fire as war spreads
Fighting rocked several cities in western Sudan on Wednesday in an expansion of the country’s almost two-month-old war as a regional governor was killed after publicly blaming the deaths of civilians on the country’s paramilitary force.
The conflict between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces has caused a humanitarian crisis in Khartoum, as well as major cities in the Kordofan and Darfur regions.
The widening footprint of fighting threatens to prolong the violence and draw in armed groups – particularly those with tribal affiliations – as well as external actors.
West Darfur state governor Khamis Abbakar was killed on Wednesday, an armed group he commanded said, hours after he accused the RSF and allied militias of “genocide.” No details on his death were available. Two government sources said the RSF was responsible.
“Civilians are being killed randomly and in large numbers,” Abbakar told Al-Hadath TV earlier on Wednesday, calling for international intervention.
The RSF did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Activists say 1,100 people have been killed since the conflict began in mid-April in the westernmost city of El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur.
While the attacks originally targeted areas of El Geneina where members of the Masalit tribe lived, these attacks have spread to the entire city, the governor said.
“We haven’t seen the army leave its base to defend people,” he added before his death.
The Darfur region of Sudan has seen periods of conflict since the early 2000s, when millions were displaced and 300,000 killed by attacks from Arab groups known as the Janjaweed. The RSF evolved out of those groups, becoming a legalized governmental force in 2017.
In a statement, the RSF called the fighting in El Geneina a tribal conflict, blaming the country’s former regime for fanning the flames. It said it had been making efforts to get aid into the city.
Diplomatic efforts to address Sudan’s conflict led by the United States and Saudi Arabia have faltered, as numerous ceasefires have been violated. On Tuesday, senior US State Department officials said they were considering a new approach for the coming days.