Home International Darfur refugees report new spate of ethnically driven killings

Darfur refugees report new spate of ethnically driven killings

227

People fleeing to Chad have reported a new surge in ethnically-driven killings in Sudan’s West Darfur as the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces took over the main army base in the state capital El Geneina.

Women look at the border, hoping that their relatives reach Chad to escape death as they wait for them in Chad, November 7, 2023. Picture: Reuters, El Tayeb Siddig

By Maggie Michael

ADRE, Chad – People fleeing to Chad have reported a new surge in ethnically-driven killings in Sudan’s West Darfur as the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) took over the main army base in the state capital El Geneina.

On Tuesday, a Reuters reporter saw a trail of men crossing from Darfur into Chad at Adre, about 27km (17 miles) west of El Geneina. Three of those who fled said they had witnessed killings by Arab militias and RSF forces targeting the Masalit ethnic group in Ardamata, an outlying district in El Geneina that is home to the army base and to a camp for internally displaced people (IDP).

The RSF did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Reuters was not able to independently verify the accounts of what took place.

Reuters has previously reported that between April and June this year, the RSF and allied Arab militias conducted weeks of systematic attacks targeting the Masalit, El Geneina’s majority ethnic African tribe, as war flared in the country between the RSF and Sudan’s army.

In public comments, Arab tribal leaders have denied engaging in ethnic cleansing in El Geneina, and the RSF has previously said it was not involved in what it described as a tribal conflict.

The attack on the army base in Ardamata started early last week, when militiamen also started shelling homes in the IDP camp, said Nabil Meccia, a nurse who said he had crossed into Chad after being detained by the RSF at the border and paying to secure his release.

He said he had seen RSF forces killing civilians as they sprayed gunfire during raids in the Ardamata camp, and lining men up and executing them. Like others, Meccia had moved to Ardamata, where residents hoped for protection by the army, after the attacks elsewhere in El Geneina earlier this year.

An army soldier who declined to be named who fled the Ardamata base said a drone attack early on Friday had destroyed its defences and that military commanders had left by Saturday morning.

As army troops pulled out of their base, community leaders in Ardamata collected weapons kept for self-defence to try to secure safe passage for civilians, said Meccia and Sharaf Eddin Adam, another civilian refugee who arrived in Chad.

Residents with access to vehicles had managed to escape, but others were arrested or forced to labour by the RSF before several dozen were lined up and executed in Ardamata’s Kobri district just after midday on Sunday, Adam said.

He said he saw dozens of bodies of civilians lying lifeless in the street and that people were also beaten and flogged.

The war in Sudan has caused a major humanitarian crisis and the displacement of more than six million people, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). More than 500,000 people have crossed into Chad, mostly from West Darfur, the IOM says.

Chad border guards said the daily number of those fleeing from West Darfur had surged to 3,146 on Saturday. UN officials in Chad said thousands more were expected to cross but had been prevented from doing so by RSF forces demanding money.

RELATIVES MISSING

Another witness, Mashaar Omar Ahmed, said militia and RSF forces, some in plain clothes and some in uniform, had executed more than 30 men in Ardamata’s District B after separating them from the women.

“They asked the men if they were Masalit, and they didn’t deny it,” she said, carrying her six-month-old daughter. She said 10 members of her family had been missing since Sunday.

Sarah Adam Idris, a 30-year-old who said her husband, siblings and other men in her family were missing after the attack, said assailants had raided the IDP camp at Ardamata on Sunday morning. Despite tribal leaders seeking assurances for safe passage the RSF had stormed, torched and looted houses, killing men, she said.

The soldier said that when he arrived at the border with Chad he pretended to be a civilian and denied that he was Masalit in order to pass. Another man was taken away after RSF border guards found a picture of him in army uniform on his phone, the soldier said.

Abdel Karim Rahman Yacoub, a truck driver who made it into Chad after pretending not to be Masalit, said he saw the RSF killing two other men based on their identity.

Toby Hayward, a senior UN official for Darfur, described reports and images emerging from Ardamata as “sickening”. He appealed in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, for those with authority to protect civilians and provide unfettered humanitarian access.

– REUTERS

Previous articleAfrican Continental Free Trade Area could be the antidote to macro-economic challenges
Next articleZelenskiy calls for Ukrainian unity after rift with top general