Paramilitary force seizes second biggest city in Sudan

FILE PHOTO: Sudanese women who fled the conflict in Geneina in Sudan's Darfur region, line up to receive rice portions from Red Cross volunteers in Ourang on the outskirts of Adre, Chad July 25, 2023. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo

The United Nations reported that the Rapid Support Force (RSF), the paramilitary force engaged in conflict with the Sudanese government, has entered a major city situated in the central region, known for its grain production. This development has led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.

Wad Madani, located just south of the war-torn capital Khartoum, had been relatively secure for the past eight months amidst the ongoing conflict, serving as one of the few safe zones for humanitarian activities in the war-ravaged nation.

The U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs expressed deep concern, referring to the situation as a “nightmare.” Over 300,000 individuals had fled the city in the last four days, many on foot, desperately seeking safety.

The Rapid Support Force (RSF) making advances into Wad Madani, the capital of the Jazira region, marks another significant triumph for the group. Prior to this, they had captured four out of five regional capitals in the western region of Darfur. It remains uncertain whether the RSF, led by Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, has fully seized control of the town from the military, commanded by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

The conflict between the two factions escalated on April 15 after months of rising tensions over power-sharing. The power struggle emerged from a 2021 coup where both men seized power, leading to the death of hundreds of pro-democracy protesters.

Sudan, with a population of 49 million in the Horn of Africa, has rapidly become one of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises. The capital has turned into a battleground, and approximately half the population is in need of aid. Unfortunately, efforts are severely underfunded as international attention is directed toward other crises in Ukraine and Gaza.

Before the outbreak of fighting, Wad Madani had a population of approximately 700,000, but this number surged as families sought refuge from the conflict in the capital. In Khartoum, air force planes targeted civilian neighbourhoods, while paramilitary fighters invaded homes, committing acts of robbery, rape, and murder.

Despite facing significant overcrowding, humanitarian agencies managed to operate in Wad Madani, providing essential food and medical services that were too perilous to offer in the capital.

Unfortunately, this refuge is now lost. Historical instances of the Rapid Support Force (RSF) seizing territory have often resulted in the targeting and looting of hospitals and humanitarian warehouses. Women have frequently been subjected to attacks, and civilian men and boys have been shot dead.

Wad Madani’s significance is further underscored by its position as the hub of Sudan’s grain-producing region. The ongoing conflict has disrupted the harvest, with the closure of banks and the inability of farmers to purchase fertilizers and other necessary equipment.

As of November 2023, between 9,000 and 10,000 people had been killed and 6,000 to 12,000 others injured in the conflict in Sudan. Over 4.8 million were internally displaced and more than 1.3 million others had fled the country as refugees.


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