West Darfur has witnessed some of the most contentious fighting in Sudan’s civil war, and as the conflict rages, the Rapid Support Forces militia now stands accused of committing fresh atrocities in the state.
The RSF launched a fresh offensive on the Ardamata area, to the east of El Geneina, earlier this month, where they had previously captured the local headquarters of Sudan’s regular army, their enemy in the conflict.
When they took the base, there was minimal resistance from the 15th Infantry Division. Its troops withdrew from the region after a mediation led by local leaders, leaving the RSF unchallenged in the area.
On 4 November, RSF members went on to assassinate a highly respected tribal leader, Mohamed Arbab Mohamed Neel[WS1] , who was also one of the longest serving and most respected civil administrators in the country. He was 85 years old and had held his position since 1958.
He was not the only person to die in the assault, which took place in Masalit, on that early November Saturday. Neel’s son – and eight of his grandchildren – lost their lives. Neither was it the first attack on this family. Human rights activists had previously accused members of the RSF of murdering another of Neel’s sons, Mohamedein Mohammed Arbab, and other family members in June.
The RSF’s November offensive went on. It included an aggressive advance through areas to the northeast of El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur State. Credible reports, supported by authenticated videos widely circulated on social media, vividly portrayed raids on the homes of civilians.
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Heart-wrenching photographs depicting the dead of Ardamata – where the RSF’s victims were strewn across the streets – circulated widely. At the same time, the militiamen celebrated at the army HQ, claiming to bring democracy and a civil state through the barrels of their rifles.
It was not the first day of atrocity committed by the RSF in West Darfur. At the beginning of this conflict, they carried out similar massacres in the city of El Geneina, the state capital. On 15 June, they invaded the city, assassinated Governor Khamees Abakar, and mutilated his body before proceeding to kill his father.
Wave of killing
The RSF then unleashed a wave of violence against the Masalit community, orchestrating a large-scale campaign that targeted numerous prominent figures within the tribe in Darfur.
Among the victims was Prince Tariq Abdel Rahman Bahr al-Din, the brother of the Sultan of Dar Masalit, along with other members of his family. The violence extended to the humanitarian coordinator in the state, Sadiq Mohamed Ahmed, a renowned lawyer and human rights activist.
The RSF assassinated Tariq Malik, the head of the sub-office of the Bar Association Steering Committee in West Darfur. They also attacked government officials and notable members of the Masalit community and killed them within their homes, as reported by human rights activists and eyewitnesses.
These attacks and other were carried out by RSF mercenaries recruited from various West African nations, bringing politics from over the border into Sudan’s civil war.
Volker Perthes, the former Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Sudan, noted in a report presented to the Security Council that foreign elements actively participated in hostilities alongside the RSF.
News reports documented the killing in Sudan of Mohammed Abu Bakr Musa, a prominent figure from the opposition in Chad, on 6 November.
Amid this violent and complex picture, an apparent absence of explicit condemnation of the Darfur atrocities from Sudan’s civil and political groups stands out.
The country’s alliance of such organisations – the Forces of Freedom and Change – has done no more than issue routine statements detailing the harassment and constraints faced by their members, including violations such as travel restrictions and entry denials.