UN warns of new flashpoint in Sudan's Darfur region

AFP , Saturday 20 Apr 2024

Senior UN officials warned the Security Council late Friday of the risks of a new front opening in Sudan, around the town of el-Fasher in Darfur, where the population is already on the brink of starvation.

A grain vendor sells various pulses at his shop in a market in Sudan s eastern state of Gedaref, on
A grain vendor sells various pulses at his shop in a market in Sudan s eastern state of Gedaref, on April 17, 2024. AFP


After a year of war between the armed forces (SAF) of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (FSR), under the command of General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, the country is experiencing "a crisis of epic proportions... wholly man-made," denounced Rosemary DiCarlo, UN under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs.

"The warring parties have ignored repeated calls to cease their hostilities... Instead, they have stepped up preparations for further fighting, with both the SAF and the RSF continuing their campaigns to recruit civilians," DiCarlo said.

In particular, she voiced concern at reports of a possible "imminent" attack by the RSF on el-Fasher, the only capital of the five Darfur states it does not control, "raising the specter of a new front in the conflict."

El-Fasher acts as a humanitarian hub for Darfur, which is home to around a quarter of Sudan's 48 million inhabitants.

Until recently, the town had been relatively unaffected by the fighting, hosting a large number of refugees. But since mid-April, bombardments and clashes have been reported in the surrounding villages.

"Since then, there have been continuing reports of clashes in the eastern and northern parts of the city, resulting in more than 36,000 people displaced," said Edem Wosornu, a director at for the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, noting that Doctors Without Borders has treated more than 100 casualties in el-Facher in recent days.

"The total number of civilian casualties is likely much higher."

"The violence poses an extreme and immediate danger to the 800,000 civilians who reside in el-Fasher. And it risks triggering further violence in other parts of Darfur," she warned.

DiCarlo added that fighting in el-Fasher "could unleash bloody intercommunal strife throughout Darfur" and further hamper the distribution of humanitarian aid in a region "already on the brink of famine."

The region was already ravaged more than 20 years ago by the scorched-earth policy carried out by the Janjaweed -- Arab militiamen who have since joined the RSF -- for then-president Omar al-Bashir.

The new conflict in Sudan, which began on April 15, 2023, has already claimed thousands of lives and displaced more than 8.5 million people, according to the UN.

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