With over 1.2 million people displaced within Sudan and approximately 400,000 seeking refuge in neighboring countries, the war has caused significant devastation to the capital and its surroundings.
In Khartoum North, Sudan, on May 1, 2023, smoke billows above buildings following aerial bombardment amidst clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army. (Photo: Reuters)
Residents in Sudan’s capital witnessed shelling and intense clashes on Monday, as lawlessness spread across Khartoum and the western region of Darfur. The conflict between rival military factions, namely the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), escalated following the expiration of a ceasefire deal brokered by Saudi Arabia and the U.S. after more than seven weeks.
The ongoing war has resulted in the displacement of over 1.2 million people within Sudan and forced approximately 400,000 individuals to seek refuge in neighboring countries. The capital has suffered extensive damage, leaving its remaining residents vulnerable to battles, air strikes, and looting.
Notably, residents reported a second consecutive day of fighting across Khartoum, Omdurman, and Bahri, including rare ground clashes in Omdurman and ongoing shelling and fighting in various districts of the capital.
Mohamed Saleh, a 37-year-old resident, expressed distress over the daily public looting taking place in their central Omdurman neighborhood, with ongoing clashes and shelling in the vicinity.
In Khartoum East, Waleed Adam, another resident, reported that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) troops, who have established control in various neighborhoods across the capital, were extensively engaged in looting.
Adam witnessed them brazenly seizing cars, money, and even gold without any intervention. He expressed concern that his own street might soon become a target. The RSF claims to be working towards protecting civilians by apprehending looters.
As a result of the war in Sudan, a significant number of displaced individuals have sought refuge in neighboring countries such as Chad, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic (CAR).
However, these countries are already grappling with poverty, internal conflicts, and reduced humanitarian aid.
The influx of approximately 14,000 people into northeastern CAR has strained the limited resources available to the already vulnerable population of 130,000 in the region, as highlighted by Mohamed Ag Ayoya, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for CAR.
Additionally, the war has sparked unrest in Darfur, a western region of Sudan that was already dealing with mass displacement caused by previous conflicts. Residents in various cities and towns in Darfur have reported attacks by militias associated with Arab nomadic tribes.
Recent reports from activists monitoring the region indicate that at least 40 people have been killed and numerous others injured in Kutum, North Darfur State. Moreover, residents have expressed concerns about widespread looting and the overall lack of security in the area.
On Monday, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), originating from Arab-dominated militias and with their stronghold in Darfur, released a video claiming to have taken control of the army headquarters in Kutum, a major town and commercial center in the state. The army has not yet provided any immediate response, although they had previously denied the RSF’s takeover on Sunday.
Communication blackouts have been prevalent in various parts of Darfur, making it difficult for aid groups to deliver humanitarian supplies effectively.
In El Obeid, a city located 360 km (220 miles) southwest of Khartoum and along a crucial route between the capital and Darfur, residents reported significant deployments of RSF forces and the closure of certain roads.
Adding to the challenges, Khartoum recently experienced the first rains of the year, signaling the onset of the rainy season. This will further complicate ongoing relief efforts, which are already hindered by bureaucratic delays and logistical obstacles.