The RSF is viciously and systematically murdering people and burning their homes in the city, particularly targeting the Masalit and other ‘African-identified’ groups.* This should not come as surprise; Al Geneina has been the site of extreme violence and war crimes for the past four years. The outbreak of conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) which started on 24th April 2023 has resulted in over 1000 deaths and 2000 injuries in Al Geneina city in West Darfur. The actions of the RSF in Al Geneina and their mobilization of the ‘Arabized’ tribes in the area must be recognized for what they are: genocide. Al Geneina is the capital city of West Darfur, it is also the home of the ancient kingdom of the Sudanese Fur and Masalit groups, the historical seat of the Fur Islamic kingdom.
The RSF continues to burn down the city, resulting in the shutdown of all hospitals, markets, and basic services. Civilians are being denied access to basic commodities that are vital for their survival including food and water. Water is being supplied by tankers while it was often too dangerous to stand outside waiting for water in public places. The prices have skyrocketed, leaving many without water. 37 women have died during childbirth complications and almost 200 dialysis patients died due to the collapse of health services and the attacks on hospitals.
As a result of the conflict and the uninhabitable conditions, thousands of civilians fled the city into neighbouring cities while others fled the country through the border to Chad. Reports show many civilians including women and children walking out of the city seeking refuge in other areas. However, these IDPs and refugees are often obstructed by the RSF, who continue to use civilian people as human shields in the city as the conflict escalates. On the 15th of June, it has been reported that the RSF attacked and tortured civilians as they fled the city. Many of the injured are women and children. We have received eye-witness accounts of the RSF stopping a group of 35 vehicles full of women and children attempting to flee the area, and as the RSF drove the vehicles back, the Hakamat (traditional female singers) chanted that ‘the civilians should be left to die with the RSF when the SAF bombs the city.’
As the RSF continues to burn down the city and kill civilians, many human rights defenders (HRDs) have been targeted, threatened, and attacked in their homes. Targeting the HRDs is a strategic effort by the RSF to force the HRDs out of the city as their lives are in danger if they do not leave. Ultimately, the HRDs leaving the city means less information will be shared on the human rights violations that are happening on the ground.
Reports confirm 13 cases of SGBV in Al Geneina on the 8th and 9th of June. However, due to limited communication, SIHA has not been able to receive further reports on this issue since that date. The number of women subjected to SGBV are expected to be more, as the RSF is known to commit this crime among the other war crimes in Darfur.
On the 14th of June, the Governor of West Darfur was abducted and brutally killed, and his body burned by the RSF. The barbarous acts are not far from the RSF’s has been known for committing for decades in Darfur. The act shows the RSF’s persistence in violating international humanitarian law by committing war crimes against civilians and officials.
We are alarmed by the acts of the RSF, which mirror the atrocities and war crimes committed in Darfur against civilians by the Bashir regime and his allies the Janjaweed militia, which was the forerunner of the current RSF.
The acts of atrocities committed in Al Geneina amount to genocide and war crimes against civilians and HRDs. Those acts would not have happened had the international community and Sudan’s post-Bashir transitional government prioritized justice as an equivalent of peace and stability in Darfur.
Lastly, SIHA condemns the acts of the SAF and the RSF, who continue to carry out their conflict inside neighborhoods and civilians’ homes.
List of the activists we know have been murdered by the RSF in Al Geneina:
- Khader Suleiman Abdel Majeed, Director of the Ideas Organization and a human rights defender, was killed on Friday, June 9, 2023.
- Khamis Arbab, an activist and human rights defender, was killed on Friday, June 9, 2023
- Abdullah Smit, a political activist, was killed on Friday, June 9, 2023
- Abu Bakr Sharif, a political activist, was killed on June 9, 2023.
- Adam Zakaria, Medical Assistant, Department of Anesthesia, was killed on June 14, 2023.
- Al-Tayeb Kodi, a lawyer and human rights defender, was killed on June 10, 2023
- Muhammad Badawi, a cultural activist, was killed on April 27, 2023
- Walid Ibrahim Al-Doum, a civil society activist, was killed on May 14, 2023.
- Mudassir Oka, a civil society activist, was killed on May 14, 2023
- Qasim Al-Sir, a civil society activist, was killed on 12 May 2023
- 11) Nasreddin Abu, an activist in civil society, was killed on 12 May 2023
- 12) Moataz Sabahi, a civil society activist, was killed on April 27, 2023
- Abdul Khaleq Ibrahim Matar, a lawyer and human rights defender, was killed on June 6, 2023
- Al-Zubair Muhammad Saleh, a civil society activist, was killed on May 8, 2023
NOTE: The information in this update has been acquired through ongoing communication with our network of organizations and activists on the ground.
*It is crucial to understand that ‘Arab’ and ‘African’ identities are fluid and constantly being reconstructed and shifted over the incredibly long history of the area that is today recognized as Sudan. These identities are influenced by much more than ethnicity, as tribal affiliation, political history, colorism, and power struggles have played a large role in shaping these identities over time. At present, the ‘Arab’ identity is privileged identity in relation to the ‘African’ identity. However, the fluidity of these identities means that people find themselves in different places on the spectrum of privilege and oppression in different contexts and at different moments in history. Despite the history of Darfur as an ancient Islamic Kingdom, the Fur people, as well as the Masalit, and other groups found in the Darfur region, are classified as ‘African’ by the empowered majority (which includes the RSF) – who identify themselves as part of the ‘Arabized’ identity.