Residents of Sudan’s South Darfur state are concerned that the ongoing fighting between the army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) could reignite conflict in the region, which has already suffered through two decades of war. Darfur has been a battleground between the military and paramilitary RSF since the conflict began, and on April 16, fighting broke out between armed men in Nyala, the state’s capital.
The war between Sudan’s generals is having increasingly severe consequences for civilians, with the United Nations reporting a doubling in the number of people uprooted from their homes over the past week. The fighting led to a fire that ravaged through the city’s main market, destroying stalls and merchandise.
Residents fear that the fighting is dragging in tribal militias, tapping into long-standing animosities between the region’s two main communities – one that identifies as Arab, and the other as East or Central African. “As the people of Nyala city, we have been affected by a war that we have nothing to do with. As a result of this war, Sudan has been damaged and the Sudanese people have been affected in ways that we are not aware of. Generals are fighting for power, while the Sudanese people are suffering and displaced,” explained Adam Hussein, a resident.
Hussein added, “On April 16th, at 5 am, an incident (fire) occurred, and firefighters were present near the market but did not come to extinguish the fire. Up to this moment, the fire is still burning, and we do not understand what is happening. People have been severely affected. Several citizens who were shopping at the market, including a vendor who keeps shedding tears when he sees the market in this condition, have been impacted.”
In the early 2000s, African tribes in Darfur who had long complained of discrimination rebelled against the government, which responded with a military campaign that the International Criminal Court later said amounted to genocide. State-backed Arab militias known as the Janjaweed were accused of widespread killings, rapes, and other atrocities. The Janjaweed later became the RSF paramilitary group, which is now at war with the Sudanese military.