No respite for civilians fleeing Darfur, killed while escaping

Civilians fleeing el-Geneina are being targeted as they cross into Chad, as previous ceasefire is violated.

Displaced Sudanese women and children ride their donkeys around Ararah camp, 110km west of el-Geneina town [Reuters]

Civilians fleeing violence in Sudan’s West Darfur city of el-Geneina are being targeted even as they flee into neighbouring Chad, with a previous nationwide 72-hour ceasefire violated as violence there escalates, according to Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan.

Gunshots are being directed at civilians “even as they continue to flee for their lives”, Morgan said on Wednesday, from a region where thousands of people have fled in just the last week.

Fighting driven by militias from Arab nomadic tribes along with members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) – which has targeted civilians – continued in el-Geneina even as the United States and Saudi Arabia-brokered ceasefire, which expired on Wednesday, was in place.

Fighting in the city has killed more than 1,100 people since the conflict between warring generals of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF broke out on April 15, raising the alarm about genocide.

Ibrahim, a resident who fled the violence last week, said he and others tried to seek protection near the army headquarters there on June 14 but were blocked.

“All of a sudden, the militias came out and sprayed people with gunfire,” Ibrahim, who did not want to share his last name, told the Reuters news agency. “We were surprised by thousands of people running back. People were killed, they were trampled.”

Fighting in El Geneina
Fighting in el-Geneina [AFP]

Many people decided to flee the city when the state governor of West Darfur was killed on June 14, hours after he accused the RSF and its militias of “genocide” in a TV interview, said Ibrahim.

Ibrahim made it to the Chadian town of Adre but later found out that eight of his family members had been killed.

Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) said on Monday that some 15,000 people had fled West Darfur over the previous four days, with people arriving in Chad reporting seeing people shot and killed as they tried to escape. The group also reported rapes.

Elsewhere in the country on Wednesday, heavy clashes broke out between rival military factions in several parts of Sudan’s capital as the shaky ceasefire that saw several reports of violations expired, according to Morgan.

Heavy artillery could be heard in Khartoum from the first minutes of the ceasefire expiring, Morgan said.

Intense fighting also broke out in Omdurman and Khartoum North, sister cities to the capital, and in both the southern and eastern parts of Khartoum state.

Residents also reported clashes near an army camp in South Kordofan state, where a large rebel force not clearly aligned with either of the factions fighting in Khartoum has been mobilising.

Rival sides are now holding talks for a possible ceasefire scheduled for the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid next week.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies