War in Sudan: UN expert warns of genocide in Darfur town of El Fasher

Screenshot, Clashes have intensified in the battle for control of the city.

  • Author, BBC Newsday
  • Role, bbc news

Sudan’s Darfur region faces a growing risk of genocide as the world’s attention focuses on conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, a UN expert warns.

“We have circumstances where a genocide could be occurring,” Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

He said many civilians were targeted because of their ethnicity in the besieged city of El Fasher in Sudan, where fierce fighting has intensified in recent days.

A medical charity in the city has reported more than 700 deaths in 10 days.

El Fasher is the last major urban center in the Darfur region that remains in the hands of the Sudanese army.

The army has been fighting the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) for more than a year, in a civil war that has killed thousands of people and forced millions from their homes.

Local resident Ibrahim al-Tayeb al-Faki told the BBC that his sister was killed in a military airstrike that also destroyed her home.

The 47-year-old told the BBC that he had sent his three children to live with his grandfather, but that his house was also attacked. The family now takes refuge in its ruins.

“Right now there is no safe place in El Fasher,” he said.

The situation is developing into a genocide “similar to that in Rwanda” in 1994, Ms Nderitu said, citing a UN analysis of growing risk factors.

“The escalation of hostilities in El Fasher has opened a truly alarming chapter in this conflict,” he added.

“I am drawing attention to this particular conflict. I have been trying to make my voice heard, but my voice is drowned out by other wars, in Ukraine and Gaza.”

A report by the campaign group said paramilitary forces and their Arab allies had committed ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity against ethnic Massalit and non-Arab communities in the region.

He called for sanctions against those responsible for the atrocities, including RSF leader Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, widely known as Hemedti.

The current violence has arisen from a long history of tensions over resources between non-Arab farming communities, including the Masalit, and Arab pastoralist communities.

The Internet has been cut off, making access to the city difficult, while RSF group soldiers continue to lay siege to the city.

The UN says some 15,000 people are feared killed last year in the town of El Geneina in Western Darfur.

Last June, West Darfur Governor Khamis Abakar was assassinated hours after accusing the RSF of committing genocide. He is the highest-ranking official known to have been killed since the conflict began in April.

RSF says it is not involved in what it describes as a “tribal conflict” in Darfur.

The paramilitary group emerged from the Janjaweed militia, which was accused of genocide and ethnic cleansing against non-Arab communities in Darfur in 2003 after rebels took up arms, accusing the government of ignoring the region.

More BBC stories from Sudan:

video subtitles, Sudan war: El Fasher residents speak of fear and uncertainty

Image source, Getty Images/BBC

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