The war between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has been especially hard on the country’s westernmost Darfur region, which had already experienced several periods of armed conflict over the past two decades.
Some of Darfur’s largest cities have been severely damaged or suffered ethnic cleansing campaigns since the conflict broke out in April. However, communities have also negotiated local ceasefires between the two sides and have banded together to help those in need.
As media attention wanes, we’ve asked Darfuri journalist and human rights monitor Ahmed Gouja to send us updates on how the conflict is impacting different towns and communities in different ways.
Gouja – who has left Darfur for security reasons – will be gathering regular testimonies, photographs, and videos from his extensive network on the ground and talking us through what it all means for the civilian population.
Week of 18 December
While much of Darfur has fallen into conflict since April, the town of El Daein, which is the capital of East Darfur state, has escaped mostly unscathed. Community leaders and local initiatives prevented major clashes between the fighting forces in the early phases of war. Then, last month, when it was clear that the RSF was going to take over, they arranged for the army to leave peacefully. In this video, Gouja describes how the local leaders have stayed neutral throughout the conflict and focused on protecting their community in the toughest of circumstances.
Week of 4 December 2023
The RSF and allied militias killed hundreds of people, and possibly thousands, in West Darfur state in early November. The killings mostly targeted ethnic Masalit from Ardamata, a suburb of El Geneina, which is West Darfur’s capital. RSF forces had been battling the Sudanese army for control of the Ardamata military base, and accused Masalit fighters of supporting the army. Thousands of Masalit civilians in West Darfur were also killed by the RSF between April and June. In this video, Gouja talks about what happened in Ardamata, and about the way RSF forces have been trying to remove evidence of their crimes in the aftermath. “Many media outlets, many human rights organisations have reported that there is a level of crimes that could amount to genocide being committed,” Gouja told us.
Week of 6 November 2023
El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, has been a safe haven in recent months, welcoming hundreds of thousands of people from more restive parts of Darfur. A local ceasefire was negotiated early on in the conflict, containing the RSF and SAF in separate areas. But clashes have broken out in recent weeks, and there are warnings that the RSF – emboldened by battlefield wins in the towns of Nyala and Zalingei – is planning a large-scale attack. Gouja explains the complex dynamics in this week’s instalment and calls for international institutions to do more to protect civilians.
Week of 23 October 2023
For this week’s instalment, Gouja spoke to people who have escaped the conflict in Zalingei, which is the capital of Central Darfur, one of five states in the region. He details the situation in a displacement camp that has been caught in the middle of clashes between the RSF and SAF, and describes how a telecommunication blackout means Zalingei residents are giving news to friends and family by sending letters.
Week of 1 October 2023
In this first instalment, Gouja takes us through the situation in Nyala, the largest city in Sudan’s Darfur region and his hometown. He explains that periodic clashes between the army and the RSF have destroyed much of the city's public infrastructure and have displaced large numbers of people.
This project was funded by the H2H Network’s H2H Fund, which is supported by UK aid.
Edited by Ciara Lee and Philip Kleinfeld.