A 24-hour ceasefire between the military junta and the rebel Rapid Support Forces in Sudan, the 17th of its kind, was agreed upon on Tuesday (June 28) to honour the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday. It lasted just hours, according to local reports, as fighting resumed almost immediately.
The streets of Sudan’s western city of el-Geneina are filled with the “smell of bodies rotting” as aid workers remain incapable of recovering the slain civilians in the face of continual gunfire. Now in its third month, the fighting in Sudan has displaced more than 2.5 million people and killed hundreds, if not thousands of civilians, many of whom are believed to be women and children.
Reports from inside the city of el-Geneina, a small city on the western border with Chad, have revealed that “decomposing corpses” line its streets as the situation shows no sign of abating.
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An aid worker in the city told Middle East Eye that around 1,500 people have been killed in the town since the war broke out on April 15. He said that roughly 1,000 of those are believed to be women and children.
“So far, we have collected around 700 dead bodies, and double this number are still on streets and inside some houses, but we can’t reach them because of the intensive firing by the militias,” the aid worker said.
“We have seen the corpses decomposing and can smell them rotting. The bodies are scattered randomly everywhere.
Unless this situation is sorted soon, this will cause widespread health issues, diseases and more deaths.”
The war in Sudan broke out after the military’s plans to incorporate the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) into their own outfit turned violent.
The devastating conflict is essentially the consequence of a personal battle between Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the leader of the RSF, and Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the Sudanese Armed Forces.
The Wagner Group, famous for its bloody battle for the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut and the march on Moscow last weekend, have stated their intentions to join the RSF as military support in the near future.
Since the agreement between the two warring parties failed on April 15, the capital Khartoum has become a ferocious battleground as the RSF and Sudanese military fight street to street. The RSF and Arab militias are believed to control 80 percent of the city and its surrounding countryside.
To the west, in el-Geneina, a small force of primarily Black African Massalit volunteers, who armed themselves when the fighting broke out by looting police stories, have been holding positions in the south.
They armed themselves in response to the Arab militias that joined forces with the RSF, but they do not fight alongside the Sudanese Army.
The RSF is also made up of fighters that formed the backbone of the Janjaweed, a fearsome collection of Arab militias used by former president Omar al-Bashir’s government against non-Arab rebel groups and civilians. Bashir was deposed in a military coup in 2019.
A medical source, who has been displaced from el-Geneina, said the majority of people recorded killed are from the Massalit community.
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Outside the city, Massalit villages have been burnt to the ground, in scenes that echo the ethnic wars of 2003-2005, when the Janjaweed rampaged through the Darfur countryside.
“We need protection. The Janjaweed will not stop. Even when we leave the whole land, they will come after us,” a second aid worker said.
“So, we need international protection. There are hundreds of thousands of Massalit who are trapped inside el-Geneina, who cannot get out.”
El-Geneina’s hospital was one of the first locations targeted back in April. Then the pharmacies were looted and destroyed. The second aid worker said that when doctors tried to set up clinics in homes, the militias sought them out and killed people inside.
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