The Ongoing Tragedy in Sudan Yields No Respite for Civilians

By Emily Thompson

Seven months of war between rival generals in Sudan have resulted in thousands of deaths, millions of displaced persons and the risk of disintegration of the country, which was already in a fragile state before the outbreak of hostilities.

As the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) intensify their aggressive campaign in the Darfur region of western Sudan, there is growing concern among experts about the potential for a situation akin to the ongoing political turmoil in Libya. The reference to a “Libyan scenario” points to Libya’s protracted political crisis, where two rival governments—one based in the western part of the country and the other in the east—are locked in a struggle for power. This comparison raises alarms about the stability and future of Sudan.

As the RSF consolidates its control over much of the capital, Khartoum, tensions remain high. The military group, known for its brutal tactics, has asserted dominance, spread its influence, and caused widespread concern and unrest, leaving death and destruction in its wake.

The ongoing conflict, which erupted on April 15 between Army Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane and his former deputy, General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, has resulted in devastating human and material losses. At least 10,000 people have died in the conflict so far and this is considered to be a major underestimation.

Meanwhile, the retreat of government and army leaders from Khartoum to Port Sudan signals a significant shift in the country’s power dynamics. Port Sudan, being a strategic location and a major seaport, offers a temporary haven for these leaders but this has only escalated fears about Sudan’s unity and integrity. The absence of central leadership in the capital and the growing influence of the RSF in Darfur have led to concerns that Sudan could become fragmented and divided between two ruling parties.

As a result of this devastating conflict, Sudanese citizens are facing a severe crisis due to the ongoing conflict and political instability, profoundly affecting every aspect of their lives. The conflict, particularly acute in regions like Darfur, has resulted in significant loss of life and numerous injuries, with civilians often caught in the crossfire. This violence has forced millions to flee their homes, creating a massive number of internally displaced persons and pushing many to seek refuge in neighboring countries under indescribable conditions. The situation is further exacerbated by widespread food insecurity and famine, particularly affecting children and vulnerable populations, as agriculture and food distribution are severely disrupted.

Naturally, Sudan’s economy is in tatters, marked by high unemployment, soaring inflation, and a lack of basic services, which only exacerbates public suffering. Healthcare systems are overwhelmed and there is a severe shortage of medical supplies and trained personnel. The education system has ground to a halt as many children have been forced to abandon their schooling due to safety concerns.

The conflict has also seen numerous human rights violations, including violence against civilians, sexual violence, and the use of child soldiers – all of which only contributes to public trauma. The conflict has not only upended the social and cultural fabric of entire communities, with traditions and social structures disrupted due to displacement and the loss of community members, but has torn whole families apart.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA),

“Fighting in Sudan has resulted in devastating consequences for civilians. Over 4.6 million people have been internally displaced across the country. Many others have been cut off from access to basic services in Khartoum, Darfur and Kordofan states. Prices of food commodities, when available, continue to soar. The protection of civilians remains a key concern, with reports of increased sexual and gender-based violence as well as reports of family separation and child recruitment. Access to health continues to be hampered by the ongoing conflict. Health facilities lack sufficient staff and supplies, and are barely functional in some areas.”

OCHA’s observations in Sudan underscore the fragility of the region’s political landscape and the potential for escalated conflict, raising questions about the country’s future direction and the possibility of a split along regional lines. The comparison to Libya’s situation serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the risks of prolonged instability and division.

So far, the UN has documented over 1.5 million internally displaced persons in Darfur, home to around one-quarter of Sudan’s 48 million citizens. This escalating crisis highlights the severe humanitarian and political challenges facing the region, underscoring the urgent need for a resolution to prevent further atrocities and displacement of civilians.

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