ANNEX(b) to July 23, 2023 Update: Responding to Sexual Violence in Darfur
From the coordinating counselor of Team Zamzam, received July 22, 2023
Forcusing on humanitarian, health, security, and living conditions in the Zamzam camp in North Darfur state, nearby vicinities, and areas around the capital (El Fasher).
The humanitarian situation in general in Darfur is rapidly deteriorating on a daily basis; the pace is so terrifying that most of the residents of the main cities like El Fasher and Nyala, especially those who have few resources, are fleeing the country to neighboring countries like Chad.
The cause of this rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation is the total absence of security—lawlessness that has emerged from the current war. Provincial capitals such as Nyala and El Fasher, which used to enjoy at least relative calm and a peaceful coexistence among its inhabitants are no longer able to do so. Since fighting began on April 15, residents throughout Darfur now live in constant terror, forcing many of them to dig trenches inside their homes to protect themselves from artillery shelling and indiscriminate bombardment.
The situation in Nyala after three months of fighting is grim: neighborhoods have been separated from each other like isolated islands, east to west—all because of fighting between the army and the Rapid Support Forces. The south of Nyala has been separated from its north with the army’s closing of the Burli bridge for security reasons. Therefore, most of government institutions, such as the airport, fell into the hands of the RSF militias. This also includes the main Malaga market, livestock centers, the Central Police Union, the Legislative Council, and the judiciary. Checkpoints exist between Nyala and El Fasher. Additionally, the northern and eastern neighborhoods—Kasd Al-Aali, Al-Matar, Sham Al-Nessim, and Riyadh—are isolated.
The army has confined itself to the barracks of the 16th Infantry division for more than three months, and has not moved further than Nyala stadium, the educational hospital, Al-Jumhuriya neighborhood and the main market. The army also closed most of the entrances to the city, such as the road to the Al Geneina, the crossing road near Al-Ashlak, and has diverted the way north towards Al-Salam and Al-Nahda neighborhoods. The army has also closed the Makkah Bridge over Wadi Barli.
Clashes between the army and the Rapid Support Forces continue daily with heavy, medium, and light weapons from east to west in Nyala; the death toll and destruction of buildings has increased in the neighborhoods of Al-Jeer, Al-Jumhuriya, Al-Mazad, and Al-Matar.
With the geographical importance of Nyala and its commercial vitality, as well as its critical railway line, the fighting already has huge costs. The railroad line from Nyala passes through the capital of East Darfur all way to vicinity of Khartoum. At the same time, the land routes for commercial convoys that import and export goods to Bangui in Central African Republic is threatened, even as it is considered a backbone of the Darfurian economy. Nyala is the second most important commercial capital in Sudan after Khartoum.
While the situation appears bleak in the capital of South Darfur, conditions in North Darfur are also grim. There are continuous waves of human displacement from areas controlled by the Rapid Support Forces and their allied militias. The capital of North Darfur (El Fasher) has—since the first week of the fighting—witnessed continuous cuts of water and electricity due to the lack of fuel (the result of the cessation of the commercial convoys). Like South Darfur, North Darfur has been badly affected by food shortages due to the current war and the halting of commercial flights and conveys; these include those that used to come via the long road that links the capital of North Darfur to Khartoum, as well as various other roads within North Darfur, and to Chad and Libya.
El Fasher has historically been considered the capital of the whole of Darfur and is currently under firm control of the Sudanese army. The army controls 90% of the city and is supported by the addition of a large presence of joint forces composed primarily of the forces of the armed movements who were signatories to the Juba Agreement (August 2020). They are based next to the main market and other vital locations of the city; even so, there are still pockets of the RSF scattered in the eastern part of the city next to the road that enters from El Fasher from the east. Since the spark of the April war, the city of El Fasher and its neighbouring areas have witnessed continuous and serious insecurity, theft of citizens’ property at gunpoint, looting, killings, kidnapping, and hijacking of cars. Most of the citizens confirmed that the Rapid Support Forces and its affiliated militias are the ones who are carrying out these daily crimes.