Children “lumped together and shot dead”: new details of ethnic cleansing in Darfur emerge

Children “lumped together and shot dead”: new details of ethnic cleansing in Darfur emerge
Children “lumped together and shot dead”: new details of ethnic cleansing in Darfur emerge

The chilling new testimonies describe one of the worst atrocities of the civil war that has gripped Sudan for years. It concerns the large-scale massacre of desperate civilians who tried to flee ethnic cleansing in Darfur last summer.

Witnesses describe how children were “piled together and shot dead” by the paramilitary RSF (Rapid Support Forces). The massacre took place in June last year, when the children tried to flee to Al-Junaynah, the capital of West Darfur state. The outbreak of ethnic violence then claimed the lives of thousands of civilians.

A quickly set up market in the camp in Adré. — © getty

The 221 testimonies collected by Human Rights Watch are the latest evidence that the Arab-led RSF has orchestrated a 12-month, well-planned campaign of ethnic cleansing against the non-Arab Sudanese Masalit in West Darfur.

The United Nations and the African Union should urgently speak out in favor of an arms embargo against Sudan, HRW said. The human rights organization also advocates a mission with a strong enforcement force to protect the civilian population in Darfur, the vast region in the west of the country.

8 million people on the run

In a report published on Wednesday, HRW called for sanctions against those who bear ultimate responsibility for widespread war crimes. These include Abdel Rahman Joma’a Barakallah, the commander of the RSF in West Darfur, and the infamous RSF commander Mohamed ‘Hemedti’ Hamdan Dagalo and his brother Abdel Raheem.

More than 8 million people have been displaced since fighting between the RSF and the Sudanese army broke out in April 2023, amid what the UN says is one of the longest humanitarian crises in decades.

Al-Fashir, the current focal point, is the last town in Darfur still in the hands of the Sudanese army. The city is surrounded by the RSF and, according to diplomats, is “on the brink of a large-scale massacre”.

“The UN Security Council and several national governments are gradually becoming aware of the impending disaster in Al-Fashir,” said Tirana Hassan, director of Human Rights Watch. “The large-scale atrocities committed in Al-Junaynah are a foreshadowing of what could happen if coordinated action is not taken.”

Into the river in panic

For one of the worst atrocities in the Sudanese civil war, we must return to June last year, when the RSF and their allies launched an attack on a mile-long convoy of civilians trying to flee Al-Junaynah, escorted by Masalit fighters.

Witnesses told HRW investigators how panicked men, women and children ran through the streets or tried to swim across the fast-flowing seasonal Kaja River, which bisects the city. The RSF members chased them, rounded them up and shot them dead. Many people also drowned then.

A 17-year-old boy described how twelve children and five adults were killed on June 15: “Two RSF members … tore the children away from their parents. When the parents started shouting, two other RSF soldiers shot them dead.”

“Then they threw the children into a pile and shot them dead,” he said. “They threw their bodies and then their belongings into the river.” For the rest of the day, and for days afterward, attacks continued on tens of thousands of civilians trying to reach the border with Chad.

HRW was also able to document the June 15 RSF attack on a makeshift hospital. At that time, 25 injured patients were being treated in the medical post. “They started shooting at us and killed everyone,” said Ali, who had already been shot in the leg during a previous attack. “Just myself and a woman (who was also injured, ed.) survived the massacre. They shot me in my right arm. I dropped down and pretended to be dead.”

Ali and the woman remained motionless among the dead bodies for 10 hours as the RSF forces continued their assault on the city. At about five in the afternoon, seven armed men in uniform entered the medical post. They beat Ali and hurled racist insults at him. “One of them said, ‘We’re not going to kill you! We want to torture you, Nuba (an ethnic slur, ed.)!’” Hours later, after the soldiers had left, Ali was rescued by his family.

The Guardian

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Children lumped shot dead details ethnic cleansing Darfur emerge


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