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Ethnic Cleansing, Crimes Against Humanity in West Darfur

Human rights 2024-05-11, 12:15am


A depiction of the June 15 massacre based on descriptions from witnesses, given to an artist. © Private via HRW

From April to November 2023, a campaign of ethnic cleansing largely targeting ethnic Massalit people in El Geneina, the capital of Sudan’s West Darfur state, left at least 10,000 people dead, hundreds of thousands more as refugees, and entire villages destroyed. 

Documenting Atrocities

A new 218-page report from Human Rights Watch details how Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), an independent military force, and its allied militias in West Darfur committed horrific abuses –including killings, torture and rape. They looted on a grand scale, burning, shelling and razing neighborhoods to the ground. 

In many cases, these atrocities amounted to war crimes or crimes against humanity. It is also possible that genocide has been or is being committed in Darfur.

Between June 2023 and April 2024, Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 220 people, many of whom had fled Sudan, in Chad, Uganda, Kenya, and South Sudan. Researchers also reviewed and analyzed over 120 photos and videos of events, satellite imagery, and documents to corroborate accounts of grave abuse.

Jamal’s Story

“I didn’t think I would survive this,” Jamal Abdallah Khamis, a 29-year-old ethnic Massalit man, told HRW. 

As a child in West Darfur, Jamal grew up surrounded by violence, having survived the ethnic cleansing campaign perpetrated by Sudanese government forces and their allied militias, known as the “Janjaweed,” in the early 2000s. 

When the fighting broke out again in April 2023, Jamal and his colleagues started to document the violence. But quickly the violence became too extreme, and Jamal was forced to flee for his life. 

We spoke to Jamal for an extensive interview about how violence in Sudan has plagued his life and how these memories and experiences shape his future. “I felt that my duty is to spend my whole life defending and fighting for human rights.”

What He Saw

In late April, Jamal documented abuses when the RSF clashed with a Sudanese military convoy travelling through El Geneina. Then the RSF and its allied groups attacked majority Massalit neighborhoods, clashing with predominantly Massalit armed groups defending their communities.

The violence culminated in a large-scale massacre on June 15, when the RSF and its allies opened fire on a kilometers-long convoy of civilians desperately trying to flee, escorted by Massalit fighters. The RSF and militias pursued, rounded up, and shot men, women, and children who ran through the streets or tried to swim across the fast-flowing Kajja river. Many drowned.

The conflict between warring parties has caused widespread deaths and displacement, forced many to flee to neighboring countries, and brought millions around the country to the brink of famine. 

All governments and international institutions need to mobilize now to protect civilians from further carnage.

For Jamal and countless others, it’s an urgent request: justice and peace for West Darfur and all of Sudan. – Human Rights Watch