Sudanese paramilitary forces expand offensive on aid hub

As many as 300,000 people have fled area in Sudan’s Al-Jazirah state since December 15th

Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has expanded its offensive on a crucial aid hub, escalating the eight-month-old conflict and forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee.

The four-day attack on the southeastern city of Wad Medani has also jeopardised the North African nation’s main humanitarian operations, already running at low capacity in a war that has pitted the RSF against the military and left 12,000 people dead and displaced millions more.

As many as 300,000 people fled the area in Sudan’s Al-Jazirah state – located on the Nile river and commonly referred to as Sudan’s breadbasket – since December 15th, the United Nations said on Tuesday in a statement. “Given the scarcity of available transport options, many people have reportedly fled by foot,” it said.

The escalation has thwarted efforts by East African mediators and regional heads of state as well as the US and Saudi Arabia to have the leaders of Sudan’s two warring factions meet face to face for the first time in the conflict by the end of the year. The UN is warning of a humanitarian catastrophe, with 25 million – more than half of the resource-rich country’s population – in need of aid.


Violence also spread in the southwestern city of El-Fasher in the Darfur region, where hundreds of people fled and private and commercial properties were looted in recent days. The upheaval has spilled over into Sudan’s eastern state of Sennar, with people trying to reach the relative safety of Gedaref, Kassala and Blue Nile states.

The attack on Wad Medani has shuttered shops and markets. It has also put at risk warehouses containing large stocks of supplies for displaced people and residents of the capital Khartoum.

All humanitarian field missions have been cancelled since December 15th, according to the UN.

The RSF, which has its roots in a Darfur militia known as the Janjaweed, or “devils on horseback,” said in a statement it moved on Wad Medani after receiving information the army under Abdel Fattah al-Burhan mobilised 40,000 soldiers in an effort to eliminate its forces. Wad Medani is located 150km kilometres southeast of Khartoum. A spokesman for the army did not respond to questions on the latest military operations.

The spike in violence occurred around the fifth anniversary of a popular revolt that eventually toppled the former dictator Omar al-Bashir, whose whereabouts remain unknown after he left a prison in Khartoum earlier in the conflict.

“The incredible bravery and sacrifice displayed by protesters from all walks of life – especially women and youth – led to the beginnings of a democratic future,” the US embassy to Sudan said in a statement. “However, the promise of that future has been denied to Sudan’s people time and again.” – Bloomberg