Heavy artillery fire in Khartoum, army calls for civilian help

The situation is still very critical in Khartoum. Heavy artillery fire shook the city again on Monday, after more than two and a half months of fighting in Sudan between paramilitaries and the army, assaulted on several fronts and which has once again called on civilians to enlist. Several million people are still stuck in the capital, without water, without electricity and with reserves of food and money almost dry.

The war for power between the army, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, and the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (FSR) of General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, has caused nearly 3,000 deaths since April 15, according to the NGO Acled, and 2.8 million displaced persons and refugees according to the UN. The humanitarian crisis continues to worsen in a country where more than one in two inhabitants, according to the UN, now depends on humanitarian aid to survive, including more than 13.6 million children according to UNICEF.

The UN is concerned about possible “crimes against humanity”

The two belligerents have so far ignored calls for a ceasefire, certain of being able to win militarily. The army announced on Monday that it was ready to “receive and prepare” volunteer fighters. But arming civilians would plunge the country into civil war. In Darfur, armed civilians have already taken part in the fighting, as have tribal fighters. The governor of this vast region in the west of the country bordering Chad, Minni Minnawi, a former rebel leader now close to the army, had already in May called on civilians to take up arms. On Monday, a coalition of Arab tribes in the state of South Darfur announced its allegiance to the RSF.

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The war has an “ethnic dimension” in Darfur, warned the UN, saying that abuses committed in this region, mainly by the RSF and allied Arab militias against non-Arab civilians, could constitute “crimes against the humanity”. The count of sexual assaults, attributed by almost all of the survivors to the FSR, is increasing every day, according to the government body for the fight against violence against women.

The Janjawids, Arab militiamen who form the bulk of the FSR, had led in the 2000s, under the command of General Daglo, the scorched earth policy in Darfur, looting, raping and killing members of non-Arab ethnic groups to the account of dictator Omar al-Bashir.

Today under fire from critics, the FSR are trying to give pledges of appeasement. After announcing the formation of emergency courts-martial, they declared on Sunday that they wanted to punish “looting, vandalism and especially the theft of civilian cars”. The FSRs are also accused of “stealing” houses and evicting their inhabitants, who come to swell the flood of displaced persons.

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