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EL GENEINA-WEST DARFUR - 31 Oct 2023

Tensions rise as armed confrontation looms in El Geneina

A school that served as a shelter for new displaced in El Geneina was torched, May 27 (Mohamed Khalil / UNHCR)
A school that served as a shelter for new displaced in El Geneina was torched, May 27 (Mohamed Khalil / UNHCR)

Tensions between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have peaked in El Geneina, the capital of Sudan's West Darfur State, residents said.

The tension arose on Tuesday afternoon after the RSF, a paramilitary force, deployed more troops near the army base in El Geneina.

In the initial days of the current conflict, El Geneina remained stable, suggesting that the war might not reach it. However, on April 24, fighting erupted between the warring parties. Given the area's mixed population and lack of clear community-based control, it quickly became a hotspot for intense fighting.

Speaking to Radio Tamazuj on Tuesday evening, several residents of El Geneina said that the situation in the area was tense, adding that both parties are in a state of extreme readiness in their positions, which led to terror and panic in the city and caused the market's closure.

Yusuf Mohammed Yusuf, a civil society activist, said many civilians are leaving the city of El Geneina in fear of an imminent attack on the area by the Rapid Support Forces.

He pointed out that fears of fresh fighting in El Geneina mounted after reports on Tuesday that the RSF deployed troops near the military base and after the capture of the army base in Zalingei in Central Darfur state by the RSF on Tuesday morning.

"Events are happening very fast in the area and there is high tension in the city. We hope that the two parties will find an amicable solution and agree to stop the bloodshed in Sudan," he said.

Meanwhile, Hafiz Idris, a resident of El Geneina, said: "We are living in fear and panic after reports that there is a looming confrontation between the army and the RSF. I urge the two parties to open a safe humanitarian corridor so the citizens can leave the city safely."

"As citizens of El Geneina, we have suffered a lot from the violence. We hope that God will protect the people of West Darfur. Now there is a mass exodus from the area because of fear of fighting," he said.

Another El Geneina resident who preferred anonymity said: "The situation is currently tense. All residents are expecting that the parties will fight, and there are reports that there is a negotiation going on, but we are yet to get information. God willing, everything will be fine."

As previously reported by Radio Tamazuj, the RSF claimed control of the 21st Infantry Division base in Zalingei, the capital of Central Darfur, on Tuesday morning after having captured the 16th Infantry Division base in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur State, last week.

The seizure of the army base in Zalingei comes as the two sides restarted peace negotiations in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.