Sudan: Civilians suffering ‘unimaginable horror’ amid ethnically motivated violence in Darfur

Survivors and witnesses of a series of ethnically motivated attacks by Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied Arab militias in Ardamata, West Darfur earlier this month that killed and injured hundreds of civilians, have described the harrowing scenes to Amnesty International.

The attacks begun around 1 November when RSF started attacking the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) military base in Ardamata town, and then intensified when they took over the camp on 4 November. Men, women, and children belonging predominantly to the Masalit community were targeted, along with some members of other non-Arab tribes. Witnesses described how civilians were executed in their homes, on the streets and while attempting to flee.

Civilians in West Darfur are suffering unimaginable horror every single day, paying the price yet again in this latest escalation of extreme violence.

Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International's Regional Director for East and Southern Africa

“Civilians in West Darfur are suffering unimaginable horror every single day, paying the price yet again in this latest escalation of extreme violence. Civilians are caught in unending cycles of pain, as ethnically targeted attacks continue to take place, raising the spectre of the scorched earth campaign and war crimes of previous decades,” said Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.

A doctor who was supporting victims in Ardamata said:

“On 6 November, my colleagues and I counted a total of 95 bodies in Ardamata. They included men, women, and children. Among them was an 18-day-old infant whose lifeless body we found alongside his mother and four other women inside a residential house. The distressing scenes of RSF soldiers executing young men that I witnessed in Ardamata continue to haunt my thoughts every day. The worst chilling sight I remember is RSF soldiers executing four men in front of me and seeing their dead bodies seconds later.”

On 6 November, my colleagues and I counted a total of 95 bodies in Ardamata. They included men, women, and children. 

Doctor working in Ardamata, Darfur

Ardamata hosts a camp for internally displaced people, who have now been forced to flee again following these latest attacks.

Ten interviewees including two witnesses told Amnesty International that the RSF and their allied Arab militias also looted and burnt civilian property in Ardamata. A 25-year-old female relative of victims said:

“On 4 November, armed RSF soldiers killed my 70-year-old aunt and her 25-year-old son inside her home in Ardamata. Entire families in their neighbourhood were also killed that same day.”

   On 4 November, armed RSF soldiers killed my 70-year-old aunt and her 25-year-old son inside her home in Ardamata. Entire families in their neighbourhood were also killed that same day.

25 year-old survivor in Ardamata

The United Nations reported that women and girls were subjected to sexual violence in Ardamata’s camp for internally displaced persons as well as in their homes.

“The ongoing lack of accountability for past crimes is one of the root causes of this renewed violence. The cycles of horror must be broken, and those responsible for crimes against civilians must be held to account. Humanitarian actors must be allowed to deliver unimpeded aid to West Darfur. All countries must also fully respect the UN Security Council’s arms embargo on Darfur and refrain from sending weapons and ammunitions to armed actors in Darfur,” said Tigere Chagutah.

The ongoing lack of accountability for past crimes is one of the root causes of this renewed violence. The cycles of horror must be broken, and those responsible for crimes against civilians must be held to account.

Tigere Chagutah

Background

An escalation in violence took place in April 2023 after weeks of tensions between the RSF and the SAF over security force reform during negotiations for a new transitional government.

People fleeing to Chad have reported a new surge in ethnically-targeted killings in West Darfur as the RSF targeted internally displaced people of predominantly Masalit ethnic origin in Ardamata town. Between 7 and 20 November, Amnesty International interviewed ten people including two witnesses from Ardamata and three relatives of victims and have reviewed numerous videos, photographs, UN and other media reports.

In a report published in August‘Death Came To Our Home’: War Crimes and Civilian Suffering In Sudan, Amnesty International documented extensive war crimes being committed by the SAF and RSF in the conflict. Many ethnic Masalit people who fled to Chad from West Darfur told Amnesty International that their towns had been attacked by RSF and heavily armed Arab militias in ethnically motivated violence.