Sudanese Civil War Masks Genocide in Darfur: ICC Investigates as Black Communities Face Extermination

People flee their neighbourhoods amid fighting between the army and paramilitaries in Khartoum on April 19, 2023, following the collapse of a 24-hour truce. (Photo by – / AFP)

Share this article


Sudanese civil war has captured major headlines, but underneath it, a brutal carnage is being executed against the blacks of Darfur. The ICC has announced criminal investigations to address the unfolding genocide. However, past ICC initiatives to indict key proponents have not acted as a deterrence, suggesting different options need to be considered to protect Darfur’s blacks from total extermination. This article revisits the issues in Darfur and examines why blacks are frequently targeted for extermination amid a tepid global response.

During the 2000s, Darfur experienced a brutal conflict that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese blacks, exhibiting hallmarks of genocide. The conflict in Darfur revolves around racial and ethnic tensions exacerbated by the fight to control arable lands and access to water. Janjaweed Arabs are determined to evict or kill non-Arab tribes that have resided in the area since immemorial times.

Since 2003, Darfur blacks retaliated, transforming the conflict into a full-scale civil war during the reign of strongman Omar El Bashir, who deployed government-armed Janjaweed to try to wipe out Sudanese black populations. The resulting War in Darfur saw widespread state-sponsored violence, leading to war crimes and genocide charges against al-Bashir.

The initial phase left around 300,000 dead and displaced 2.7 million people. Though the violence later declined, the region remained tense.

Read Related: Why Russia and Ukraine Are Locking Horns in Sudanese Civil War?

In 2013, Al Bashir reorganized Janjaweed into a paramilitary wing under Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, called the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The RSF committed mass killings, rapes, pillage, torture, and village destruction, accused of ethnic cleansing against the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa peoples.

Leaders of the RSF have been indicted for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC), although Hemedti was not personally implicated in the 2003–2004 atrocities. In 2017, a new law granted the RSF status as an “independent security force.”

Hemedti’s wealth grew through patronage from al-Bashir, including gold mines in Darfur. Bashir deployed RSF forces to quash a 2013 uprising in South Darfur and to fight in Yemen and Libya.

The RSF developed ties with the Russian Wagner Group, expanding its forces and acquiring thousands of armed pickup trucks. Bashir’s regime allowed the RSF and other armed groups to proliferate to prevent threats from within the armed forces, a strategy known as “coup-proofing.”

What is Fueling the Current Darfur Genocide?

A civil war between two rival factions of the military government of Sudan, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) under Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) under the Janjaweed leader, Hemedti, began during Ramadan on 15 April 2023. It was an attempt to fill the vacuum created by the toppling of the strongman Al-Bashir and his immediate successors.

Fighting has been concentrated around the capital city of Khartoum and the Darfur region. As of 21 January 2024, at least 13,000 –15,000 people had been killed and 33,000 others were injured. As of 11 June 2024, over 7.2 million were internally displaced and more than 2.1 million others had fled the country as refugees, and many civilians in Darfur have been reported dead as part of the Masalit massacres.

For more than a year, swathes of Sudan have erupted in fierce clashes between the Sudanese Army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that have left more than 14,000 people dead and displaced more than 8 million others, according to the United Nations.

But their battle for territorial control has now drifted toward El Fasher, the last major town in Darfur that’s yet to be conquered by the RSF. Analysts say it’s only a matter of days before El Fasher falls to the rebels.

Behind the mask of the Sudanese civil war lies a deep-seated geopolitical conflict of control of satellite-poor nations. In earlier persecutions of the Darfur blacks two decades ago, the Janjaweed had camels, horses and small arms but now they drive armoured vehicles and deploy drones, and advanced weaponry as part of her deadly arsenal.

Regional powers including the United Arab Emirates have been arming the RSF and the government. With such weaponry, the massacres have become more widespread and challenging for the blacks to defend themselves.

US Special Envoy for Sudan, Tom Perriello, said this week that El Fasher’s fall to the RSF could be imminent. Home to nearly 2 million people, the city is predominantly occupied by non-Arab ethnic groups, including the Masalit. El Fasher also shelters hundreds of thousands of displaced people who fled other parts of Darfur that were captured by the RSF, including El Geneina where hundreds of non-Arab people were massacred last year.

Similar atrocities were likely to happen in El Fasher if the city came under RSF control. El Fasher is going to be a lot more catastrophic because it is basically in the middle of a desert. Even if people decide to leave, they will probably die in the desert. We may see another genocide on our watch.

The attitude of the RSF and the government towards the Darfur blacks disregard their human rights, and perceive them as racial pollutants and closer ancestors to monkeys! With such racial categorization, it is easier to see why a well-organized genocide is mushrooming.

It is important to note that regional powers that are arming both sides of a conflict do not support the ongoing genocide but are powerless to determine where and how their weaponry is being used. Equally important to acknowledge is that Western media have been demonising the RSF on the Darfur genocide to advance their geopolitical interests there.

We should never forget that the RSF was initially armed and funded by the government of Sudan to carry out massacres against the Darfur blacks. Today, the rulers of Sudan are aligning themselves with the Western powers, that do not absolve them from being the originators of the genocide, and continue to support it albeit emotionally more than in substance.

The ongoing Sudanese civil war is more a personality clash than a fundamental differences in how Sudan ought to be governed.

Why are the ICC indictments Window-Dressing?

Previous ICC indictments failed to lead to arrests, with key players remaining free. The ICC is often seen as advancing Western interests rather than deterring abuses. When the ICC indicted Russian President Vladimir Putin, the West applauded, yet the ICC has not addressed allegations of genocide by Zelensky’s regime in Eastern Ukraine, showing a double standard.

The silence on the genocide in Eastern Ukraine, where conditions are compared to apartheid-era South Africa, reflects a condonation of such acts by the international community.

Since neither the ICC nor the UN has the incentive to end the genocide in Darfur, the AU needs to clamour for Darfur secession that will ensure Darfur blacks have their own country similar to South Sudan, Bosnia Herzegovina, and other countries of similar historical ethnic, racial and religious wanton exterminations.

The hope of the rulers of Khartoum to prevail in this civil war to protect and advance Western interests in the area are not insulators against genocide levelled at the Darfur blacks except by having their own country and controlling their destiny away from the genocide-prone Sudanese Arabs.

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Leave a comment
scroll to top