Dar Masalit Sultan sounds alarm about hunger in West Darfur

Saad Bahreldin, sultan of the Dar Masalit in West Darfur (File photo: Sovereignty Council)

Saad Bahreldin, sultan of the Masalit tribe in West Darfur, has sounded the alarm about an imminent “food disaster” in the region. In an interview with Radio Dabanga, he also expressed optimism about the commitments made during his European trip, which he says will have a positive impact on the dire humanitarian conditions in camps in eastern Chad and West Darfur.

Sultan Bahreldin, who is currently visiting a number of countries in Europe, expressed his satisfaction about the meetings he had so far.

“The focus of the discussions with various organisations was on delivering relief to the refugees in eastern Chad and, through Chad, also to the people in El Geneina and the surrounding camps for displaced,” he told Radio Dabanga.

“The appeals made regarding the humanitarian situation have yielded results. I anticipate further swift improvements with the assistance of Sudan’s neighbouring nations.”

The sultan refuted claims of meeting with officials from the International Criminal Court or visiting the Netherlands during his European tour. He instead referred to the formation of a committee of Sudanese lawyers “who volunteered to file a complaint with the court and meticulously calculate losses in accordance with the law and professional standards”.

Bahreldin further sounded the alarm about an imminent “food disaster” in West Darfur. The region is grappling with a severe humanitarian crisis, aggravated by the inability of farmers to cultivate their lands because of the rampant insecurity, and the displacement of a significant portion of its population. “Those who remain, face formidable obstacles when it comes to farming.”

The Famine Early Warning System Network’s (FEWS-NET) latest report speaks about significant disruptions in cultivation for the current main agricultural season in Sudan, particularly in conflict-affected areas.

Leaving El Geneina

Regarding his departure from El Geneina, capital of West Darfur, in the end of June, Bahreldin explained that it was prompted by the dire humanitarian and health crisis caused by repeated attacks by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied militant tribesmen on the city and its surroundings.

“At that time, El Geneina had exhausted its food supplies due to a siege. Medical supplies dwindled, leaving residents without access to healthcare. My departure aimed to find safe evacuation routes for the wounded, who had endured more than a month without proper medical attention.”

The Sultan’s brother and two of his cousins were murdered in El Geneina in June. On June 15, the governor of West Darfur, Khamees Abakar, was brutally assassinated after being abducted from his home by uniformed assailants in El Geneina.

During the interview, Sultan Bahreldin categorically denied issuing any calls, either to fellow tribesmen or El Geneina residents, to mobilise against the RSF. “Numerous baseless statements attributed to me are circulating on social media.”

El Geneina on April 30 (Photo: social media)

Crimes against humanity

Many have pushed for the June attacks on El Geneina, which reportedly left more than 8,000 people killed, to be recognised as a ‘genocide’.

Activists reported from the West Darfur capital in early June that people could not flee the city as it was “almost entirely besieged”. Doctors in the area compared the situation with the Rwandan genocide of 1994, and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) called El Geneina “the worst place on earth”.

The then Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), Volker Perthes, spoke in mid-June about “an emerging pattern of large-scale targeted attacks against civilians based on their ethnic identities, allegedly committed by Arab militias and some armed men in RSF uniform.

“These reports are deeply worrying and, if verified, could amount to crimes against humanity,” he stated.

In July, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk called for a swift investigation into the killing of 87 Masalit people following the discovery of a mass grave near El Geneina.