Darfur rebel faction denies attacking village in eastern Sudan

Rebel leader Mustafa Tambour speaks at a press conference in Port Sudan, March 23 (File photo: SUNA)

Residents of Abu Rakham in El Gedaref in eastern Sudan, near the border with Sennar, are fleeing their homes following “repeated attacks by armed men affiliated with Darfur rebel movements” on the village. The Sudan Liberation Movement faction headed by Mustafa Tambour (SLM-Tambour) denied the accusation.

So far, the majority of Abu Rakham’s population has sought refuge in the area of El Mafaza yesterday, a resident of Abu Rakham told Radio Dabanga this morning.

The villagers accuse the Darfur armed struggle movements, SLM-Tambour, and the SLM faction led by Minni Minawi (SLM-MM), governor of the Darfur region, fighting alongside the army in eastern Sudan of raiding their homes.

SLM-Tambour split from the mainstream SLM under the leadership of Abdelwahid Nur in 2018, the SLM-MM much earlier, a few years after war broke out in Darfur in 2003.

The rebel fighters are deployed in the area to guard the Abu Rakham Bridge and water reservoir. The bridge leads to the road to El Dinder in the south, that is currently crowded by those fleeing the advance of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sennar.

“The forces affiliated with the rebel movements that stationed in the area are carrying out raids on the village. They have been terrorising defenceless villagers inside their homes, robbing them of their belongings at gunpoint, and threatening to rape the women and girls in the house if they don’t hand them their money, mobile telephones, and anything else of value,” the source said.

“About 70 per cent of the people fled. Abu Rakham is now almost empty of residents.”

He called on Minawi and Tambour “to control their forces and stop the violence nonsense”, noting that there are no SAF or RSF troops present in the area.

Rebel leader Mustafa Tambour strongly denied the involvement of his movement’s members in these crimes, stressing that they are not present in El Mafaza locality at the border with Sennar.

Tambour told Radio Dabanga that “the wellbeing of the people has always been our primary concern”. He considers the accusations against his combatants “entirely false and baseless”, as “our forces are disciplined and committed. They only react to direct instructions of their commanders”.

He said that the SLM-Tambour does not have any forces stationed at all in the area of Abu Rakham but added that “there may be loose groups that are wreaking havoc in the vicinity”.

In January, Radio Dabanga reported about skirmishes between fighters of the SLM-Mm and SLM-Tambour in El Gedaref.  

Journalists and activists have warned of the presence of many armed groups in eastern Sudan, many of them established after the war, to ward off possible attacks by the RSF on the hitherto ‘safe states’ in the region.