Sudan war: Outcry over South Darfur Nyala ‘massacre’

Bodies of the victims of the Teiba Bridge massacre laid out before their mass burial (Photo: social media)

Sudanese have strongly condemned the deaths of at least 40 people in Nyala, capital of South Darfur, on Tuesday last week. About 30 victims were sheltering under the Teiba Bridge in the city when they were killed by a missile. Dozens of others were injured. Others were fatally hit in their homes.

According to Nyala residents who spoke to Radio Dabanga, the shooting and shelling by the warring Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the vicinity of the Teiba Bridge claimed the lives of more than 40 people, including five entire families.

“The victims sought refuge under the bridge connecting the Teiba and El Sikka Hadid neighbourhoods, while others died inside their homes,” one of the sources said.

The exchange of heavy artillery fire in the Teiba, El Sikka Hadid, Teiba, and Dereij neighbourhoods persisted over three days, he added. The situation is further complicated by ongoing disruptions of the communication network and the internet.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the RSF said that the SAF indiscriminately shelled the eastern neighbourhoods of Nyala, including Teiba and El Sikka Hadid, with heavy artillery, “claiming the lives of 42 people and injuring dozens”. The paramilitary force evacuated several wounded to healthcare facilities, including the RSF field hospital in Nyala.

Lawyer El Sadig Ali expressed deep concern about the continuous reports emerging from Nyala of missiles striking homes and causing civilian casualties.

Two of his relatives lost their lives when a shell struck their house on Monday. Six others were killed during the shelling of a funeral gathering, he told Radio Dabanga.

Prominent politician Siddig Tawir also condemned the Teiba Bridge massacre. “The ongoing violence in Nyala underscores the moral inadequacy of both warring parties to govern any part of Sudan”, he said.

Numerous posts on social media also expressed their horror about the mass killing.

Joint forces

Nour El Sadig, a leading member of the Communist Party of Sudan lamented the arrival of a joint force of rebel fighters in Nyala on Sunday, “only after residents have been killed, others fled their homes, and their property was plundered”. She criticised the timeliness and effectiveness of the joint force’s intervention. “Their inability to protect civilians has rendered the Juba Peace Agreement senseless.”

Governance expert El Waleed Madibbo expressed profound sorrow regarding the continued fierce fighting in Nyala, characterising it as a “zero-sum game.”

He attributed “the inability of native administration* leaders to mediate a local truce”, as happened in El Fasher, North Darfur, to “efforts to manipulate the Native Administration in favour of the political and military authorities in Darfur”. He accused in particular Military Intelligence of exacerbating ethnic tensions in Darfur.

Regarding the possibility that the joint rebel force sent to Nyala on Sunday will halt the violence in Nyala, Madibbo expressed scepticism because of the SAF and RSF’s “military superiority”. He nevertheless believed they could play a “valuable social role”.

According to the latest update of the International Organisation for Migration’s Displacement Tracking Matrix, more than 350,000 people have been displaced from South Darfur as of August 27, the second-highest displacement rate in Sudan after Khartoum. 

On Friday, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) tweeted that its staff, along with tens of thousands of other civilians, remained trapped in Nyala.

* The Native Administration was instituted by British colonial authorities seeking a pragmatic system of governance that allowed for effective control with limited investment and oversight by the state. The state-appointed tribal leaders also took on new responsibilities for executing policies, collecting taxes, and mobilising labour on behalf of the central government. According to the Darfur Bar Association (DBA), the Native Administration during the 30-year rule of dictator Omar Al Bashir did not represent the real community leaders.