Tragic stories from Sirba as violence in West Darfur spreads

Sudanese refugees gather with their belongings in preparation for being transported to Gaga camp, 130 km from the Sudanese-Chadian border. (File photo: Insa Wawa Diatta / UNHCR)

People who managed to flee Sirba in West Darfur speak of ethnic cleansing and report tragic details of the attacks by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied Arab gunmen on the town, which fell into RSF hands last Wednesday. Murnei, also in West Darfur, has reportedly been experiencing similar violence.

Sheikh Suleiman Ibrahim, who fled to Chad, told Radio Dabanga that the attackers killed many Sirba residents, both inside the town and those fleeing the area. Yesterday, Radio Dabanga reported that Legal rights activist Mohamed Teirab estimated the initial death toll at 460 people. Thousands have been wounded.

The names of 32 dead have been listed, Sheikh Ibrahim said. “There are many more bodies not yet buried that can be found in houses and scattered on the streets and around the town. About 20 wounded arrived in Chad. At least 18 people were reported missing. Several women and girls have been raped.”

Many houses and shops in the town were plundered and set on fire. “Almost all residents fled Sirba. Only the elderly and people with disabilities remain.”

The Darfur Bar Association (DBA) reported yesterday that at least 200 people were killed, and others were injured, during the attacks by the RSF and allied gunmen on the area of Sirba and Abu Surouj camp for the displaced in the same locality since Wednesday. 

In their press statement, the DBA also said that several army officers and soldiers were killed when they confronted the attackers and refused to surrender.

The violence started on Monday last week, when the paramilitary RSF and allied Arab gunmen launched their first attacks on Sirba locality, before taking control two days later and preventing people from fleeing the town.

Ibrahim received information that the RSF paramilitaries and gunmen continued their attacks on Sirba until at least Sunday. “We all fear even more violence because the attacks are the same as those on El Geneina in May and June and done with the purpose of ethnic cleansing.”

‘We all fear for even more violence because the attacks are the same as those on El Geneina in May and June and done with the purpose of ethnic cleansing’

Fleeing Sirba

Thousands of people who fled the violence in Sirba sought refuge in other areas in West Darfur and eastern Chad, according to the DBA.

The sheikh said that many people have been reported to be wandering in the desert. “The attack has led to 5,382 people (1,015 families) seeking refuge in the Chadian border area since Friday. We expect many more to come as the flow of refugees continues to move to the Chadian border. Others fled to the north, to Sileia and Kulbus, and to other parts of the state.”

Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad live in dire humanitarian conditions in the absence of food, shelter materials, and tarpaulins, Ibrahim said. A group of doctors came to them to examine the wounded.

He appealed to aid organisations to intervene urgently to save them by providing food, medicine, and shelter materials.

The DBA called for an immediate cessation of the war and on the RSF to stop its armed operations in Darfur.

Activist Teirab, the DBA, and tribal leaders all accused the army of failing to protect civilians by abandoning the area before the attacks.


The area of Murnei in the south-eastern part of West Darfur has also been attacked by militant Arab tribesmen in the past weeks.

Refugees who arrived in Adré, just across the border in Chad, reported that Murnei town was repeatedly attacked by gunmen, who torched houses and health facilities after having plundered them. The town has been suffering from a communication blackout for three months.

“People living in Murnei are fleeing to Chad en masse because of the violence and the lack of food,” one of the refugees told Radio Dabanga yesterday.

Kaltouma Khamees fled Misterei in West Darfur with her five children, leaving behind the land she had farmed and her husband (Insa Wawa Diatta / UNHCR)

Situation in Chad

The Chadian authorities and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) continue to host new arrivals from Darfur at the new Abou Tengi refugee camp, 30 kilometres southwest of Adré, where the number of displaced has risen to 35,000 people.

Another refugee camp will be established in the area of Jarko to relieve the overpopulated Adré camp.

The DBA said it has begun inspection visits to refugee camps in Chad and places of shelter for displaced people in Sudan, to investigate the situation of people who fled the violence in West and Central Darfur and assess their needs.

The Bar said in a statement yesterday that Mohamed El Doma, a member of the DBA Board of Trustees, arrived in the Chadian capital N’Djamena and will visit a number of places in Chad, including Abéché and Adré, to determine the situation of the refugees.

Other DBA members have started inspection visits to several areas sheltering displaced people within Sudan “with the purpose to strengthen campaigns appealing to international organisations to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance to the displaced inside the country”.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has begun distributing food to the new refugees who sought shelter in the Gaga refugee camp in eastern Chad on Friday.

One of them told Radio Dabanga that those who have been granted refugee status received food baskets consisting of sorghum and cooking oil.