Ongoing battles between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the camps for displaced people around Zalingei, capital of Central Darfur, have claimed the lives of at least 202 civilians since the outbreak of hostilities in April. Reports say 534 more have been injured, while all communication networks and internet have been unavailable ‘for months’. Sudan researcher and analyst Eric Reeves laments that “Zalingei is a city that is slowly being strangled by the Janjaweed“.
Sheikh Abdelrazeg Suleiman, a coordinator of the Zalingei camps, told Radio Dabanga in an interview that 138 people were killed in the Khamsa Dagayeg camp and 340 others were injured during repeated shelling of the camp, which is near a military base occupied by RSF Intelligence troops.
He said that 52 people have been killed in El Hasaheisa camp since the outbreak of the war and 141 others were wounded, indicating that the camp witnessed fierce fighting between the SAF and RSF, “especially the youth camps, blocks eight and four, and the southern side of block one”. He explained that the RSF continued to target El Hasaheisa camp because it was located near the army’s camp. He said that several people fled from the camp to other areas in search of a safe place.
At least 12 people were killed in El Hamidiya camp and 53 others were wounded during shelling. The sheikh said that the security situation worsened as attacks on the displaced increased on the outskirts of the camps. “Farmers were injured by gunfire,” he reported. “The deteriorating security situation has forced many farmers to stop cultivating their lands in the current agricultural season.”
The camps are witnessing deteriorating living, health, and humanitarian conditions, Suleiman said and and warned of the dire consequences of the lack of food in the camps, especially as the displaced depend on food aid and seasonal agriculture. Aid has been suspended by many international organisations due to the war, and there are fears that the agricultural season will fail.
He told Radio Dabanga that there is a complete lack of drinking water in El Hasaheisa camp, “because some water containers were burned by the RSF, and some were stolen, after allegations that the people supply water to the army”. El Hamidiya camp is also witnessing a shortage of water due to the lack of fuel to run the pumps.
He stressed that the displaced are forced to obtain water from Wadi Azum “which is far away”. The displaced are subjected to attacks on the way to the wadi, and reports from international organisations deem the water in Wadi Azum as unfit for drinking.
‘Zalingei is a city that is slowly being strangled by the Janjaweed…’ – Sudan researcher and analyst Eric Reeves
Sheikh Suleiman told Radio Dabanga that El Hasaheisa and El Hamidiya camps in Zalingei are overcrowded after an influx of people from Zalingei neighbourhoods during the fighting.
The newly displaced were hosted in 11 shelters in El Hamidiya camp in Zalingei and three shelters in El Hasaheisa. The sheikh says they have not received any humanitarian aid so far, except for the aid provided by other displaced people in the camps.
Camp administrators had to distribute food that was being transported to Nierteti from Zalingei before the war broke out, the sheik says, because organisations were unable to do so after the war broke out.
“The aid consists of a 1,000 (100-kilogramme) sacks of sorghum and 600 sacks of lentils, which was acquired in coordination with the staff of the World Food Programme (WFP)”.
He told Radio Dabanga that high rates of malnutrition and the lack of health care, especially for pregnant and breastfeeding women, has led to an increase in deaths among infants and seniors. There is a lack of medicines, especially for malaria and chronic diseases.
He pointed out that Zalingei Hospital was completely plundered. He says that the hospital has partially resumed work with assistance from youth initiatives in the northern and eastern neighbourhoods, and people who did not flee the city.
All communications networks and the Internet have been unavailable in Zalingei “for months”, with both the SAF and RSF claiming to control the city.
Sheikh Suliman’s concerns are echoed by prominent Sudan researcher and analyst Eric Reeves, who laments, based on information from “a reliable Sudanese source”, that “Zalingei is a city that is slowly being strangled by the Janjaweed [popularly used synonymously/interchangeably with ‘RSF’ ed]”.
Posting on X, formerly called Twitter on July 6, Reeves highlights: “In the besieged city of Zalingei, there are reports of limited clashes between the SAF garrison in the vicinity of the city and the RSF/Janjaweed groups surrounding civilians in the city. The RSF/Janjaweed continue to receive reinforcements from additional RSF/Janjaweed arriving to the city and other nearby towns. Now, the nearby town of Nierteti is also under attack too by RSF/Janjaweed. The clashes between SAF and RSF/Janjaweed are contributing to the deteriorating humanitarian conditions of the trapped civilians, who are running out of vital supplies (food, water, electric power, and medicine); Zalingei is a city that is slowly being strangled by the Janjaweed.”