The horrible ethnic violence that has ravaged western Sudan since combat broke out between two opposing military factions in April has been further documented, according to the BBC.
Since the start of the civil conflict, armed groups have set fire to at least 68 communities in Darfur, according to analysis of satellite and social media data.
According to Andrew Mitchell, the UK’s minister for Africa, this had “all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing.” The British government has never before used the phrase to characterize what is occurring in Sudan.
Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, commander of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), one of the warring parties, told the BBC that he will work with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute those responsible.
The Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the paramilitary organization battling the SAF for control of the nation, are held responsible for a large portion of the ethnic violence.
The RSF has demanded an impartial international probe and has categorically denied any role in the violence in the area.
The Centre for Information Resilience (CIR), a research organization with support from the British government that is compiling open-source information regarding the violence in Sudan, conducted the analysis.
To locate flames, they employ NASA heat-recognition equipment. To find smoke and burned-out structures, they use satellite photographs. They cross-reference all of that with social media photographs taken on the ground and geolocated with the use of maps and images.
The most recent confirmed fires occurred in the southern Darfur community of Amarjadeed, where satellite and NASA images revealed burn marks between September 18 and October 9.
This is how the CIR determined that at least nine towns were burned on one day, August 16, by a single militia convoy.
The first step was to locate potential fire locations using NASA’s heat-recognition technologies.
The next step was to determine whether any of these flames were connected to any known populated areas using satellite photography.
The CIR looked through social media posts coming from western Sudan that showed militants torching communities and robbing people of their food, TVs, and cars.
To try to figure out who the fighters were, they listened to what they were saying and looked at what they were wearing. Some members of the militia were identified by the white ribbons they were sporting as belonging to the RSF-affiliated Bani Halba Arab faction.
The social media images were geolocated and matched the scene with recognisable mountains and structures.
All of information proved that fighters started the day by setting fire to Buro, then moved up north to do the same at Awstani, and then east to other villages.
According to Ben Strick, head of investigations at CIR, “the scope of what we’ve been able to document is bigger than what we’ve ever seen.”
Since April 15, we have recorded 89 fires, which have affected 68 communities, a significant number. Small structures have been attacked in some of these. However, some of them have completely destroyed villages. When we consider the effects on the general public, that magnitude is huge.
“What we’re seeing is a pattern of abuses, a pattern of villages being burnt, one after the other, specifically in Darfur, which is where we’re seeing some of the heaviest violence outside of Khartoum.”
The Massalit, the main indigenous ethnic minority centered on the West Darfur capital, El Geneina, are sometimes targeted by Arab combatants as a result of intra-Arab conflict between opposing Arab factions.
When Arab militants assaulted Amin Yakubu’s house in Darfur, he and his family were forced to flee.
“We were at my home together one morning after leaving the mosque when a rocket-propelled grenade detonated. My friend died as a result of a fractured neck.
He escaped by stepping over bodies, but he still does not know where his entire family is. He communicated with the BBC from a camp for refugees in eastern Chad, where he arrived at last month.
“The dispute has evolved into an ethnic one. However, everybody is equally impacted. Everyone is awake at night, he claimed.
“Due to the gunfights, everyone must spend the entire night lying flat on the ground. Everyone has already departed our little town at this time. As far as I’m aware, nobody is still there.
In Darfur twenty years ago, combat between non-Arab rebel groups and a militia known as the Janjaweed, which ultimately developed into the RSF, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. The ICC has indicted certain Janjaweed leaders, including the then-president Omar al-Bashir, on allegations of genocide and crimes against humanity, which they have vehemently denied.
It is suspected that comparable crimes are once again being committed in the area along the same racial fault lines.
“What is occurring in Darfur is that militias, in notably the RSF, are attacking innocent civilians. Houses are being burned, crops and animals are being destroyed, they are being chased out of their homes and killed, and women are being raped and abused, according to Mr. Mitchell.
“This clearly demonstrates ethnic cleansing. And it has continued since 2003 in the same manner. The same thing is occurring now, if anything with much greater fury.
In addition, the United Nations is worried.
Humanitarian coordinator for the UN in Sudan Clementine Nkweta-Salami stated: “As the fighting spreads, we are receiving reports of increasing cases of sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, and grave violations of human and children’s rights.”
The CIR’s London researchers are working to gather information that could one day help identify the culprits and prosecute them. Their publicly accessible, regularly updated website will convey everything they have learned.
Gen. Burhan recently told the BBC in an interview that he would back anyone or any organization that helps bring what he called “these criminals” to justice.
“We feel responsibility towards the Sudanese wherever they are, be it in Darfur, in Khartoum or any place where they were exposed to the aforementioned crimes,” he stated to me.
“We want to work with everyone, including the International Criminal Court. We can work together to identify and bring these criminals forward.
Since the war started, there have been at least 7,000 fatalities.
According to the UN, more than five million people were pushed from their homes, and many of them fled to safer countries outside of Sudan. Additionally, it states that 24 million people, or about half the population, require humanitarian assistance.
There are worries that the battle may spread to nearby nations and escalate tensions in the area. Additionally, there are worries that it may escalate into a proxy war given allegations that the United Arab Emirates has been arming the RSF, a claim that has been refuted by Emirati authorities.