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Explainer: What is Happening in Sudan?

December 20, 2023

The once-safe haven of Wad Madani in Sudan witnessed a mass exodus of over 30,000 people as the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) advanced into the city on 18 December.

“We seized control of the SAF First Infantry Division in Wad Madani. Our operation included the liberation of the central reserve camp and the strategic Hantoob Bridge from the eastern side,” the RF read in a statement on X.

Situated approximately 170 kilometers southeast of the capital Khartoum, Wad Madani, lies within El-Gezira state- an important agricultural site in Sudan’s worsening humanitarian crisis. At least 250,000 to 30,000 people have fled El-Gezira since the eruption of clashes between the SAF and the RSF near Wad Madani, the capital of El-Gezira on 15 December.

“We urge the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sudan to cease their advance in Gezira State immediately and to refrain from attacking Wad Medani,” US Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement on 16 December.

The recent clash is not an isolated occurrence — the onset of violence in Sudan erupted last April as a result of power struggles between the Sudanese military and the RSF, following a coup against the civilian prime minister.

In November, hundreds were killed by the RSF and their allied Arab militias in the town of Ardamata. Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jeremy Laurence said that Masalit civilians faced “six days of terror” at the hands of the RSF.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) had previously issued arrest warrants for ousted Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir and others, charging them with several counts of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Even before the conflict, Sudan was grappling with a dire humanitarian crisis. After almost eight months of conflict, almost seven million people have been displaced from their homes and the health care system is on the brink of collapse.

The Sudan representative for the UN health agency WHO warned on 15 December of the rapid spread of disease outbreaks amid mass displacement and a severe lack of healthcare access.

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