from RAJI BASHIR in Khartoum, Sudan
KHARTOUM, (CAJ News) – ONCE considered a safe sanctuary for people fleeing extreme violence in Khartoum, Wad Madani is turning into another death trap as the civil war in Sudan escalates with no end in sight.
Intense fighting broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) here on December 15.
Wad Madani, the capital of Al Jazirah state, lies some 136km southeast of the capital, Khartoum.
It has been a place of refuge for many displaced individuals from Khartoum due to its proximity to the capital.
Humanitarian agencies also established offices and warehouses in the city.
As thousands of people have fled Wad Madani, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is urgently calling on the parties to the conflict to ensure protection of all civilians and provide safe passage for people trying to reach safety.
“We saw desperate people running away in panic to the sound of explosions amid traffic jams and chaos,” said Pierre Dorbes, the head of the ICRC delegation in Sudan.
“Each time this happens, family members get separated, and vulnerable people, like the elderly and people with disabilities, are left behind,” the envoy added.
Wad Madani is a shadow of a town that was a refuge for many residents of Khartoum after intense hostilities in heavily populated urban areas destroyed large parts of the capital and cut off entire neighborhoods from essential services.
The ICRC temporarily relocated its staff from Wad Madani last Friday.
The organisation confirmed it is speaking with the warring parties and urgently calls on lifesaving access to all areas affected by fighting as humanitarian needs soar.
The escalation in fighting in Al Jazirah state has reportedly forced at least 150 000 children from their homes, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports.
The eruption of fighting in the state means that more than half of states in Sudan – 10 out of 18 – are experiencing active conflict.
Alice Wairimu Nderitu, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, expressed alarm that the intensification of clashes includes serious allegations of ethnically motivated violence and deliberate attacks against medical personnel and facilities, all of which could constitute international crimes.
“Violence in Sudan is not ending. On the contrary, it is intensifying,” she lamented.
Nderitu denounced that particularly in Wad Madani, clashes in recent days have led to indiscriminate killings and attacks against civilians, injuries, lootings, and arrests, including those allegedly committed along identity lines.
Since the outbreak of these recent clashes, between 250 000 and 300 000 people have reportedly fled from Wad Madani and surrounding areas.
Nderitu called on international, regional, and national actors, including the African Union (AU), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and the UN Security Council to sustain their efforts to cease hostilities and ultimately break this decades-old cycle of violence.
“This needs to be reiterated loud and clear: The situation in Sudan cannot, must not, become a forgotten crisis,” the envoy appealed.
– CAJ News