Here Is Why Many Fear More Bloodshed in Darfur

Overshadowed by the fighting in Ukraine and Gaza, Sudan’s brutal civil war has been spreading for months across the western Darfur region, where atrocities were seared into international consciousness 20 years ago.

Now global attention is starting to focus on the siege of a city in Darfur, where chaotic violence has stoked fears of another ethnic slaughter, and even genocide.

Here is what we know.

The battle for the city of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, may have made the war too big to ignore. The U.N. Security Council, in a near-unanimous vote, has demanded an end to the siege there.

As hostile forces close in on the city, one of the biggest in Darfur, an analysis of satellite and video imagery by The New York Times has found that thousands of homes have been razed and tens of thousands of people forced to flee.

The fighters are part of a paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces. Given their history — they are successors to the janjaweed militias that once brutalized civilians — and accounts of a massacre in another city last fall, many fear the worst.

If the city falls, what had largely been a military clash could descend into ethnic slaughter like the violence Darfur endured in the early 2000s, when the janjaweed, who are Arab, set upon ethnic Africans. The United Nations estimated that 300,000 people were killed in the genocide.

“The situation today bears all the marks of risk of genocide,” said Alice Wairimu Nderitu, the top United Nations official on genocide prevention.

The fighters, waging a pitched civil war with Sudanese government soldiers, have seized control of the main highway. That has largely cut off food — and not just to El Fasher, a supply hub for a region already grappling with famine. At one displacement camp recently, a child died of malnutrition every two hours, doctors said.

Medical care, too, is in short supply, with hospitals forced to close in the face of marauding fighters.

Fearing the violence, many residents have walked up to 180 miles in search of safety.

But the road is filled with danger. The temperatures reach more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit, or 49 Celsius. Many women report having been sexually assaulted en route. And even when people make it to their destinations, they often find that food and medicine are in short supply there, too.

Watching the arrivals is “truly heart-wrenching,” said one doctor in East Darfur.

The International Criminal Court, which brought charges against Sudanese officials after the genocide two decades ago, says it is looking closely to determine what is happening now.

The Hague-based court, established in 2002 under the Rome Statute, an international treaty ratified by 124 countries, has issued an appeal for evidence of atrocities.

Some of the fighters of the Rapid Support Forces are making that job easier. Instead of trying to conceal the razing of homes and mistreatment of civilians, they record it.

Then they post the videos on social media.

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