Thousands flee from Darfur to Chad amid renewed ethnic conflict 

A conflict between Arab tribes and the Masalit tribe ensues with the withdrawal of the Sudanese army from a military base in Geneina

The Sudanese region of Darfur is witnessing ethnic-based violence, which has driven thousands to flee towards border areas amidst ongoing fighting between the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese army. People who fled to Chad have stated that ethnically motivated killings have increased in West Darfur State, despite efforts by the Rapid Support Forces to bring peace to the region following their control of the main military base in Geneina, the state’s capital. 

Journalists observed a group of men crossing from Darfur to Chad near the Adré region, about 27 kilometers west of Geneina, on Tuesday. Three of the fleeing men stated that they witnessed killings targeting the Masalit ethnic group in Ardamata, a remote area in Geneina that houses a military base and an internally displaced persons camp. Earlier reports in the media had mentioned ethnic cleansing operations carried out by Arab tribes, which the latter explicitly denied participating in ethnic cleansing in Geneina. 

The Rapid Support Forces had also stated earlier that they did not participate in what they described as tribal conflict. Mediators stated on Tuesday that warring parties had agreed during talks in Jeddah to facilitate aid delivery and confidence-building measures, but ceasefire efforts have so far failed. Nabil Mexia, a nurse, said that the attack on the Ardamata army base started early last week and was accompanied by heavy shelling before they decided to leave for Chad. 

A soldier from the Ardamata base said that a drone attack destroyed the base’s air defense systems early on Friday. He added that military leaders had left the base by Saturday morning. With the withdrawal of the army from the base, local community leaders in Ardamata gathered the weapons they had used for self-defense in an attempt to secure a safe passage for civilians, according to Mexia and Sharaf al-Din Adam, another refugee who arrived in Chad

Adam stated that those who managed to access vehicles and carts fled. He also mentioned that they saw dozens of civilian bodies strewn in the streets and that other individuals were subjected to beatings and lashings. 

The International Organization for Migration has stated that the conflict in Sudan has caused a significant humanitarian crisis and displacement of over six million people. They added that over 500,000 people crossed the border into Chad, with most of them coming from West Darfur

Médecins Sans Frontières, a humanitarian organization, stated that the number of refugees arriving in Chad has increased significantly in the first three days of November, reaching 7,000. They added that most of the refugees were women and children, many of whom spoke of widespread violence against civilians. Chad’s border guard forces stated that the daily number of people fleeing from West Darfur increased to 3,146 on Saturday. Officials from the United Nations in Chad expected thousands more to cross the border. 

Sara Adam Idriss (30) stated that her husband, brothers, and other men in her family went missing after the attack. She added that the attackers raided the internally displaced persons camp in Ardamata on Sunday morning. 

She mentioned that despite tribal leaders attempting to secure guarantees for a safe passage, the camp witnessed the burning and looting of houses and the killing of men. The soldier who requested not to disclose his name said that when he reached the Chad border, he pretended to be a civilian and denied being a Masalit member to be allowed to pass. 

Toby Harward, a senior UN official dealing with the Darfur situation, described the reports and images from Ardamata as “horrific.” In a post on the X platform (formerly Twitter), he called on officials to protect civilians and facilitate the unrestricted delivery of humanitarian aid to them.

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