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Faith Nyasuguta

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported Thursday that Sudanese paramilitary forces, particularly the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), are potentially engaging in genocide against non-Arab ethnic communities in Darfur’s western region. 

The RSF, alongside allied militias, have faced accusations of ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in their conflict with Sudan’s regular army since April 2023.

The conflict, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives according to United Nations experts, has been particularly devastating in the West Darfur town of El-Geneina, where up to 15,000 casualties have been reported

HRW’s latest report, “‘The Massalit Will Not Come Home‘: Ethnic Cleansing and Crimes Against Humanity in El-Geneina, West Darfur, Sudan,” highlights the dire situation. The 186-page document outlines “an ethnic cleansing campaign against the ethnic Massalit and other non-Arab populations.”

/Daily Excelsior/

HRW alleges that from late April to early November of the previous year, the RSF and allied militias executed a systematic campaign targeting ethnic Massalit residents, involving killings and other atrocities such as mass torture, rape, and looting. 

This violence peaked in mid-June, resulting in thousands of deaths within days, and surged again in November. Local human rights lawyers noted a pattern of targeting prominent members of the Massalit community, including doctors, human rights defenders, and local leaders.

Additionally, HRW reported that the attackers systematically destroyed critical civilian infrastructure, particularly in communities populated by displaced Massalit. Satellite images corroborated this destruction, showing predominantly Massalit neighborhoods in El-Geneina being systematically dismantled, preventing displaced civilians from returning to their homes.

HRW asserts that these attacks constitute ethnic cleansing, with the apparent aim of permanently displacing the Massalit population from the region. Furthermore, HRW raised concerns about the possibility of genocide, given the context of the killings and the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the Massalit population in West Darfur.

In response, HRW called for an investigation into genocidal intent, targeted sanctions on those responsible, and urged the UN to expand the existing arms embargo on Darfur to cover all of Sudan. The International Criminal Court, already investigating ethnic-based killings in Darfur, has grounds to believe that both the paramilitaries and the army are committing Rome Statute crimes, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

The United States, acknowledging war crimes committed by both sides in the conflict, accused the RSF of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The violence has forced over half a million Sudanese to flee into Chad, with the majority coming from El-Geneina.


The focus now shifts to El-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, where fears of an impending RSF attack loom large. The United States has warned of a potential disaster of “epic proportions” if the RSF proceeds with its expected assault, as residents fear a repetition of the atrocities witnessed in El-Geneina.

HRW’s executive director, Tirana Hassan, emphasized that the atrocities in El-Geneina should serve as a wake-up call for the international community, urging concerted action to prevent similar horrors in El-Fasher.


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Faith Nyasuguta

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