Sudan conflict: West Darfur governor killed after genocide claim
By Mercy Juma | BBC News |
A governor from Sudan’s Darfur region has been killed hours after accusing the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of committing genocide.
In a TV interview, Khamis Abakar had asked for international intervention to stop violence in West Darfur he blamed on the RSF and its Arab militia allies.
The conflict that erupted two months ago between the RSF and army has inflamed ethnic tensions in Darfur.
The army said the RSF abducted Abakar and executed him, which it denies.
He is the most senior official known to have been killed since the conflict began in April.
Video footage circulating on social media appears to show a group of armed men, some wearing RSF uniforms, detaining the governor of West Darfur state on Wednesday.
But the RSF blamed “outlaws” for his death, saying its fighters had tried to protect Abakar by taking him to their headquarters in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur.
It was then overrun and the governor kidnapped and “assassinated in cold blood”, the RSF said.
Black African and Arab communities in Darfur have long been at loggerheads – with the worst violence erupting two decades ago when non-Arabs took up arms accusing the government of discrimination.
In response the government armed Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed. They were accused of widespread atrocities and ethnic killings, described as the first genocide of the 21st Century.
The RSF was born out of these Janjaweed fighters – and now they and other Arab militias have again been accused of targeting African communities, going on the rampage in El Geneina.
The city is a symbol of black African power in Darfur and many people from the Massalit ethnic group live there.
“Civilians are being killed randomly and in large numbers,” Governor Abakar told Saudi-owned Al-Hadath TV on Wednesday, saying the army was doing nothing to help those under attack.
Last week he told BBC Arabic’s emergency pop-up Sudan radio service that the killings were especially targeting his Massalit group: “El Geneina city has been attacked from three directions: east, south and west.
“These people have been attacked in their homes and displacement camps. People are targeted… on a daily basis, based on their ethnicity.”
In a statement condemning his killing, the army said Governor Abakar had been one of the leaders of former rebel groups that signed the historic peace agreement in 2020 that brought rebels into the then-transitional government.
In his BBC Sudan Lifeline interview, the governor said that the whole of West Darfur – one of five states in the gold-rich Darfur region – faced a “tragic” situation.
“All the vital facilities in the state have been totally destroyed. Hospitals are not operating. Water sources have been utterly destroyed.
“I am calling on the international and regional community to interfere immediately in West Darfur to save those who are remaining alive in the state,” he said – a plea he repeated in his last interview.
On Tuesday, the UN’s envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, said most of these attacks did appear to have been committed by Arab militias and the RSF which “could amount to crimes against humanity”.
Last week, medical aid charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said estimates suggested that at least 500 people had been killed in El Geneina alone.
Abakar told the BBC more than 2,000 people had also been wounded, trapped in the city and unable to get treatment.
According to the UN, more than 100,000 people have now fled the fighting in Darfur across the border into neighbouring Chad.