US alarmed as Sudan's RSF seizes more territory, escalates violence

Tuesday December 19 2023

People rally in support of Sudan's army in Wad Madani, Sudan amid the ongoing war against the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces on December 17, 2023. PHOTO | AFP


The US government is expressing concern about Sudan after the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continued to attack villages as it expanded its territory beyond Khartoum.

The RSF, once a paramilitary force allied to the Sudanese Armed Forces (Saf), expanded its violence into Jezira State on Sunday night after attacking the Wad Madan area, some 230 kilometres south of the capital Khartoum.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller had earlier said that Washington was urging the RSF to halt their advance into Jezira State immediately.

Read: Sudan forces trade fire across Nile

“Troubling reports indicate that elite RSF units have travelled to reinforce attacks in the direction of Wad Medani, actions that threaten vulnerable civilians in a manner inconsistent with RSF’s stated claims that it is fighting to protect Sudan’s people.

“We also urge against Saf clashes with the RSF and other actions that are endangering civilians”.


Wad Medani had become a safe haven for displaced civilians and an important hub for international humanitarian relief efforts, acting as a corridor outside Khartoum.

A continued RSF advance now risks mass civilian casualties and significant disruption to humanitarian relief efforts. The RSF advance has already caused large-scale displacement of civilians from Jezira State, rights and aid groups warned on Monday.

RSF also attacked the north-eastern suburbs of El Fasher on December 16. Like Wad Medani, El Fasher had become a safe haven for civilians displaced by the fighting.

“Such advances undermine confidence in efforts to reach a lasting ceasefire and a negotiated end to the conflict. They gravely threaten vulnerable civilians,” the statement said.

Read: Sudan humanitarian toll rises with no end in sight

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths said, "Sudan’s Al-Jezira State clashes threaten the lives of tens of thousands of displaced people."

Following the outbreak of violence, the United Nations suspended its work and field missions in the state from Saturday.

Workneh Gebeyehu, Executive Secretary of the regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), said he was "extremely concerned by the resurgence of conflict in Gezira State & El Fasher in Sudan."

"Violence endangers lives & hinders the search for lasting peace," he added in a message on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"I call on both Saf and RSF to heed the call of the 41st Extraordinary Igad Assembly for a cessation of hostilities & resolution of the conflict through dialogue," he added.

The said summit on December 9 in Djibouti indicated that both sides had agreed to hold future face-to-face meetings, a ceasefire and the creation of humanitarian corridors. But the junta in Khartoum, led by the chairman of the Transitional Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, later said there had been no agreement on such a meeting until the RSF laid down its arms and surrendered.

Sudan has both sought international support against the RSF and rejected international mechanisms to check the excesses of the warring parties.

Read: Burhan’s shuttle diplomacy to pledge Sudan peace, clear RSF

Last week, the US said it had found credible evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including ethnic cleansing, in Sudan's eight-month war so far, accusing RSF, Saf and their allies of committing violations.

The US State Department's Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack told a virtual press briefing on December 14 that Sudan should allow UN mechanisms to investigate the violations.

"The Human Rights Council in Geneva has produced a number of these fact-finding missions and commissions of inquiry over the years for conflict situations around the globe, and it’s always preferable, of course, that the target state allow those mechanisms to work within their country.

“Sometimes that does not always happen, and in this case, as you’ve mentioned, the Sudanese Government has rejected this proposal. So what we’ve seen in the past with these mechanisms is with open-source investigations, it’s now possible to do very comprehensive investigations without ever setting foot in the country.”

Most independent researchers, including rights lobbies such as Human Rights Watch, have relied on refugees fleeing Sudan to verify war crimes in the face of Khartoum's restrictions.

Read: Sudan rival commanders face war atrocities charges

Clashes between the Saf and RSF erupted early on Friday in the village of Umm Alila, near the camps east of the town of Wad Medani.

The village of Umm Alila, where the clashes are taking place, is 15 kilometres from Wad Medani town.

The Hantub Bridge, the entrance to Wad Medani from the east, and all entrances to the city were later closed by the Saf.

Since the war broke out in April, at least 10,000 people have been killed and more than a million have fled as refugees. Some six million people have been internally displaced, according to aid agencies.​