From Advocate to Survivor: A Lawyer’s Journey through Darfur’s Turmoil

Note: This comprehensive report results from a confidential interview conducted in a secure environment, skilfully facilitated by a human rights professional. Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, the survivor has provided informed and explicit assent for both the interview and the subsequent compilation of this report. To safeguard the survivor’s identity and the well-being of all involved parties, pseudonyms have been employed. The survivor is aware that this report will be disseminated online and may be utilized for advocacy purposes. The interview was conducted in the English language.

Introduction:

(Kampala) – Since the outbreak of war between the Paramilitary Rapid Support Force (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) on April 15, 2023, over 7 million people have been forced to flee their homes in Sudan, with many of them constantly on the move in search of temporary safety. This report delves into the conflict’s profound impact on El Geneina’s citizens, focusing on Twins father (a pseudonym he opted for himself) and detailing his experiences during this turbulent period.

Background:

“I have submitted my PhD proposal at Alzaiem Alazhari University, but it seems like I can never pursue it now. Also, my wife graduated from El Geneina University, but before she could receive her degree, war started.”

Twins Father was born in El Geneina on December 27, 1984. He is a renowned lawyer with over 15 years of experience, specializing in Sharia law. Additionally, he served as the Executive Director of an Internally Displaced People Camp in Darfur. He is a devoted father to six children and is fluent in Arabic, English.

On May 12, 2023, he fell victim to a devastating incident. He was shot five times by the Paramilitary Rapid Support Force (RSF) and their allied Arab militias.

“No one in Geneina wanted the Khartoum War to come to our doorsteps. As a community, we held a meeting and decided that we will open our markets again from April 24.”

The onset of the war between the Rapid Support Force (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in Khartoum on April 15, 2023, marked the beginning of a turbulent period that rapidly engulfed the entire country. As the war expanded across Sudan, the residents of El Geneina found themselves in the grip of fear, leading to the closure of markets. Recognizing the need for collective action, a community meeting was convened on April 19 and 20, bringing together government officials, women, elders, and concerned individuals. The consensus reached during this meeting was to restore normalcy to El Geneina, culminating in the decision to reopen markets on April 24.

Beginning of the violence:

Despite hopes for a return to everyday life, markets reopening on April 24 was met with immediate and violent opposition. Clashes erupted in the El Jamarik neighbourhood at 8 am, with RSF and allied Arab militias indiscriminately firing in the marketplace and committing arson by setting homes and shops ablaze. Among those affected was Twins father, whose proximity to the violence forced him to flee his home. To seek safety, he relocated to Al Madaris, an area known for housing the Governor of West Darfur and featuring the presence of SAF and emergency hospitals.

Tragically, during his flight, his younger brother, Faki, sustained gunshot wounds. Upon reaching the hospital in Al Madaris, he encountered a critical shortage of medical professionals. Driven by the scarcity of medical assistance, he volunteered. This act led to the mobilization of funds for procuring medical supplies, establishing additional clinics, and creating a makeshift operating theater. Despite the relentless targeting of clinics by RSF and their allied Arab militias, volunteers, including Twins Father, have remained steadfast in their commitment to providing medical aid.

The RSF also visited the house of the head doctor and threatened his family. On their second visit, they found him and detained him in his home to prevent him from working. From his home, the head doctor sent a handwritten message through one of the women:

“Do not leave the clinic as it’s safe to be there; keep on doing your job as people need it.”

As the conflict intensified in El Geneina, a mass exodus toward Al Madaris ensued, leading to severe overcrowding. On May 12, a devastating attack unfolded as the RSF and Arab militias targeted the clinic, resulting in the tragic loss of over 140 lives. Among the victims was his younger brother, Sheikh, aged 31. Twins father also suffered gunshot wounds at five different points on his body: the index finger of his right hand, on his right knee – fracturing it into two and the bullet is inside his knee, a bullet grazing his lips, another touching his nose, and a final one passed by his forehead.

“I don’t know whether to consider myself fortunate or unfortunate, as I didn’t die.”

Deprived of access to adequate medical care, volunteers resorted to tying a piece of cloth tightly around his fractured knee to stabilize it while also administering first aid for his other injuries. On May 14, the situation took a grim turn when the RSF and Arab militias targeted and killed the Governor of West Darfur, Khamir Abakar. Twins father started walking with the help of sticks, and the situation went from bad to worse, especially after the death of the governor.

“We were burying 100 of people every day”.

On that fateful night, all the residents of Al Madaris collectively decided to relocate to Ardamata, considering it was the headquarters of the SAF at that time. Opting to travel under the cover of night for safety, given the pervasive threat of snipers during the day, they encountered an unfortunate turn of events upon reaching El Naseem. The RSF and Arab militias launched a brutal attack, resulting in numerous casualties, widespread chaos, and families being separated. With his family members scattered and his physical condition already compromised, walking with the aid of a stick, he faced unbearable pain. To find refuge, he went to his uncle’s home in El Naseem, where he reunited with his mother, wife, and children. However, his younger brothers Faki, Omda, and cousin Zayeem were still missing.

On June 9, Omda was shot, rendering him unable to walk. Zayeem was with him, attempting to escape together. However, given Omda’s incapacitation, he insisted that Zayeem leave him behind and seek safety. When RSF discovered Omda, they interrogated him about his identity. To protect himself, Omda claimed to be a mere student at Geneina University, asserting that he was not Masalit and had no relatives. Despite this, RSF killed everyone around him and left him in bed. Presently, Omda resides in the Adre camp in Chad.

(Twins father with his childrens in the camp)

His family remained in his uncle’s house, while Twins father, along with his 9-year-old son and another cousin, decided to seek refuge at his brother-in-law’s house due to the imminent danger to his life. RSF was actively pursuing him, targeting him for his role as a lawyer and a member of a prosecution panel fighting a case against RSF commander Salah Nur – a commander, lawyer, and advisor for RSF. Tragically, four lawyers from the prosecution panel had already been killed.

(Bullet mark on lips)

During their journey to his brother-in-law’s house, they fell into an ambush set by RSF and Arab militias. The assailants confiscated his stick phone and even took away his son’s copy of the Quran. Threatening to execute them, they questioned his son:

“Do you know how to recite Quran? Are you even Muslims?”

Then, another man appeared with a gun, and Twins’ father recognized him from before – a man who used to be a teacher. However, given the circumstances, Twins’ father now suspected he might be a commander in RSF. The man recognized Twins’ father and ordered the RSF soldiers and Arab militias to return their belongings and allow them to go. The mobile phone was returned, but the soldiers kept the sticks. Nevertheless, they were allowed to proceed and eventually reached the brother-in-law’s house.

Escape to Chad:

“From 15 to 22 June, I spend inside a room, as I was scared to go out.”

On June 22, his brother-in-law paid 40 thousand Sudanese pounds (approximately 66 USD) to some Arab militias to facilitate his escape to Chad. He was placed in a small car with tinted windows, accompanied by three other individuals. They departed for Chad at 7 am, and around 11 am, the car dropped them off at Adelkong (Asouga) village, one of the last villages on the Chad-Sudan border. From there, they had to proceed on foot to cross into Chad. In Adelkong (Asouga), he discovered that RSF spies were detaining Masalit community leaders. Despite the risks, he crossed the border on foot from the village.

Bullet inside the right knee

The Chadian Army registered his name and directed him to the Adre camp. With financial assistance from a friend of his father residing in Chad, he gradually brought his family to join him in the Adre camp. By June 30, his entire family was reunited with him. Seeking medical attention for his brother Omda, he took him to the camp’s hospital, where the doctors, despite being shown the wounds, stated that they only treated bleeding injuries and refused assistance since his wounds were no longer bleeding.

While in the camp, he observed individuals from RSF continuously visiting while disguised as civilians, raising concerns about his safety. On December 4, his brother-in-law arranged a flight ticket for him to Nairobi, where he stayed with a friend, and on December 7, he arrived in Uganda.

Conclusion:

“I have lost my house; they even took away windows and doors from my house, broke the walls.”

He wants to bring his family to Uganda, but he doesn’t have the means for it. For him, justice entails holding the RSF and Arab militias accountable at the national level, as well as at the African Court of Justice and Human Rights in Arusha, Tanzania, and the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. Additionally, he emphasizes the importance of the militias returning all looted properties to their rightful owners. Protection should be provided to all citizens.

“I dream that the war will be over soon, but seeing it escalating every day, it seems like it will just remain a dream.”

Remarks and appeal by Darfur Network for Human Rights:

Twins father horrific narrative highlights the critical necessity for world attention and assistance in the face of crimes committed by the Rapid Support Force (RSF) and its linked Arab militias in Darfur. DNHR strongly condemns the severe breaches of human rights, including targeted attacks, displacement, and purposeful targeting of medical facilities.

Twins father story exemplifies the widespread cruelty perpetrated on innocent civilians by non-state entities. His bravery in the face of hardship, as seen by his willingness to provide medical help despite personal danger, exemplifies the tenacity of Darfur residents in the face of horrible atrocities.

The RSF’s attacks on medical institutions, intimidation of healthcare workers, and targeting of individuals based on their occupation, such as lawyers campaigning for justice, are all apparent violations of international law. The DNHR urges the international community to remedy these severe breaches promptly.

The struggle of the Twins father’s family, the destruction of their house, and the constant threats to their safety are all part of the enormous humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur. The DNHR asks international organizations, particularly the UN, to prioritize civilian protection and hold those responsible for these crimes accountable.

Furthermore, the DNHR supports Twins father’s plea for justice on national and international levels. We urge a thorough inquiry into the conduct of the RSF and allied militias to punish anyone found guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other significant human rights breaches. The African Court of Justice and Human Rights in Arusha, Tanzania, and the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, are critical players in this pursuit of justice.

The DNHR also emphasizes the importance of safely returning all stolen property to its legitimate owners, especially the Twin Father’s and others who have suffered similar losses. All inhabitants should be protected, and efforts must be increased to put an end to the increasing bloodshed in Darfur.

The DNHR stands in sympathy with Twin Farher’s and other Darfur conflict victims, fighting for their rights, safety, and an end to the ongoing tragedy. We urge the international community to take decisive action and work together to make the dream of a peaceful Darfur a reality.

More information is available from Mohammed Hassan, Executive Director, DNHR.

Email: hassan.m@dnhr.org

Phone: (+256)752792112 or (+249)924638036

P.O. Box: 144218