The restless Sudanese region of Darfur has been set ablaze, with clashes believed to have resulted in hundreds of deaths, as the world’s attention has been focused on the violence erupting in Khartoum.

The Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary that was created from the Janjaweed militias that fought in the Darfur conflict twenty years ago that pitted rebel groups against Arab tribes and the Sudanese government, are known to have strongholds in Darfur.

However, the RSF and its leader, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemeti, have a lot of adversaries in the area, including ex-rebel groups, Sudanese who have been driven from their homes by previous conflicts, and a former Janjaweed militia led by Hemeti’s rival Musa Hilal.

Unexpected defeat

Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, is renowned as the homeland of Hemeti’s allied Arab tribes, particularly the Rizegat. Its conquest by the Sudanese army, therefore, has been seen as a shocking blow for the RSF.

Eyewitnesses told Middle East Eye fighting is ongoing in Nyala and its environs, as well as villages across South Darfur.

Typically for Sudan, which has a widespread pro-democracy movement among the people largely ignored by the country’s powerful generals and the international community, an anti-war rally was held on Friday, with hundreds calling for an end to the fighting. This time, the protest was led by women.

Protest leader Salma Ahmed told MEE by phone from Nyala that they wanted to highlight abuses by both warring factions.

“The situation in the city is deteriorating: no food, no water and other basic needs, and people are staying indoors. There are no police and the people are terrified,” she said.