Wad Madani: Explosions again rocked Sudan’s capital Khartoum on Monday as the army rallied civilians to take up arms against a renewed onslaught by its paramilitary foes.
The sound of artillery fire shook the dawn in northwest Khartoum and progressed towards the centre and east of the city, witnesses told AFP.
The fighting “began at 4:00 am and is still going,” one resident said.
The war-torn capital barely saw a few hours of respite after heavy clashes on Sunday between troops loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
The army announced Monday it was ready to “receive and prepare” volunteer fighters, after Burhan last week urged Sudanese “youth and all those able to defend” to join the military.
War-weary civilians have largely rejected the call, pleading for an end to the relentless war between Burhan and his former deputy, RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.
Apart from Khartoum, some of the worst fighting has been in the vast western region of Darfur, where late on Sunday RSF forces “attacked the military base” in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.
Since April 15, nearly 3,000 people have been killed in the violence. However, medics warn the death toll is likely to be much higher, with about two-thirds of health facilities in combat areas still “out of service”.
A further 2.2 million people have been displaced within the country, with another 645,000 fleeing across borders, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
Darfur is home to a quarter of Sudan’s population and is still scarred by a two-decade war. Residents there as well as the United Nations, United States and others, say civilians have been targeted and killed for their ethnicity by the RSF and allied Arab militias.
The RSF has been accused of intentionally targeting civilians in Darfur, including by shooting people fleeing towards the Chadian border.
The paramilitaries have also been identified as the main perpetrators of conflict-related sexual assault by survivors in both Darfur and Khartoum.
According to the governmental Combating Violence Against Women and Children Unit, most of the 42 survivors in Khartoum - and all of the 46 survivors in the Darfur cities of Nyala and El Geneina - said they were assaulted by RSF fighters.
Late on Sunday, the RSF announced it was cracking down on “looting and vandalism, particularly the theft of civilian cars”.
Since the conflict began, RSF fighters - highly mobile and embedded in densely populated neighbourhoods - have been accused of widespread break-ins and looting.
Residents have been forcibly evicted from their homes, had their vehicles stolen or learned after fleeing Khartoum that their homes were being used as bases.
The force, which traces its origins to the notorious Janjaweed militia recruited in the early 2000s to crush a rebellion by ethnic minority groups in Darfur, announced last week it had begun to try some of its “undisciplined” members.
More than half of Sudan’s population is now in need of aid and protection, according to UN figures.
The situation has been especially horrific in Darfur, a region the size of France where entire neighbourhoods have been razed to the ground, cities besieged and bodies left to rot on the streets.
Barely any humanitarian assistance has reached desperate civilians, as aid groups report their teams standing by in neighbouring Chad, waiting for humanitarian corridors to open.
Since April, more than 170,000 people have fled Darfur across the Chadian border, according to the UN refugee agency.
“Thousands of families with children are fleeing the violence in West Darfur,” according to Mandeep O’Brien, country representative for UNICEF which has reported hundreds of children killed in the fighting.
The UN agency estimates that more than 13 million children are in “dire need” of humanitarian assistance.