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Calls to arm civilians multiply in war-torn Sudan

France Media Agency Displaced people fleeing al-Jazeera state arrive in Gedaref state in war-torn eastern Sudan on December 22, 2023.

Calls to arm the population are increasing in Sudan with the advance of paramilitaries towards the south, raising the specter of a total civil war in a country already ravaged by eight months of conflict between the generals rivals.

After seizing most of the state of al-Jazeera and its capital Wad Madani, the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (FSR) of General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo continued their breakthrough towards the south and seized territory in the neighboring state of Sennar.

Frightened by the violence against civilians of which the RSF are accused, citizens launched a campaign of “armed popular resistance” in other states, those of White Nile, Nile, Gedaref, North, Kassala and the Red Sea.

In the areas they conquered, the RSF, for their part, demanded that the inhabitants provide volunteers, in order to arm them to “protect their territory”.

This arms race among populations raises fears of large-scale militarization.

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More than 12,000 people have already been killed since the conflict broke out in mid-April between the army of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane and the FSR of General Daglo.

And this figure is, in all likelihood, largely underestimated as entire sections of the country are cut off from the world.

The number of displaced people is also very high – it concerns 7.1 million of the approximately 48 million Sudanese, including 1.5 million in neighboring countries, according to the UN.

“Train young people to carry weapons”

In the town of Chendi (Nile State), in the North so far spared from the fighting, Governor Mohammed Badaoui spoke last week in front of thousands of people: “We are going to train young people to carry weapons so that they can defend their lands, their honor and protect their families from rebellion,” he said, referring to the RSF.

On Monday, in the Sudanese port of Suakin (Red Sea State), located nearly 800 km northeast of Khartoum, a Beja tribal leader, Mohammed el-Amine Turk, threatened : “We are ready to take up arms to defeat” the paramilitaries.

In a village in the eastern part of al-Jazeera, a resident who requested anonymity for security reasons told AFP: “The RSF arm a certain number of young men from each village, they hand over Kalashnikovs and one or more vehicles, depending on the size of the village.”

To date, according to the Small Arms Survey research project, 6.6% of Sudan's 48 million people own a firearm.

The situation is particularly critical in Darfur (west). This region, the most affected by the fighting with the capital Khartoum and Kordofan (south), experienced a bloody conflict in the 2000s that left 300,000 dead and 2.5 million displaced, according to the UN.

In this vast region, the UN already affirmed in May, armed civilians and tribal or rebel fighters have joined the clashes between rival camps.


In this context, analyzes a Sudanese security official who requested anonymity from AFP, calls to arm civilians “are disastrous […], in a country which already suffers from the proliferation of weapons”.

“We must call on both camps to end the conflict instead of encouraging citizens to join the popular resistance or join the ranks of the army,” also believes Sherif Mohammed Othman, a leader of the Forces for Freedom and Change, the main civilian bloc in Sudan. Because, he said, “this will only have the effect of prolonging the war.”

At the end of 2022, the government commission in charge of arms collection estimated that “five million weapons were in the hands of citizens, not counting those of rebel groups in Darfur, South Kordofan and the Nile Blue.”

A figure which is still largely underestimated, according to the security manager. “Even before the war, permits to carry weapons had become easy to obtain,” he says, not to mention the fact that arms smuggling from neighboring countries also flourished.

Youssef Ali, a resident of al-Jazeera, will not bother with this authorization: “If no side gives me a weapon, I will buy one myself,” he warns.

Because, he said, “it’s even easier than finding food.”

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116