Africa Defense Forum
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RSF Accused of Rape in Conquered Territory


As Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces took control of the West Darfur capital of El Geneina last summer, a group of men entered the home of one woman and held her at gunpoint.

“They said, ‘Are you going to take off your clothes, or what?’” the unidentified 25-year-old Masalit woman told Reuters recently.

When she refused, the men threatened to kill her brothers.

“At that point, I surrendered,” she said during an interview in a refugee camp in Adré Chad.

According to Sudanese advocacy groups and the United Nations, hundreds of women have reported being raped or sexually assaulted in Sudan by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) since they launched their battle for military supremacy against the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in April 2023.

While nearly 90% of the victims are women, some are men and children.

In some cases, women have been kidnapped and held as sex slaves and repeatedly raped by multiple men. In others, young girls have been forced to marry older men, then died giving birth to their children. Still other women have simply disappeared, women’s rights advocates report.

“Sexual violence is 100% a political crime. It’s enabled by impunity,” Hala al-Karib, head of the Women’s Network of the Horn of Africa, said during a recent presentation to the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

During a symposium examining violence against women during war, al-Karib recounted a personal story about the RSF attacking her family’s home and kidnapping girls ages 13 to 15 while beating or threatening other family members.

The assaults and kidnappings are happening primarily in the Darfur region, where the RSF and its allies have renewed a decadeslong campaign of violence against the Masalit and other non-Arab populations. Other reports of kidnappings and assaults have come from Khartoum, where the RSF controls most of the capital region. In some cases, women and girls are transported from Khartoum to Darfur to be sold as sex slaves or married to RSF fighters.

According to the United Nations, reports indicated that women and girls had been abducted and detained at a location in Khartoum’s Al-Riyadh district starting as early as April 24 — nine days after the conflict with the SAF broke out.

“Since then, we have continued to receive reports of abductions, with an increasing number of cases being reported in the Darfur region, particularly North, Central and South Darfur, and in the Kordofan region,” the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights reported in November 2023.

In early February, at least 16 women and girls were kidnapped as part of a massacre of 76 people near Dillinj City in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan. About one-third of those abducted escaped and reported being raped by their captors. In mid-March, medical staff at al-Hasahisa Hospital in El Jezira state reported RSF fighters repeatedly raping a group of victims over several days.

Residents of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, have reported that girls as young as 11 are being sold into sexual slavery, bought by men from Chad and Niger. According to observers, in one case, a local merchant paid nearly $5,000 for an 11-year-old girl from Khartoum North so they could return her to her family.

In public comments, RSF representatives have both denied that rapes, kidnappings, and other violence are happening while also declaring that anyone committing such offenses will be punished severely.

Al-Karbi dismissed such claims.

“Perpetrators are getting rewarded,” she told the Columbia University event. “They are offered acknowledgment and recognitions and they are never held accountable.”

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