- Author, Zainab Muhammad Saleh
- Role, BBC Khartoum
As Sudan’s war between the army and paramilitaries dramatically escalated, my family buried my 84-year-old grandmother as bullets flew overhead in a cemetery in Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum.
My grandmother had diabetes and her blood pressure dropped, but we could not take her for treatment because Omdurman, where millions of people still live despite the mass exodus out of the city, has only one functioning hospital, while the rest of the hospitals have been looted or kidnapped by Before the fighters.
The hospital only receives patients who were injured in the war, and there are many of them, as bullets, bombs and shells rain down on residential neighborhoods every day. As a result, patients are no longer receiving treatment at Omdurman Hospital.
Because my grandmother did not receive proper treatment, her condition quickly deteriorated.
We wanted to bury her next to my grandfather, who died in 2005, but that cemetery is located near the Central Reserve Police Unit, so there are constant battles in the area, with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces trying to take control of the police base.
We took her body to another cemetery in a more peaceful area, but that day there were violent battles taking place near the cemetery.
The few relatives who went to bury her had to lie on the ground to avoid the bullets, and they took advantage of a quiet moment to lower my grandmother into her grave. It took about six hours to leave the cemetery, as the armed battles were fierce, and did not subside until sunset.
Most of my grandmother’s relatives stayed at her house and they too had to huddle together in their rooms when heavy gunfire broke out in the neighborhood, continuing for several hours.
But we were lucky to have her buried in the cemetery, as other people buried their loved ones at home.
Violinist Khaled Al-Sanhouri was buried by his brother and neighbor in front of his house in the Al-Malazemin neighborhood in the old neighborhood of Omdurman.
He was in his forties, and he suffered from diabetes. He died, according to his family, because he had not eaten for several days, as there was no food in the house and it was very dangerous to go out due to the fierce fighting.
Most people fled the neighborhood and the stores closed, and he was among the few who stayed behind.
Old Omdurman, where Al-Sanhouri lived, is severely affected by the conflict, with the army and the Rapid Support Forces constantly fighting for control of the bridges leading to Khartoum and Bahri.
The area is witnessing frequent air strikes and violent bombing, resulting in dozens of deaths, and many homes and businesses have turned into rubble.
My grandmother lived in a neighborhood in Omdurman that was among the least affected a few weeks ago, and she had strong relationships with the neighborhood residents.
Until her health began to deteriorate about 10 years ago, hundreds of young girls and boys would crowd her house every Friday, when she would give them gifts. These children came to the mosque opposite her house to say their last farewell to her, before taking her to the cemetery.
But in the three weeks after her burial, many of them fled because the neighborhood came under intense bombardment from the army as it tried to repel fighters of the Rapid Support Forces, who control much of Greater Khartoum.
My mother was also close to death, and while she was walking to the market to buy some vegetables, a raid occurred not far from her, which caused a huge explosion that knocked her to the ground instantly.
Obviously, August 24, the day my grandmother was buried, marked a turning point in the war. This was the day on which the Rapid Support Forces siege of the Army Commander, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, ended, and he was able to leave the military headquarters in Khartoum after being trapped there since the start of the war on April 15.
He said an operation by his forces ended the siege, although some Sudanese suspect foreign mediators brokered an “under the table” agreement allowing the RSF to withdraw.
Since then, Lieutenant General Al-Burhan has settled in the city of Port Sudan, and has traveled extensively abroad to mobilize support for the war against the Rapid Support Forces.
Talks continue between the warring parties in Saudi Arabia, but General Al-Burhan has not gone there yet.
His speech, like that of the RSF commander, Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, indicates that they consider each other to be traitors, and that they intend to fight to the end rather than negotiate a peace agreement.
General Daglo’s whereabouts are unclear, but he is believed to remain in Khartoum.
The two staged a coup together in October 2021, but then engaged in a power struggle that led to their men taking up arms against each other.
There is no doubt that the army has intensified its operations against the RSF since the end of General Burhan’s siege, and this has led to an increase in civilian casualties.
“You open the gate of your house and all you see are people carrying bodies on their shoulders,” one woman said before fleeing Omdurman in the past few days. “It is very scary.”
On the night of August 29, 10 men watching football on a big screen at an entertainment center in Omdurman were killed after government forces bombed it. They apparently missed their target, a nearby restaurant where RSF fighters sometimes go for dinner, but that evening none of them were in the restaurant.
A few days later, the army bombed a poor area in Omdurman known as Ambada 21. Again, the target appeared to be RSF fighters stationed there, but they had left by the time the shells hit, killing about 25 civilians.
In what is believed to be the highest number of civilian deaths in an airstrike to date, more than 50 people died when a market was targeted in May.
With many middle-class Khartoum residents fleeing early in the conflict, most of the victims are poor blacks, who feel they have been largely forgotten by a world preoccupied with the war in Ukraine, natural disasters in North Africa, armed conflicts, and ongoing coups. Other parts of the continent.
However, those coups were bloodless, while thousands of people died in Greater Khartoum, and elsewhere in Sudan.