Musa Hilal Aligns with Sudanese Army, Deepening Crisis in Darfur

Influential Darfur tribal leader Musa Hilal backs Sudanese army against RSF, escalating conflict and risking humanitarian catastrophe in the region.

Bijay Laxmi
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Musa Hilal Aligns with Sudanese Army, Deepening Crisis in Darfur

Musa Hilal Aligns with Sudanese Army, Deepening Crisis in Darfur

Musa Hilal, the influential tribal leader of the Mahamid Rizeigat Arab tribe in Darfur, has announced his support for the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in the ongoing conflict against the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Hilal urged his followers not to join the war on the side of the RSF, which he denounced as "mere militias" made up of mercenaries. "We support SAF and not any militias," Hilal stated, calling for a ceasefire.

Hilal's alignment with the Sudanese army is seen as a significant blow to the RSF, which appears to be weakening. Analysts connect Hilal's stance to his longstanding rivalry with RSF chief Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and the struggle for local leadership and state resources in the region. Hilal, who was previously accused of atrocities in Darfur, was released from detention in 2021 following a reconciliation agreement with Dagalo.

The crisis in Darfur has escalated as the population teeters on the brink of starvation due to the war between the SAF and RSF. UN officials have warned of the risks of a new front opening in the conflict around the town of El Fasher, a vital humanitarian hub for the region. Clashes and bombardments in nearby villages have displaced over 36,000 people, with Doctors Without Borders treating more than 100 casualties in El Fasher in recent days.

The violence poses an extreme and immediate danger to the 800,000 civilians in El Fasher and threatens to trigger further bloodshed in other parts of Darfur, severely hindering the distribution of humanitarian aid in a region already facing famine. The United States has called on all armed forces to cease attacks in El Fasher, as the RSF and its militias reportedly plan an offensive against the city, endangering civilians, including hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

Why this matters: The escalating conflict in Darfur risks spiraling into a humanitarian catastrophe, with millions of lives at stake. Hilal's alignment with the Sudanese army further complicates the situation and could inflame ethnic tensions in the region.

The fight for El Fasher, a historic center of power, is expected to be protracted and could spill across Sudan's border with Chad. The RSF has been accused of a campaign of ethnically-driven killings and abuses in West Darfur. As the crisis deepens, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that an attack on El Fasher could lead to an expansion of the conflict across Darfur, emphasizing the urgent need for a ceasefire and humanitarian access to prevent a catastrophic loss of life in the region.

Key Takeaways

  • Musa Hilal, a tribal leader, supports Sudanese Armed Forces against Rapid Support Forces.
  • Hilal's stance weakens the RSF, which is in conflict with the Sudanese army.
  • Conflict in Darfur escalates, risking a humanitarian catastrophe and famine.
  • Fighting over El Fasher, a vital humanitarian hub, threatens to expand the conflict.
  • UN warns of catastrophic loss of life if El Fasher is attacked, calls for ceasefire.