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PBS NewsHour | Sudan's civil war brings killing, torture and famine | Season 2024

GEOFF BENNETT: Sudan's civil war has left tens of thousands dead and millions displaced in the nearly 14 months since the Sudanese military and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces plunged the country into a devastating war.

The capital Khartoum is a battlefield, as is the neighboring city of Omdurman.

And Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News reports from there.

LINDSEY HILSUM: They want to show that they have the upper hand. Soldiers and police of the Sudanese armed forces in the center of Omdurman make the sign of the hawk: We have grabbed our prey.

The goal is to demonstrate to us that they are back in control and that people are happy to see them.

But such triumphalism is premature.

Although they drove the Rapid Support Force militia out of this part of Omdurman in March, their enemy still occupies Omdurman's twin city, the capital Khartoum, and large parts of the rest of Sudan.

We drive through a ruined city.

Imagine the shopkeepers, the people who lived here, the lives destroyed by this senseless war.

Families save some belongings from looters.

About every hundred meters, new recruits from the area have set up another checkpoint.

Everyone is nervous.

General Abdel Fattah Burhan rules over a devastated and falling apart country, and the legitimacy of his leadership is in question.

The last battle for this part of Omdurman was fought here in mid-March.

This area was completely littered with corpses.

The Ministry of Health came and picked up hundreds.

But the RSF is still only about four kilometers up the road.

The battle for Sudan’s capital is not over yet.

The greatest horrors are hidden behind intact walls.

This house belonged to a poet who had fled to Saudi Arabia.

The RSF took it over, but instead of simply ravaging the place as they did elsewhere, they turned it into a torture or perhaps execution chamber.

They dug a pit and attached a winch to an iron rod on the ceiling to pull people up and hang them.

Rumors about the events that took place here spread.

After the RSF were driven out, the homeowners asked a neighbor to come and check.

WALEED AHMED, neighbor: When I came here, I was shocked by what I saw in front of me.

What could possibly have happened here?

After that, I told other people in the neighborhood that there was something strange in that house.

I mean, you can clearly see from the side of the iron bar and the holes in the floor that something terrible happened here.

LINDSEY HILSUM: We found a document with a list of names: 31-year-old Omar Ahmed Adam (ph), a 30-year-old woman, Manal Hassan (ph), 12 names in total, all accused of serious treason, in other words, not supporting the RSF.

And among the rubble are mementos of the happy family that once lived here and who, even in their worst dreams, could not have predicted what would happen in their house.

So there were really big battles here, right?

RASHEED AHMED, Sudan: Yes.

LINDSEY HILSUM: I walked a few meters around the corner with Rasheed Ahmed, who stayed here at home in old Omdurman for four months until the fighting became too intense.

In front of his house we can smell the smell of death.

The piles of earth are temporary graves.

RSF slogans were sprayed on the walls.

RASHEED AHMED: It's my car.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Is that your car?

RASHEED AHMED: Yes, it is my car.

LINDSEY HILSUM: It was your car?

RASHEED AHMED: Yes, it was.

(LAUGHTER) LINDSEY HILSUM: His house was badly damaged.

After he left, a rocket hit.

What remains, however, are the stucco works with which his grandfather decorated the walls when he built the house in the 1940s.

RASHEED AHMED: We don't expect that to happen to us.

We cannot imagine this in all our dreams.

We always hear about wars outside Khartoum and outside Omdurman, not in Omdurman, not in Khartoum.

Very bad.

Very bad.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Do you think you will live here again?

RASHEED AHMED: Sure.

Secure.

It's my house.

It's my home.

We will build here again, inshallah.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The children are still playing, even though they have fled their homes and are living in a school that doubles as a center for displaced people.

Of course, their mothers cannot forget what brought them here.

INANN, Sudan (translated): The RSF attacked our homes and tried to rape our girls.

We managed to hide them upstairs, but the RSF men killed the girls' aunt and two uncles who tried to defend them.

Now our situation is difficult.

Of course our men can't find work.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Since there is no international aid, neighborhood groups are helping out.

Do you think the international community has let you down?

MOHAMMED YAHYIA, Sudan Social Development Organization: Yes, yes.

Unfortunately, I believe that this is the case.

I think people's eyes are on Ukraine and Gaza right now, but here in Sudan we are not getting much help.

Basically, people need food and medicine, okay?

LINDSEY HILSUM: Food and medicine, it's that simple?

MOHAMMED YAHYIA: It's that simple.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Because war brings out both the best and the worst of humanity. The best are people like Dr. Mohammed Banaga, who opened a soup kitchen for displaced people, funded by local businesses and friends in the Sudanese diaspora.

And you stayed here throughout the war.

Were not you afraid?

DR. MOHAMMED BANAGA, doctor: No, no, no, I'm not afraid.

Fear of what?

LINDSEY HILSUM: Afraid of being killed?

DR. MOHAMMED BANAGA: Man will kill – he will die once, no, not twice, but once.

(LAUGHTER) LINDSEY HILSUM: This family just fled Wad Madani, southeast of Omdurman, where the RSF recently took control.

People all over Sudan are starving because they have lost everything, the economy has collapsed and armed men continue to steal the few aid supplies available.

AHMED SULEIMAN, Sudan (translated): The situation is very bad.

They kill civilians, loot them and drive them from their homes.

They took away their livelihood, their crops and everything they owned.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Ruin upon ruin, defeat upon defeat, not a lost paradise but a lost country.

This war is fueled by neighboring powers: the United Arab Emirates is arming the RSF, and Iran and Egypt are supporting the Sudanese forces.

If the parties are not forced to negotiate, what will be left of Sudan?

Nothing that can be rebuilt, but a failed state in perpetual war, whose population is scattered and destitute.

GEOFF BENNETT: This report was by Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.

Anna Harden

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