A number of residents of Al-Masan'i neighbourhood in South Darfur State's capital, Nyala, now fear deteriorating security conditions after a pro-government militia took over the state's second largest police station this month.
"I do not feel safe," Al-Masan'i (literally translates to "factory area") resident Moneim Adam told Nuba Reports. Adam, a father of two, says the police station was the only point of protection in the area for residents. "They have taken over the police station and no one is allowed to get close to it."
According to a police officer from the station preferring anonymity for his security, the pro-government militia Rapid Support Force (RSF) came to the police station heavily armed on July 10 in four Land Cruisers and threatened the police officer in charge of the station to leave within 48 hours. The police officers quickly left the station and transferred inmates to another police station.
"We had no choice but to evacuate the [police] immediately to preserve their lives," a police statement said, commenting on the incident. Police in South Darfur State had monitored the RSF for the past five months, the statement said, noting a trend where RSF forces confronted, insulted and harassed the police, taking advantage of their immunity provided by the central government. "We have received complaints, one after the other by our employees [police] that they were subjected to harassment by heavily armed RSF troops, sometimes attacking police at their stations, trying to free family members or friends arrested under investigation or awaiting trial, as if they were above the law."
The RSF order to evacuate the station was made on the pretext that RSF leader Lt.-Gen. Mohamed Hamden Daglo (known as "Hemetti") had purchased the land where the police station was based. A lawyer working for the local land registry who requested anonymity for security reasons said the land allegedly purchased by the RSF leader was government-owned property. Lt.-Gen. Mohamed Hamden Daglo did not present any documents regarding the purchase, the lawyer said, and suspects the RSF leader seized the land by force.
Abdullah Musa, a father of four who lives near the former police station in Al-Masan'i, says he may leave the area fearing insecurity. "There is no guarantee that there is security in the neighbourhoods, especially at night after the police left."
Citizens have good reason to be wary of the RSF given past events in South Darfur's capital. Moneim Adam said an accidental explosion at an RSF artillery store in Nyala in May still stuck in the memory of local residents. Roughly 12 people were killed and 18 injured after an RSF ammunition storage facility caught on fire in the Al Masan'i area, news reports said.
Hundreds of homes were destroyed, Abdullah Musa said, including his own. "I am still working to restore my home, it was completely destroyed in the blast." The South Darfur State government has set up a committee to calculated the losses, Adam said, but the local government continues to delay compensation payments. Many families remain displaced since the explosion.
"The ongoing government support to the RSF violates the rule of law and access to justice," says Human Rights Lawyer Mohammed Badawi and Monitoring and Documentation Director of the human rights organisation, the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies. "The clashes between RSF and police forces show the police are not able to protect themselves or maintain their mandate."
The RSF are a re-branded version of the former pro-government militia, "the Janjaweed", responsible for helping commit mass killings in Darfur since 2003 that led to the International Criminal Court arrest warrant for President Omar Al-Bashir in 2009.
Repeated calls to RSF Spokesperson Adam Salih were left unanswered.