Africa

Famine Looms in Sudan as Civil War Pushes Capital Toward Abyss


Families ate from a communal kitchen and fetched water from the Nile, he said, showing us around a mosque, a well-stocked pharmacy and apartments. His followers helped bury the dead, and at night they performed zikir, a devotional dance that is an expression of Sufi spirituality. “It soothed our souls,” he said.

A soup kitchen still offered meals. Sheikh Elamin, a towering man in flowing green robes, said he paid for it all from his own pocket. Beyond running a Sufi Muslim order with branches in London, New York and Dubai, he was also a businessman who owned a gold mine and a meat export business, he said.

Before the war, the sheikh was sometimes criticized for his lavish choices, like chartering a private jet to attend the World Cup in Qatar in 2022. But his charity now has brought praise.

“In this time of war, he’s become the most popular figure in the country — period,” said Suliman Baldo, a veteran Sudan analyst. “People need something positive to hold onto.”

Nearby, we passed a giant mural with the word “Freedom,” leftover from the protests of 2019 and pocked by gunfire. Down the street, men huddled over a pot of bubbling lentils as they prepared to return to their shattered homes — a cautious gesture of hope as the war dragged on.

“We will have a beautiful future, God willing,” said Mahmoud Mustafa, a rickshaw driver clutching a plastic food bowl.

He didn’t even flinch when another artillery barrage rang out, sending more shells across the Nile.

Hundreds of black-clad young women, turning in perfect unison, marched through a schoolyard in Omdurman early one morning, the latest recruits in a rapidly expanding conflict.

The war started as a dispute between two men — Sudan’s army chief, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces leader, Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan. But since last fall, when a succession of R.S.F. victories set off widespread alarm, a proliferation of armed groups has joined the fight, mostly backing the military. There are rebels from Darfur, ethnic militias, Islamists once loyal to former President Bashir, and thousands of young people, women as well as men, recruited from the streets.

Even idealistic young Sudanese who once risked their lives to protest against Mr. Bashir and, later, the military, have joined in.



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