Sudan’s museums are at high risk of theft and looting as weeks of armed conflicts have plunged the capital Khartoum and elsewhere in the country into turmoil, heritage experts warned.
Fierce battles are taking place between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) near the Sudan Museum of Natural History and Sudan National Museum, raising fears of losing the country’s archaeological treasures.
The Sudan National Museum, located on Nile Street in the heart of Khartoum, is witnessing violent battles in its vicinity.
“There are fierce battles near the museum, and there are unconfirmed accounts of damage to the museum building,” said Abdullah Sheikh Idris, a researcher on Sudanese heritage.
“It is very difficult to reach Nile Street or the museum building, or to inspect the valuables that are subject to theft and looting,” he added.
“There are unconfirmed witnesses of statues and valuables being looted by thieves. These reports are disturbing, and we hope that the authorities will act to protect the museum and recover the stolen goods,” he continued.
The Sudan National Museum opened in 1971, is the largest museum in Sudan. It contains Sudan’s archaeological holdings dating back to prehistoric times, and even the period of the Nubian kingdoms.
Sudan’s Natural History Museum, housing some rare species of animals, herbs, and plant seeds of economic importance, triggered the same concern.
“The wild animals in the Natural History Museum are dying of hunger and thirst,” said Sarah Said, director of the Sudan Museum of Natural History.
“The last supply for these rare animals was on Friday, April 14, just before the start of the war,” she said in a press release on Monday.
“We communicated with all concerned parties, but no one was able to reach the museum, fearing for their safety amidst the clashes,” she added.
“We lost animals and reptiles that were very important for research in the Faculty of Science and for education in general for various groups,” she said.
Since April 15, Sudan has been witnessing bloody clashes between the country’s armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
The fighting led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese, with some fleeing to safer areas in Sudan and others taking refuge in neighbouring countries, including Egypt, Ethiopia and Chad, according to UN statistics.
Clashes between the Sudanese army and the RSF left 550 people dead and about 5,000 injured, according to the latest statistics of the Sudanese Ministry of Health.