JUBA, South Sudan: Sudanese singer Shaden Gardood has tragically become another victim of the ongoing conflict in Sudan. She was caught in the crossfire of clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces, or SAF, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, in the city of Omdurman, about 8 kilometers northwest of the capital Khartoum.
The conflict erupted in mid-April when the RSF refused to be integrated into Sudan’s army under a planned transition to civilian rule. According to the UN, over 750 people have been killed and more than 4,000 injured in the fighting. Over 700,000 people have been displaced internally, and another 150,000 have fled the country.
“We have been trapped in our home for 25 days,” she wrote in one of her latest posts on Facebook. “We are hungry and in immense fear, but are full of ethics and values,” she said, referring to the ongoing looting by soldiers in Khartoum.
Hailing from the war-torn Kordofan region, Gardood used her music to promote peace, love and unity in a country plagued by violence. Born in 1986, she was a rising star in Sudan, known for her powerful and emotive voice, and her ability to connect with audiences across the country.
Her song titled “Brother, Don’t Kill Brother” emphasized the need for the peaceful coexistence of all Sudanese.
Her life was not without challenges. She had been injured in early 2010 when fighting erupted between the SAF and Malik Aggar’s forces in Al-Damazin in the southeast. Despite her experiences, she continued to perform at festivals, on TV shows and for charity events.
Habab Mahmoud, one of her devoted fans, said she “was loved by all Sudanese in Kordofan and Darfur, regardless of age.” He added: “What she did was beyond music, more like a social artist.”
Gardood’s songs are a unique blend of poetry, beats and rhythms, inspired by the culture of the Baggara tribes of Kordofan and Darfur, and sung in the local dialect. One of the most significant aspects of her music was her use of a rare form of traditional singing and poetry called hakamat, which is known for promoting dialogue, understanding and peaceful coexistence. In addition, she engaged in various charity and anti-drug campaigns.
Many Sudanese stress the impact of her artistic work on the protest movement that led to the overthrow of the longtime dictator Omar Al-Bashir in 2019. “As a singer, she was able to use her voice to speak out against injustice and to provide comfort to those who were suffering,” said Aida Adeb, a Sudanese writer.
“It is very unfortunate that both armed groups continue (to) use human shields to mitigate the effects of bombardments and shelling, which has (a tragic) outcome for civilians,” said Mendy Ahbizzy, a peacebuilder from a Sudanese NGO. “So many civilians suffer injuries which are often fatal.”
The conflict has led to the closure of 80 percent of the hospitals in Sudan, leaving many people without access to basic healthcare. Despite several ceasefires being announced at the request of regional powers, the fighting has not stopped, with constant clashes, and fighter jets hovering above the capital city.
Gardood had continued to use social media to speak out against the violence and to document the suffering of her community. Her live videos on Facebook provided a powerful glimpse into the reality of life in a war zone, where peace could be shattered at any moment by a sudden burst of gunfire or a bomb explosion.
Gardood’s tragic death has sparked an outpouring of grief and anger across Sudan, with some people implying that she was assassinated for her criticism of the SAF.
However, her family members confirmed on Facebook that she was caught in the crossfire while attempting to take shelter from shelling in the Al-Hashmab neighborhood of Omdurman, where she lived.
Gardood’s death adds to the growing number of public figures killed in Khartoum in recent weeks, including Sudan’s first professional actress, Asia Abdelmajid.
“Her music touched the hearts of many Sudanese people, and her tragic death is a loss not only to her family and friends but to the entire Sudanese music industry. Her memory will live on,” said fan Mahmoud.