War in Sudan: Worries About the National Museum in Khartoum

Attribution: David Stanley. Wikimedia Commons

By Ibrahim Omer. Updated: 1/15/2024

The fighting in Sudan that started in April 15th 2023 between the Sudanese Armed Forces of the old regime and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led to countrywide destruction and an expanding humanitarian crisis. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were displaced particularly in Khartoum and surrounding regions. The downtown area where the Sudan National Museum is located is one of the areas where extensive fighting took place including air strikes. The Museum is considered as one of the most important sites where some of the world's most valuable historical objects are preserved. Established in 1904, the current building of the Museum along Nile Street opened to the public in 1971.

A viral YouTube video surfaced in early June (2023) showing RSF soldiers walking through the Museum and filming exposed ancient human remains. The soldiers can be heard describing the mummies (in Arabic) as recent victims of the government. According to a report by Al Arabiya, a local source suggests that the RSF controlled the Museum on Friday June 1st. The RSF has also reportedly expressed their interest in "protecting the country's national treasures."

Fears about the safety of the Museum however are not new. Since 1989, when the ousted autocrat president Omar al-Bashir assumed the office of the presidency, the conditions of the Museum has been gradually deteriorating. With insufficient funding, the Museum lacked a proper cooling system thus jeopardizing the cohesion of the Museum's medieval wall paintings. Earlier in the year, a renovation project titled Protecting and Promoting the Sudanese Cultural Heritage in a Social Development Prospective: Rehabilitating the Sudanese National Museum established through an agreement carried by the UNESCO Khartoum Office with the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation and the Sudanese Ministry of Culture was ongoing. The project included relocating ancient artifacts. The renovation prompted news outlets (Dabanga) to report on the relocation of a statue of King Taharqa, which weighs approximately seven tons, to an inner area of the Museum. The relocation of these artifacts, although coincidental, was likely a protection advantage, making them less exposed to potential damages from the artillery used in the onging conflict.

As of the time of the writing of this article, no further information about the Museum is available.

Bronze and gold state of an unknown Kushite king in the National Museum.
Attribution: مروان عباس. Wikimedia Commons

The primary material of the website is authored by Ibrahim Omer © 2008.