Humanitarian Protection In Sudan and Diaspora Response
The situation in Sudan remains tense and volatile, as the conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has entered its third month. The fighting has caused widespread displacement, civilian casualties, and a humanitarian crisis in Darfur and Khartoum.
According to the Federal Ministry of Health, at least 1000 people have been killed, and over 6,000 injured across the country since the onset of the conflict on 15 April in Khartoum, including foreigners. The numbers are underestimates as health workers are unable to verify casualties due to the ongoing insecurity. There are also documented reports of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict zones (UN Women). Many people remain without water, electricity, and medical services.
In Darfur, the Governor declared the region a “disaster area” due to the ongoing killings and looting (DabangaSudan). The RSF have been blamed for the assassination of Khamis Abdallah Abbakar, the governor of West Darfur (DabangaSudan), a key interlocutor in the region and a signatory to the Juba peace agreement in 2020. The RSF was established in 2013 out of the former Janjaweed militias as a paramilitary force under the control of the Sudanese Armed Forces during the former regime of Omar Al Bashir. In 2015, when RSF troops were deployed in support of Saudi forces in the Yemen conflict, the RSF was granted the status of a ‘regular force’, and in 2017 it was recognised under Sudanese law as an ‘independent security force’ Civilians, including medics, are being targeted, according to reports from the region. The West Darfur region has seen ongoing conflict since 2003, with millions displaced and 300,000 killed by attacks from the militias formerly known as the Janjaweed. Attacks on civilians have continued in El-Geneina and other parts of Darfur, with reports of over 5000 killed (DabangaSudan). Hospitals and electrical stations are not operational, and food and water supplies are next to none (DabangaSudan).
The conflict has also displaced nearly 1.9 million people since 15 April, who have fled to safer locations inside and outside the country. According to the latest figures from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Egypt, more than 210,000 Sudanese people have entered the country since the beginning of the war (ReliefWeb). Numbers have reduced significantly after new visa restrictions were imposed by the Egyptian authorities (Egypt Independent). More than 13,000 fled to the Central African Republic (CAR) including Central African returnees (ReliefWeb). Sudan supplies several towns in CAR with commodities and the insecurity has resulted in a sharp decrease in essential goods. Since the start of the conflict on 15 April 2023, over 18,000 people have fled to Ethiopia through the Metemma border crossing. IOM estimates internally displaced people in Sudan at more than 700,000 since 15 April, with numbers prior to the war estimated at 3.7 million(UN News May 2023).
UNHCR continues to provide aid and support to refugees and forcibly displaced individuals, extending its reach to new areas, including Port Sudan, Wadi Halfa, and Wad Madani. Existing programs in Gedaref, Kassala, Blue Nile, and White Nile are being maintained, while urgent measures are being taken to escalate emergency response efforts in response to the arrival of more than 140,000 refugees and asylum seekers fleeing from Khartoum and other perilous regions. Additionally, the UNHCR is undertaking certain activities in East Darfur and sections of Kordofan where the security situation permits (ReliefWeb). MSF treated more than 1000 in Khartoum since the beginning of the war despite the security risk and restrictions with travel permits.
The clashes have intensified since the expiry of the ceasefire agreement on 3 June, and again after a 24-hour countrywide ceasefire on 10 June that saw a brief lull in the fighting. US and Saudi mediation efforts have been suspended after the collapse of multiple ceasefires amid flagrant violations by both sides (ReliefWeb). With the conflict now entering its 11th Week, the talks have been adjourned, and the violence has intensified.
The international community has urged for an immediate end to hostilities and a return to dialogue to resolve the political crisis. In a recent session, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) adopted a roadmap for mediating the conflict in Sudan and to hold face-to-face talks between the two Generals. The roadmap has been rejected by General Albdelfattah al-Burhan, leader of the Sudan Armed Forces, objecting to:
- The appointment of Kenya’s William Ruto as head of the new IGAD Quartet on the situation claiming that Kenya is supporting the RSF
- The mediation schedule
- The classification of the conflict as a fight between the two Generals
Despite this opposition, the Quartet – comprised of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Sudan – recently convened on 19th June, affirming their commitment to the roadmap, launching “an all-inclusive political process aimed at achieving peace and a peaceful transition to democracy and civilian rule” (which is apparently to be hosted by Kenya in mid-July or the first week of August 2023).
The Sudanese diaspora has played a significant role in responding to the current war crisis in Sudan, demonstrating their commitment to supporting their homeland. From fundraising initiatives to advocacy campaigns, Sudanese communities abroad have mobilised to provide aid and raise awareness about the ongoing conflict. Sudanese communities from all walks of life joined forces in unison in the USA, UK, , Norway, Canada and elsewhere.
One notable example is a protest organised at the Sudanese Embassy in collaboration with the Tigrayan community in Washington DC showing inter-diaspora support, as shown in the video below.
Several unions and community groups have posted messages of solidarity with the Sudanese people, including the University and College Union in the UK (UCU), MENA Solidarity Network, Refugee Support Group and many more calling for a ceasefire and an end to the violence.
The International Council for Museums expressed great concern about the implications of the increased fighting for the safety and security of museum professionals, and the impact of the war on museum collections and cultural heritage in the country.
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London held an online event “Culture in Crisis: Spotlight on Sudan” in partnership with Heritage for Peace to hear from Sudanese heritage specialists, as well as those working to support them, to discuss the impact of the war currently taking place.
The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) has condemned the acts of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) who continue to carry out their fighting in neighbourhoods and civilian homes in Sudan. They also strongly condemned the increasing sexual and gender-based violence taking part in various parts of Sudan which show a clear pattern of weaponising such acts against girls and women in the country. Verified cases have now exceeded 70 who are unable to receive medical support due to the destruction of medical facilities but also for fear of being attacked. In a press release, SIHA stated “It is imperative that this fact be recognized by the international community including the US and Saudi Arabia mediation teams, the UN, the African Union, IGAD and any other countries that become involved in the negotiations between the parties of the conflict. The crimes committed by the RSF have been and continue to be undermined by local and international actors. The lives of women and girls across Sudan are threatened by the fact that the world fails to address the crimes against them as a primary rather than secondary outcome of this conflict.”
SIHA called for the international community to:
- Investigate sexual violence in Sudan and hold preparators accountable, ensuring that the perpetrators of rape during this conflict are held fully accountable under the law and that their crimes of rape and sexual violence are recognized as war crimes, as stipulated in international humanitarian law
- Hold the RSF accountable for their crimes in Darfur, Khartoum, and other areas of Sudan
- Stop the financing of the armed conflict parties in Sudan, and block further weapons and ammunition to enter the country
- Enforce an immediate cessation of all violence and hostilities against civilians
- Provide assistance for survivors to leave conflict zones to receive the medical and psycho-social services they need to recover
- Consider evacuating neighbourhoods and public facilities such as hospitals, schools, and government offices under RSF control as the priority in any truce negotiations
Sudan Doctors Union: https://sdu.org.uk/ and Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Sudan-Doctors-Union-UK-1221030461377420/
Beem Reports https://www.beamreports.com/
Change.org petition to end the violence in Sudan: https://www.change.org/p/stop-war-in-sudan-and-bring-peace-now?signed=true