CIVILIAN PROTECTION IN SUDAN NOW
Please add your voice to help us tell the United Nations not to abandon Darfur
In the occasion of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) wishes to remind the UN leaders that civilian protection in Sudan remains the biggest challenge, particularly in Darfur. DWAG further strongly calls on the UNGA member states and the UNSC members for increased civilian protection in Darfur, South Kordofan, Eastern Sudan, and other conflict-affected regions across Sudan. Despite the change in the authoritarian government and its replacement by the current interim government of Sudan, the realities on the ground in Darfur have yet to see any sign of change. Millions remain in camps and continue to face violent attacks by the Janjaweed militias and the members of the Rapid Support forces, who remain unapprehended or held accountable for their past and present actions.
As you may know, Sudan’s recent regime transition and interim process mark an opportunity for the new beginning of the nation’s future including the celebration of the initial signing of the peace deal. Regrettably, millions are in displacement camps in Darfur while their land is occupied by new settlers and remain bound to a terrible legacy of state-sponsored violence that continues to pose a threat to the lives and livelihood of millions. Noting that fact, the Greater Darfur region has seen genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and systematic rape as a weapon of war for nearly 20 years. In addition to the numerous Darfuris who have been killed or injured, millions of civilians remain to be the most vulnerable as they continue to reside in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps for the long term. They struggle for day-to-day subsistence, security for their survival, and future economic prospects. Despite vows to have their own civilian protection strategy back in June when confronted by the UNSC attempt to authorize forces, Sudan’s Interim Government has utterly failed to provide protection or hold militias attacking civilians accountable. The suffering of the people of Darfur has gone on for far too long. And the International Community and the UN must meet its obligation toward the people of Darfur.
Contrary to the promises of the Sudanese interim government, living conditions for Darfuri civilians have only deteriorated over the course of the past few months, even in the midst of a global pandemic. July 2020 saw the most tragic escalation of attacks on civilians, including the deadly massacre that took place in Misterei, West Darfur on July 25th. At least 68 innocent civilians were killed, and 84 others were severely wounded in this attack alone – the second incident to have occurred in Misterei within a week’s time. On July 19th, a shooting occurred in El Geneina, West Darfur, resulting in three people killed and multiple wounded. July 23rd featured two separate attacks – one in Nierteti, Central Darfur, and another in Gereida, South Darfur, leaving 16 civilians dead in total. More recently, in the months of August and September, attacks have continued upon vulnerable residents even in light of the unprecedented flooding during Sudan’s wet season. Community-organized protests calling for increased government protection have held no avail, often drawing gunfire and bullets upon peaceful protesters themselves.
These attacks continued to be carried out with similar trends since 2003. The indigenous African Tribes targeted for the genocidal attacks are the same groups that continue to be the victims of the ongoing attacks in Darfur and other regions.
It’s worth noting that the situation in Darfur is a genocide built from a systematic campaign that has been organized to eliminate civilians based on their ethnicity, and a solution must be made based on the root causes of the attack. Fifteen years ago, Darfur has been referred to the ICC by the UNSC, and the ICC has issued multiple arrest warrants for more than 11 individuals and, dismayingly, the promise of justice and accountability remained unmet. With the exception of Ali Kushayb, all wanted criminals are still at-large in Sudan and protected by the Interim government, which enables them to defy justice.
Despite the rhetorical statement by the interim government to pursue accountability, in reality, the interim governed has refused to surrender al-Bashir and all indicted criminals. Instead, it has sheltered criminals, which amounts to an obstruction of justice. Creating a sham trial for al-Bashir, only to be charged for corruption, is misleading to the Sudanese people and an attempt to cover-up other more serious crimes. For doing so, the interim government of Sudan must equally be held accountable.
After two decades of killing, rape, displacement, and deprivation of property, the suffering of women, men, and children in Darfur and other crisis-affected regions must not be ignored by the Sudan transitional government and the international community, particularly the United Nations. Pursuant to the International Human Rights and Humanitarian laws, when a government fails to protect its people, the international community must take steps to protect the vulnerable.
Take, for example, other countries in similar situations such as Rwanda, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. In all these situations, however, accountabilities have been prioritized to allow the path to peace, and Sudan must not be an exception. To end these systematic attacks on civilians, the international community must pressure Sudan to prioritize accountability for serious crimes to set the foundation for sustainable peace in Sudan. If Bashir is allowed to defy the ICC warrants, the current militias committing crimes will think they can do the same and escape with impunity.
The United Nation’s current strategy on Sudan is inadequate and illogical in dealing with the situation in Darfur. The UN has currently proposed the withdrawal of the current protection force UNAMID by the end of December 2020 and offers the replacement mission UNITAMS in its place. Although UNAMID’s operations and mission have not been perfect to date, it nonetheless prioritizes the safety and well-being of Sudan’s most vulnerable civilians. UNITAMS, on the other hand, is a complete reduction in both its legal mandate regarding the potential to use deadly force against threats to civilians and in its resources and manpower in staffing the mission. The weakening of the UN protective force is a severe blow to civilian protection that must be reversed.
DWAG, therefore, calls on the UNGA members and the member states of UNSC to make civilian protection in Sudan a top priority to preserve the lives of millions of civilians in Darfur and across Sudan and strongly urges the UNGA and the Security Council member to consider the following demands:
- The UNSC must prioritize civilians’ protection in Sudan throughout the interim period and authorize UN forces with a chapter VII mandate to grant them the ability to protect civilians, specifically in Darfur
- Pressure Sudan to surrender al-Bashir and all ICC indictees to face trial and to set the precedent for genuine accountability in Sudan
- Pressure Sudan to stop the Janjaweed and the Rapid Support Forces from attacking civilians and hold them accountable when they do so
- Pressure Sudan to take serious steps to allow the Darfur genocide victims to peacefully restore their stolen land
The lives of civilians must not be ignored while juggling peace deals. The interim government’s willingness to achieve peace must be materialized to preserve and protect the lives of men, women, and children in Darfur and across Sudan. The international community must hold Sudan accountable by demanding that change be materialized in the daily lives of the people of Sudan rather than the change that has only been confined to governmental places. To be transformed, accountability for crimes, safety, and security of civilians will be the only measures by which the interim period in Sudan can be successful.
We ask our supporters and followers to join us in our campaign and help bring attention to the situation and demand the safety and well-being of all Sudanese civilians as a fundamental human right.
Niemat Ahmadi, DWAG president