Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) remains gravely concerned for the safety of displaced Darfuris now abandoned by the international community and left to be protected by perpetrators of ongoing violence and human rights abuses, following the exit of UNAMID last week. We stand in solidarity with IDPs continuing to voice their concerns regarding their safety and security and demanding that the international community not again turn a blind eye to their suffering at the hands of interim government forces.
On Saturday, January 1, it was reported by Radio Dabanga that peaceful protests by IDPs continued to take place across Darfur as a rejection of the recent exit of UNAMID from the region. The people of Darfur, who have suffered the genocide and its consequences for more than 18 years, know this policy decision will only be a catastrophe for their personal safety and regional security. In recent weeks, displaced Darfuris have been publicly voicing their fears and concerns through peaceful protests in numerous displaced persons camps. They seek to remind the international community that government forces, now tasked with civilian protection, have not been held accountable for their crimes in Darfur and alarmingly continue to perpetuate violence against vulnerable communities.
On Thursday, December 31 the mandate for the joint United Nations and African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) ended after more than 13 years in Darfur. The withdrawal of peacekeeping troops will take place over the next six months, with all troops removed from Darfur by June 30, 2021. Extremely concerning is the resulting gap in civilian protection being immediately filled by Sudanese government forces. While the United Nations has expressed its plan to train them in sustainable human rights protection mechanisms through its new political mission, UNITAMS, we must make it clear that the RSF must not be trusted with civilian protection because their Bashir-era mandate has endangered the lives of millions of civilians.
Since the end of the UNAMID mandate last week, violent attacks have already broken out in Darfur. On January 1, violent incidents in South Darfur killed a displaced person and wounded four others, including two children. That same day, an armed group injured multiple hospital staff members in Central Darfur, while on a rampage that also resulted in a burned pharmacy and looted shops. It had not been one full a day after UNAMID’s exit, and government forces already failed to protect innocent Darfui civilians. These violent incidents are already validating the fears that both DWAG and the displaced people share.
As Sudan grapples with multiple humanitarian emergencies that threaten the national stability and security of the country, it is shameful that the international community now abandon displaced genocide survivors in Darfur. We share the fears of these displaced communities that without an independent civilian protection force, government forces will be able to continue their reign of terror across the region, with no accountability for their crimes. A rush to hand over civilian protection authority to government forces aligns only with the interim government’s political aspirations and not the interests of Darfur genocide survivors.
There is no reason to believe that Sudan’s government forces can effectively protect displaced civilians in Darfur. We at DWAG have previously expressed our concerns that this decision by the UNSC will only fuel a culture of impunity for criminals to escape any punishment for their crimes in Darfur. It is deeply disturbing that the international community is still choosing to ignore the pleas from genocide survivors, especially when documented violent clashes continue to threaten the safety of vulnerable communities.
We at DWAG recognize that the situation in Darfur demands our urgent attention, and now is the moment to act. We call on the international community and US government to fulfill the following demands:
- Listen to the concerns of displaced Darfuris still living in refugee camps and fearing for their safety, and recognize that the political aspirations of the interim government do not match the needs of the people.
- Create and enforce a civilian protection mandate that will last throughout the entirety of Sudan’s transitional period.
- Establish strong international presence with mechanisms for protection of human rights and verifiable measures to demonstrate progress across Sudan.
- Urge the interim government of Sudan to stop Sudanese forces from further perpetuating violence and terror on vulnerable displaced communities.
We again call on our supporters to demand that adequate independent civilian protection mechanisms be put in place for people in Darfur. Through our collective efforts and mobilization, we can pressure the international community to listen to the fears of displaced people and take effective action to safeguard their wellbeing. As global citizens, we have a responsibility to amplify the voices of Darfur genocide survivors and ensure that they are heard around the world and responded to by international change-makers.