Another Fatal Attack in West Darfur – A Call for Civilian Protection

Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) is gravely concerned about the deadly attack that took place in West Darfur on Saturday, July 25th. At least 68 people were killed and 84 others were severely wounded in the Misterei massacre that took place over the weekend. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that the attack began at 4:30 AM Saturday morning from two directions, and continued for more than eight hours. Armed men—including members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF)—arrived on horseback, in vehicles, and on motorcycles. This is the second major attack in Misterei in a week, following the attack on peaceful protesters on July 17th that injured seventeen people. This chilling development is just another demonstration of the transitional government’s failure to protect the citizens of West Darfur, who have been plagued by violence for more than twenty years. 

DWAG would like to echo the calls of the West Darfur Doctors’ Committee, condemning the violence and acknowledging that the state’s Security Committee is to blame for allowing this violence to continue. West Darfur authorities have been slow in response to the recent attacks, which has cost countless lives. This attack is no short of continued attempts at genocide. The armed men have direct ties to the former regime, and this attack represents a failure on behalf of the West Darfur government, the Sovereign Council, and the Cabinet for their lack of urgency. Active members of the Resistance Committees in West Darfur, who have been impacted by the violence, have been warning of escalation for weeks. Armed groups have attacked peaceful sit-ins repeatedly with no response or intervention from authorities. 

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, in response to the recent attacks, announced on Sunday that he would be sending a joint force of army soldiers, paramilitaries of the RSF, and security officers to the region to combat the violence. However, given the fact that the RSF was involved in this attack on civilians, DWAG questions this decision. The same entities responsible for the violence that killed sixty people over the weekend cannot protect the citizens of West Darfur. The RSF militia is directly connected to the Al Bashir regime, officially integrating into the Sudan Armed Forces last August. The RSF is still directly connected to Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’, and it is concerning that despite some of their members being directly responsible for this attack on innocent civilians in Misterei, even more of their forces will be deployed to “protect” civilians in the Darfur region. Additionally, it is a failure on behalf of multiple government agencies for failing to listen to previous calls for action. Violence has continued to escalate in the region for weeks, and it took the death of nearly seventy people for the central government to respond. The people of West Darfur have very little trust in the RSF given the many times they have participated in violent attacks against the very citizens they are mandated to protect as part of the Sudan Armed Forces. It is imperative that the RSF is not allowed to continue to terrorize the citizens in West Darfur. 

As the country—and the international community—continue to combat the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Hamdok must ensure protection for the civilians of Darfur, so that they are not forced to fight two ‘pandemics’ at once. DWAG stands firm in this call to action for Prime Minister Hamdok. The people of Darfur are fighting two crises at once: the coronavirus and the continued violence in the region. A ceasefire must be implemented in the region, in combination with disarmament efforts, to ensure that the violence does not continue. The people of Darfur have suffered long enough. It is time that their repeated calls to action finally be answered. 

DWAG calls upon the international community to establish a strong UN peacekeeping force with a Chapter VII mandate in Darfur. The RSF cannot be responsible for protecting the citizens of Darfur, as their members are the ones responsible for committing these atrocities. In order to protect the citizens of Darfur, an independent peacekeeping force must be established in the region. DWAG calls upon Prime Minister Hamdok to urge the UN for support in establishing a peacekeeping force in Darfur. The prime minister has previously denied the need for UN peacekeepers in the region, but the violence and outcries of the Darfuri people reflect otherwise. A peacekeeping force can actually ensure the safety of the civilians there, unlike members of the RSF. A stronger RSF security force has done nothing to help the people, and it is time for the civilian population to get their voices heard. International intervention is imperative to de-escalating violence and saving Sudanese lives. Violence must end and accountability for perpetrators must be prioritized by holding those responsible, liable to their action.