Adding Insult to Injury- Flooding and Climate Change in Sudan

By Ana Torres

Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) is extremely concerned about the several reports that have been circulated in the last few weeks about deadly floods across Sudan. Floods across Sudan have become more severe in the last 30 years. Last year, for instance, Sudan experienced the worst flooding in the country in 30 years. DWAG fears that this rainy season would result in the same or even more devastating situation as last year. For this, DWAG urges the interim Sudanese government and the international community to be prepared to assist those in need but also to ensure the security and well-being of the Sudanese people. 

In October 2020, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) reported that 875,120 people were affected by floods in Sudan, 92,556 houses damaged, and 82,468 houses destroyed. This led to the displacement of numerous people due to the magnitude of destruction caused by the floods, particularly people from North Darfur, Khartoum, Blue Nile, West Darfur, and Sennar, the states hit the worst. The floods also damaged several farmlands, and many large areas of farmland from these states were underwater, compromising food security. The number of people affected by floods is likely to continue increasing as, in the last five years, the number of people affected by floods in Sudan has drastically increased. In 2015, 51,310 people were affected in comparison to nearly 900,000 in 2020. 

Moreover, due to the poor governance of the previous regime, there were not enough efforts taken to mitigate the damage or mitigate future flooding situations. Now, after the overthrow of al-Bashir, Sudan is still experiencing mismanagement of crises. This is due to the fact that, despite a significant number of people in need after the flooding from last year, the funding allocated to respond to the emergency was extremely low. According to UN OCHA, last year, only 15% of the budget needed for healthcare and 22% of the budget needed for water and hygiene needs was allocated. This led to insufficient aid resources for all the people affected and exacerbated the already catastrophic levels of suffering of the people of Sudan, who were already vulnerable due to longstanding crises.  

With the current climate emergency, DWAG fears that the suffering of the Sudanese people would continue without proper management of the crises. A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicated that heavy rains fueled by warmer air will increase the number of deadly floods across the planet, among other consequences. This is particularly concerning in Sudan as to this day, climate change continues to affect the region as temperatures steadily rise and rainfall remains highly unpredictable.  

Thus far, this rainy season has resulted in several deadly floods. According to UN OCHA, heavy rains and flash flooding have so far affected 10 out of 18 states across Sudan, including El Gezira, El Gadarif, North Kordofan, River Nile state, South Darfur, South Kordofan, West Darfur, and White Nile. Also, the floods have affected over 15,700 people, and over 3,100 homes and an unconfirmed number of public infrastructure and farmlands have been either damaged or destroyed. This is dramatically increasing, as another report from UN OCHA states that the heavy rains and flash flooding have affected 8 out of the 18 states in Sudan and over 12,200 people. UN OCHA continues assessing the situation to confirm the number of people affected and identify their needs. 

The response from the interim Sudanese government and international aid organization is not sufficient to assist those in need. This is because “there are stockouts of relief supplies in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); shelter and non-food items; education; child protection, and gender-based violence.” Additionally, people from the eastern state of El Gadarif who have been displaced and sought shelter in schools are concerned about the lack of aid, including food and medicine for those in need, and called for immediate action from the interim government and aid organizations. It is imperative that the interim Sudanese government and international aid organizations step up their preparedness for this crisis and ensure the delivery of aid to those in need to prevent the mistakes and suffering of last year’s flooding. 

This lack of crisis management from the authorities is concerning, as these severe floods exacerbate the suffering of vulnerable communities such as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur and in other crises affected regions and survivors of gender-based violence (GBV).

During the rainy season, farmers cultivate their land, but when severe floods occur, the crops are damaged or underwater, leading to food insecurity. This is concerning due to the prevalence of food insecurity in Sudan. Darfur, for instance, is experiencing an increasing prevalence of food insecurity. According to the Food Security Monitoring System (FSMS), 64 percent of IDP households are food insecure in Darfur. However, providing assistance to IDPs is especially difficult during the rainy season, as flooding, heavy rains, and damaged roads lead to a limited humanitarian presence. The resources of humanitarian organizations have already been strained due to an increased number of displaced people throughout the region. Moreover, the flooding also affects the shelter of IDPs. For instance, in South Darfur, the flash floods from July 20 to July 24 hit four camps in the Nyala locality, resulting in more than 1,630 shelters being destroyed or damaged. DWAG fears the instability that will occur during the rainy season will only exacerbate the suffering. 

The effects of climate change are also particularly devastating for survivors of GBV, as the necessary resources for survivors are not available in every city. For instance, in Darfur, these resources are concentrated in the states’ capitals, making it difficult for women in more remote areas to access them due to the costs of transportation and services, stigmatization, and unsafe roads. And, as previously mentioned, flooding, heavy rains, and damaged roads, make it even more difficult for survivors to mobilize to seek these resources. DWAG urges the interim Sudanese government and the international community to take the necessary steps to expand the available services for survivors of GBV to seek health, psychological, and legal services.

DWAG calls upon the interim government to take immediate action to mitigate this crisis. This includes making a public statement announcing their plans and issuing an appeal to humanitarian agencies to intervene and provide relief across Sudan, and follow-up on efforts to meet the needs of people displaced by the floods. DWAG furthermore calls upon international humanitarian organizations, including the UN agencies operating in Sudan, to work toward providing food, clean water, safe shelter, and adequate health assistance to those in need. Only a joint effort by the interim government and international agencies can mitigate the crisis caused by climate change in Sudan. DWAG hopes to see decisive action for the well-being of the Sudanese people.  

Due to climate change, floods would continue to evolve into an emergency affecting the region. Therefore, it is also imperative that the interim government begins taking the necessary steps to ensure the well-being of the people in Darfur and throughout Sudan. Otherwise, floods will continue affecting the most vulnerable, causing more displacement and food insecurity. The Sudanese interim government must begin to invest, raise awareness, and commit to addressing environmental and climate change issues. Without sustainable measures to mitigate the climate crisis, floods will continue to become even more severe, disrupting any progress towards achieving sustainable peace in Sudan and Darfur.

Ana Torres is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. in Political Science with a specialization in International Relations and a minor in Human Rights. She is currently the Outreach and Partnership Building Intern for Darfur Women Action Group.

ICC Indictees Campaign

As DWAG kicks off our Indictee Tracker campaign to hold the interim Sudanese government accountable to their promise to turn over Harun, al Bashir, and Hussein to the International Criminal Court (ICC), we want to remind our network of their charges and why the immediate transfer to ICC custody is essential to securing justice for Darfur.

The most time-sensitive case is that of Ahmad Muhammad Harun. Harun is charged with 20 counts of crimes against humanity including murder, persecution, the forcible transfer of population, rape, inhumane acts, imprisonment or severe deprivation of, and torture. He is also charged with 22 counts of war crimes including murder, attacks against the civilian population, destruction of property, rape, pillaging, and outrage upon personal dignity. His arrest warrant was issued on April 27, 2007 for crimes committed between at least August 2003 to March 2004. The attacks were carried out by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the janjaweed militia on West Darfur villages (Kodoom, Bindisi, Mukjar, and Arawala). 

In his capacity as Minister of State for the Interior during 2003-2005, Harun leveraged the “Darfur Security Desk” against the people of Darfur. He also recruited, mobilised, funded and armed the janjaweed to attack in tandem with government forces (including local police, SAF, and intelligence agencies). After his tenure as Minister of State for the Interior, Harun served as Sudan’s Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs, Governor of South Kordofan, and Governor of North Kordofan before being imprisoned in the aftermath of the 2019 coup.

Harun must be immediately turned over to the ICC so he may be tried alongside Ali Kushayb. Ali Kushayb was a former leader of janjaweed forces who worked directly with Harun to secure the janjaweed with the resources and security to perpetrate the Darfur genocide. He is currently in ICC custody and awaiting a confirmation of charges. 151 victims have been authorized to testify during his trial. However, as both leaders conspired to enable attacks on West Darfur, their victims are one in the same. They have waited too long to see justice. Until Harun and Ali Kushayb are tried together, accountability for the heinous attacks on Kodoom, Bindisi, Mukjar, and Arawala between August 2003 – March 2004 cannot be fully realized.

Former President of the Republic of Sudan Omar Hassan Ahmad al Bashir has been in Sudanese custody since ousted from power on April 11, 2019. Al Bashir was the first sitting president to be charged by the ICC on March 4, 2009 and then again on July 12, 2010 for crimes committed between at least March 2003 and July 14, 2008 across Darfur. Al Bashir is charged with five counts of crimes against humanity including murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture, and rape. He is also charged with two counts of war crimes including intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population and against innocent individual civilians, and pillaging. Lastly, al Bashir is charged with three counts of genocide by means of killing, by causing serious bodily or mental harm, and by deliberately inflicting on each target group conditions of life calculated to bring about the group’s physical destruction. Such conditions of life include contaminating the water supply of entire communities, coordinating government forces and janjaweed militias to threaten villages, and preventing aid from reaching those in need. 

President al Bashir launched a genocidal campaign against the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa tribes for their perceived connection to opposition movements. The ICC charges him as a primary driver and implementer of the campaign in exercising full control of the government branches and janjaweed militias. Among his victims are thousands of murdered civilians, the rape of thousands of women, hundreds of thousands of civilians forcibly transferred. So far, 12 of these victims have been authorized to participate in the proceedings. DWAG strongly urges for the ICC to work with survivors and bring more victim testimony to the international court for justice after al Bashir is transferred to ICC custody.

Former Minister of National Defense Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein has also been in Sudanese custody since the aftermath of the 2019 coup. Hussein is charged with seven counts of crimes against humanity including persecution, murder, forcible transfer, rape, inhumane acts, imprisonment or severe deprivation of liberty, and torture. He is also charged with six counts of war crimes including murder, attacks against a civilian population, destruction of property, rape, pillaging, and outrage upon personal dignity. His arrest warrant was issued on March 1, 2012 for crimes committed between at least 2003 and 2004 across Darfur.

Hussein used his position as Minister of National Defense to coordinate government resources and armed forces to execute al Bashir’s genocidal campaign against Darfur. He actively recruited, armed, and funded local police and janjaweed alike to carry out civilian attacks against the people of Darfur. Hussein was instrumental in the attacks against the Fur populations of Kodoom, Bindisi, Mukjar, and Arawala. Prior to his tenure as Minister of National Defense, Hussein served as Minister of the Interior and Special Representative of the President in Darfur.

The people of Darfur have waited long enough to have their day in court and tell the world of the heinous crimes they endured. Darfur and the Two Areas continue to be plagued by violence and acts of genocide that were initially perpetrated and enabled by Harun, al Bashir, and Hussein. The interim government remains riddled with remnants of the previous administration intent on impeding the restoration of justice. The transfer of Harun, al Bashir, and Hussein is an essential step towards securing the confidence of the people of Darfur and fulfilling their promise of justice. The imprisonment of the indictees in Sudanese custody proves insufficient to the magnitude of their crimes. DWAG urges the interim government to keep their promise and immediately transfer the indictees to ICC custody. The interim government cannot waver in their commitment to serving Sudanese civilians, including and especially the diverse people of Darfur.

Un Women’s Generation Equality Forum

In light of UN Women’s Generation Equality Forum, Darfur Women Action Group is sharing how Darfuri women are answering to the devastating inequalities they face. Though an afterthought to most governments, gender inequality has bled into the world of genocide, making women significantly more vulnerable to violence, specifically sexual violence, than men. The women of Darfur are meeting this challenge with strength. 

To hear more voices from Darfur, read the stories below. They have been collected by Darfur Women Action Group as a way to raise awareness to the situation of women and girls in Darfur. They do not only show the horror of the mass atrocities in Darfur, but also the courage and resilience that these individuals have demonstrated in the face of the longest genocide in history. 

Between Unspeakable Suffering and Outstanding Resilience

My name is Hawa Mohamed and I lived in a beautiful village in Darfur surrounded by tall acacia trees. Towards the west, there was a green valley named Azum that provided us with mango, guavas, oranges, and beautiful gardens for six months during the rainy season. Toward the east, there were sugarcane farms. I considered everyone in my village to be rich. Through hard work, they cultivated all types of grains, vegetables, and fruits. They also raised goats, sheep, and cows. Most people had what they needed to survive and only went to the market to buy clothes, soap, and sugar. Everyone was very friendly and supportive. If you needed help building a house, the community would come together and finish the house in one day. Life was beautiful and I was very happy.

It Was The Happiest Moment, and I Will Never Have it Back

My name is Aisha Khalil and I am currently living in an internally displaced person (IDP) camp in central Darfur. I am here because my life changed in July 2003, when I was only 10 years old. It was a beautiful sunny day in my village. It was a market day, which was always the best day of the week because my mom, dad, and grandmother would purchase all sorts of fruits and snacks for my siblings and me. In the evening, we gathered outside as they distributed our gifts. Grandmother told us stories under the moonlight and pointed out this one star that was higher than usual. She said it was a sign that it wasn’t going to rain much this year. We all laughed and asked how she knew such things. It was the happiest moment, and I will never have it back.

I Went to Jail Because I am Not Afraid to Stand Up for Rape Victims

My name is Fatima Gazali. I was born in Kurdufan, an area in Western Sudan. My family is from Darfur and still live there, so I consider myself to be a Darfuri as well. As a child, I used to enjoy watching movies on television, particularly the ones that had female characters that were journalists. They seemed so empowered and independent – everything that I wanted to become someday. As a teenager, I began imitating those characters by writing for school magazines and newspapers. I eventually went to college to study journalism. In 2001, I graduated and started working for a local newspaper in the capital of Sudan.

Lost and Helpless At a Camp In Chad

My name is Amani E. and I am a refugee from Darfur currently living in the Cary Yary Refugee camp in eastern Chad. I was born in Amboro village, in north Darfur, and I used to work as an elementary school teacher. I loved my job. Now I am a widow, and I raise two beautiful daughters who have lost their dad.

Tigrayan Parallels with Darfur: A Dire Humanitarian Crisis and its Regional Implications

By Ana Torres

After seven months of fighting, the civil war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region shows no sign of cessation. The war rapidly went from conventional warfare to guerilla warfare that could continue for years. Despite the media and internet blackouts in the region, numerous testimonies of Tigrayans have emerged of war crimes, illustrating mass atrocities and the systematic rape of women, among other war crimes. Spillover from the prolonged domestic war risks triggering a territorial war on the Ethiopia-Sudan border, which would cause extensive damage to two war-torn countries.

Conflict erupted on November 4 when the Ethiopian government accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of attacking its military bases in Tigray in an attempt to overthrow the government. In response, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a ground and air military operation in the region. The military operation resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths during several massacres, and over 33,000 people fled to Sudan. According to Amnesty International, hundreds of civilians were killed in a knife-and-machete attack in the town of Mai-Kadra. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy declared victory on November 28 when the army entered the regional capital, Mekelle. Despite claims of victory, ongoing fighting continues to produce mounting death tolls and concerning reports of the perpetration of rape as a weapon of war.

The Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) is not the only force deployed in Tigray after the eruption of violence on November 4 and responsible for the war crimes committed. Ethiopia’s Amhara region sent troops to Tigray to support the ENDF. Amhara forces have been used by the government to reclaim western areas of Tigray and integrate them into the Amhara region. This deployment included members from the Fano militia, whose purpose is to defend ethnic Amharas. Reportedly the Ethiopian military and the Amhara liaison officers have provided ammunition, vehicles, and food to Fano. This war tactic is similar to when al-Bashir armed the Janjaweed militia to perpetrate the genocide in Darfur. Fano members claim that the militia has not attacked civilians or committed ethnic cleansing. However, reports from Tigrayans have indicated that Fano members have told residents that “no Tigrayan shall remain here [western Tigray]” and that “they won’t keep any man or boy alive.” Refugee accounts have pointed out that as the Amhara authorities control some offices of western Tigray, some Tigrayans were ordered to accept the Amhara identity or leave, and others were told to leave anyway.

The involvement of external actors has transformed the civil war into an internationalized civil war. The Eritrean government has also sent troops to support the ENDF military operation. For nearly four months, both countries denied the involvement of Eritrean forces despite reliable humanitarian reports of Eritrean forces’ participation in gang-rapes and massacres of hundreds of residents, particularly men and boys of Tigray. The increase of evidence of the involvement of Eritrean forces made it more difficult for the two governments to continue denying the involvement. On March 23, Abiy finally admitted to the involvement of Eritrea troops in Tigray. By March 26, Abiy announced that Eritrea had agreed to withdraw its troops from the Tigray region. However, Eritrean forces show no signs of withdrawal as of June 2021, and Eritrean soldiers continue to commit atrocities across the region.

The humanitarian situation in Tigray continues to deteriorate into catastrophic levels of suffering. 5.2 million people, 91 percent of Tigray’s population, need emergency food assistance. 350,000 Tigrayans as of June 11, 2021, including 30,000 severely malnourished children, currently face famine. Two million more are at dire risk of falling victim to their extreme conditions. Despite several calls to open access to humanitarian actors from the international community, Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers continue to block the distribution of humanitarian aid in direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Reports of gender-based violence and sexual assault plague the region. Hundreds of women rush to Tigray’s hospitals for “emergency contraception and HIV prevention drugs after being systematically raped, often gang-raped, by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers.” Survivors indicate that soldiers have weaponized sexual assault to spread HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases to weaken the population. Countless survivors suffer in silence as they fear reprisals by security forces and rejection in their communities and families. Despite Prime Minister Abiy’s public acknowledgement of the endemic use of rape, survivors and healthcare professionals alike fear reporting the extent of the targeted violence they see in fear of retaliation.

The stigma associated with gender-based violence is one tragedy of many which draws parallels to the Darfur genocide. The head of Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church, Abune Mathias, asserts that the atrocities committed in Tigray amount to genocide. However, not all entities have been upfront in their assessments of the conflict. The United Nations Security Council had five private meetings to discuss the situation before agreeing on a statement on April 22 expressing concern of the humanitarian situation in Tigray, particularly highlighting concern over the use of sexual violence against women and girls as a weapon of war. The United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged the reports of human rights abuses and atrocities, and acts of ethnic cleansing but has yet to call the situation a genocide.

The conflict has driven 63,110 refugees into eastern Sudan, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), triggering a complex aid operation in an already vulnerable region of the country. Sudan is still trying to recover from its own internal conflict, which has left 3.2 million internally displaced Sudanese. The influx of refugees is dangerously straining camps that already operate above capacity.

While refugees have been welcomed in local communities in eastern Sudan, the economic crisis has already plunged thousands into food insecurity. Since the overthrow of former president al-Bashir in April 2019, poorly executed economic policies have caused inflation to skyrocket to 363 percent in May 2021. Economic liberalization policies and the refugee influx have pushed up the prices of basic goods, and aid agencies are struggling to source food, water, and healthcare for populations in need. This has resulted in hundreds of protestors demonstrating across Sudan in June.

The World Food Programme (WFP) plays a critical role in providing life-saving food and nutrition support to refugees escaping the emergent famine back in Ethiopia. The flexible funding from Germany, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States has enabled WFP to divert $5.2 million from other humanitarian programs in Sudan towards the immediate response to refugees at the start of this emergency. Given the lack of capacity that the country has to host the refugees, the influx of those arriving in Sudan could lead to economic and developmental consequences for the country. Therefore, international actors must assist refugees while continuing to support developmental projects and pre-existing needs in Sudan.

The war has also flared existing tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan over the border known as al-Fashga. Since 1993, al-Fashga on the Sudanese side of the border has been occupied by Amhara farmers. In 2008, a de-facto agreement emerged where Ethiopia acknowledged the historic legal boundary putting al-Fashga inside Sudan, and Sudan granted Amhara farmers rights to cultivate the land. However, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed claims that the area belongs to Ethiopia. In November 2020, as the ENDF and Amhara troops entered the conflict in Tigray, Sudan expelled the Ethiopian farmers and their militias from the Al-Fashaga. By December, Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) forces gathered along the Sudanese side of the border to monitor the crossing of Tigrayan refugees and possible retreating TPLF forces.

Multiple skirmishes in late May and early June, including the recent kidnapping and killing of Sudanese farmers, have resulted in ENDF and SAF troops finding themselves in close proximity to one another.  On June 8, a Sudanese military source indicated that Ethiopia deployed extra troops along the border with Sudan and Amhara region. On June 10, Sudan met the Ethiopian military build-up with adjacent troops across the border. Major General Ibrahim Gabir, one of Sudan’s eleven Sovereign Council members, has stated, “But if they [Ethiopian troops] come into al-Fashga, we will kill them, yes.” Given the increase in troop posturing and the fact that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed relies heavily on the support of Ethiopia’s Amhara, the disputed region of al-Fashaga will continue to stoke tensions between the two war-stricken countries.

As the potential for clashes on the Ethiopia-Sudan border becomes increasingly likely, there are also concerns of a recurrence of violence along the Sudan-South Sudan border. Ethiopia currently supplies the totality of troops to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Abyei (UNISFA), the highly contested region along the Sudan-South Sudan border that remains at the heart of the tensions between the two countries. If Ethiopia withdraws its peacekeeping troops, the SAF may be forced to fill the security vacuum with troops, which could spark renewed tensions with South Sudan. There are also worries that Sudan could unilaterally expel those forces out of fear that Ethiopia would recommission these forces in the event of an outbreak of violence along its border—opening a new front against Sudan and vastly expanding their zone of conflict.

Darfur Women Action Group remains concerned about the rapidly deteriorating situation for innocent Tigrayan people and the consequences they will suffer from due to the widespread implications of this conflict. The scale of gender-based violence and utilization of rape as a weapon of war is reprehensible and must end immediately. The Sudanese interim government evidently remains committed to the militaristic aggression that characterized the Bashir regime during its 30 year reign, a stance that is contributing to the instability throughout the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia and Sudan have a history of engaging in proxy wars and supporting each other’s armed opposition groups, often with disastrous consequences for civilians, meaning that if relations continue to deteriorate, there is no shortage of armed groups for both sides to back. Thus, Darfur Women Action Group believes these tensions must be de-escalated before it results in greater regional instability.

The situation in Tigray is similar to that of Darfur, where mass atrocities occur daily, and little international action is taken to ensure that the government forces and their militias stop violations of international law. The international community must take immediate action and leave politics aside to ensure the protection of civilians in Tigray. As former Secretary of State Colin Powell emphasized in 2004 when referring to Darfur: “Call it a civil war. Call it ethnic cleansing. Call it genocide. Call it `none of the above.’ The reality is the same. There are people… who desperately need the help of the international community.”

As al-Bashir denied responsibility for the atrocities and genocide committed in Darfur by government forces and their militias, so does Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy, as he continues to falsely claim the military operation in Tigray is a legitimate means for establishing law and order. The international community must ensure actors committing violence against civilians, including crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, mass rapes, and genocide are held accountable. The people of Darfur and Tigray have waited too long for the justice they deserve.

Ana Torres is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. in Political Science with a specialization in International Relations and a minor in Human Rights. She is currently the Outreach and Partnership Building Intern for Darfur Women Action Group.

Ethiopia Conflict Aggravates Ongoing Humanitarian Crisis in Sudan

By Caroline Kinsella


By Tuesday, November 17, more than 27,000 Ethiopian refugees had crossed into Sudan. Most were women and children, who arrived in desperate need of medical attention, following a very long and challenging trek to safety across the border. The violent conflict began in early November between Ethiopia’s federal government and the federal north state of Tigray, forcing Ethiopian civilians to seek safety in Sudan. Yet Sudan is in the midst of its own humanitarian emergency involving ongoing violence against Darfuris and other marginalized populations, mass displacement, and an out of control COVID-19 crisis. As waves of Ethiopian refugees cross the border daily, humanitarian resources in Sudan have become exponentially strained. Should Sudan’s fragile transitional government decide to back one actor over another in the Ethiopia conflict, there may be catastrophic consequences for already suffering civilians and refugees seeking protection.


On Wednesday, November 4, Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, launched a military offensive against the Tigray region, controlled by the opposition-Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The Government of Ethiopia used recent TPLF local elections that defied federal orders and an alleged TPLF-orchestrated attack on a federal military base as justification for this operation against the region and opposition government. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also imposed a State of Emergency for the next six months in Tigray. Phone and internet services were immediately shut off in Tigray, making it extremely difficult for humanitarian groups to understand population needs during the government’s airstrikes on the region. As the fighting wages on, controversial attacks by both sides have led to the deaths of innocent civilians. Since November 10, an estimated 4,000 Ethiopian refugees have entered Sudan every day, with an expected 200,000 total to reach Sudan during this conflict.


In coordination with Sudan’s transitional government, international humanitarian agencies are at work responding to the immediate medical needs of Ethiopian refugees. Hygiene in the era of COVID-19 is a major concern, and clean water and soap are being delivered to towns at the border. There is also an effort to construct more latrines and temporary shelters for refugees. The World Food Programme and Muslim Aid are two agencies working to provide other relief items to refugees, including blankets, sleeping mats, and nutrition-packed meals. Additionally, Sudan’s Ministry of Health and Sudan Red Crescent have together created two clinics for health screenings and medical services. This week, UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch underscored the urgency for more international funding, as the needs of refugees are already overwhelming the abilities of current humanitarian initiatives.


Ethiopian refugees crossing the border find themselves entering another unstable nation. The Ethiopia conflict comes at a time when Sudan is facing a widespread and multi-layered humanitarian emergency, fueled by ongoing violent clashes, a worsening COVID-19 spread, natural disasters, and mass displacement. These events place additional burdens on the already resource-strained health system and humanitarian responses. At the end of October, an estimated one in four Sudanese faced food shortages, and many lacked access to essential medical services. New refugees fleeing Ethiopia will now face these challenges and more. By November 14, it was reported that there were intensifying food, shelter, and health care shortages in the areas of East Sudan where Ethiopians are seeking refuge. With new refugee camps already lacking humanitarian essentials, since local governments were initially ill-equipped to fund services, some refugees have begun to venture elsewhere into Sudan.


As Sudan grapples with its own country-wide emergencies, we do not yet know how the transitional government will become involved in the Ethiopian crisis, other than responding to the enormous migration of refugees. Following the ousting of former President al-Bashir in 2019, the new transitional government became tasked with ushering in a new democratic and civilian-led era for Sudan. A year and a half later, democracy is extremely fragile in Sudan, with many cracks widening even as a peace process is underway. Former President al-Bashir has still not been handed over to the ICC for prosecution for his orchestration of the systematic genocidal campaign in Darfur. During his regime, he also jeopardized Sudanese foreign relations and aid by controversially intervening in neighboring conflicts. 


The current Sudanese transitional government is barely new itself, because sitting in many seats of power are generals from the al-Bashir regime with direct links to the genocide in Darfur. It is still complicit or responsible for the ongoing attacks against innocent Darfuri civilians and refugee camps. The interim government, as well as the international community, has failed to bring perpetrators of mass rape and genocide in Darfur to justice. It is extremely alarming that the transitional government is fueling a culture of impunity for those who commit crimes against humanity and demonstrates time and time again that it cannot adequately protect civilians from harm. 


Therefore, the worsening crisis in Ethiopia and the surge of refugees entering Sudan are extremely worrisome to those who survived the genocide and human rights activists bringing aid to the region. Sudan’s border with Tigray has been closed since the conflict began in early November, but it is no stranger to violent attacks. Just this summer, thousands of Sudanese civilians living at the border fled the area following multiple raids by Ethiopian gunmen. These kidnappings, killings, crop destruction, and displacement created tense border relations. In light of this growing insecurity, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed met with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok in August to discuss strengthening cooperation between the two countries.


Now several months later, it appears as though Khartoum is attempting to remain minimally involved in the conflict between its neighbors. On Wednesday, November 11, Sudanese Prime Minister Hamdok called for the warring parties to stop the fighting and instead engage in peaceful negotiations with international mediators. Sudan has a history of involvement in Ethiopian and Eritrean policy matters, including supporting the TPLF and Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) decades ago. Yet if Sudanese Prime Minister Hamdok decides to support the TPLF, the Government of Ethiopia may take consequential actions to ensure instability and failure of comprehensive Sudanese peace accords. Preliminary research suggests that given the choice to back the TPLF and Eritrean opposition groups, Sudan’s losses outweigh gains. If the interim government aids one side over another, then the fighting will become regional and lead to even larger-scale suffering.


The conflict has also prompted statements by U.S. government officials. On November 6, U.S. Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) issued a joint statement with Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), Donald Beyer Jr. (D-VA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Jamie Raskin (R-MD), and Brad Sherman (D-CA) on the growing political instability in Ethiopia. They urged the Government of Ethiopia to respect the human rights of all citizens, called on the African Union and regional partners to mediate peaceful dialogues, and requested that the United States be on stand-by to provide diplomatic tools for transitional justice. The Assistant Secretary for U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs, Tibor Nagy, most recently announced on November 15 that the U.S. condemns recent TPLF attacks on Eritrea and efforts to “internalize the conflict in Tigray.” To date, no diplomatic talks have been successful at dissolving the conflict, and Ethiopian refugees continue to flock to safety in Sudan.


This is an enormous diplomatic and humanitarian test for the transitional government of Sudan and for all global citizens. As we watch the crisis unfolding from around the world, there are concrete and urgent actions that can and must be taken. First, we must raise awareness of the human suffering, by sharing the stories of Ethiopian refugees and calling attention to their humanitarian needs in displaced person camps. Second, we must pressure our local leaders and international changemakers to demand a ceasefire and open negotiations to end the suffering of innocent civilians. Additionally, there must be an expansion of humanitarian funding and life-saving assistance services to adequately respond to the new influx of refugees.


The genocide in Darfur has also taught us to prioritize the needs of women and girls in humanitarian responses, who often have unique trauma needs due to rape used as a tool of war. An unknown number of women and girls have been victims of sexual violence in the ongoing attempt to exterminate ethnic African tribes in Darfur. Yet too many suffer in silence due to social stigmas that prevent them from sharing their stories and accessing medical resources. Gender must always be at the forefront of humanitarian responses, and we must anticipate gender-based violence both during and after this conflict. In order to create a world in which women’s bodies are no longer strategically used weapons of warfare, we must take concrete actions to always believe survivors, respond to their medical needs, empower them to share their stories, and create systemic change that brings perpetrators to justice.


At this moment, we can anticipate many of the conflict’s potential impacts on civilian life. As the Ethiopia conflict intensifies, so too will human suffering. Actions by global citizens, international entities, and regional actors will determine how, if at all, the human rights of refugees are safeguarded now and in the post-conflict development period. We can harness international attention on Sudan’s treatment of refugees to demand the urgent need to create a more inclusive and peaceful future for Sudan. One that ensures that refugees crossing borders are protected and treated with dignity in accordance with international laws. One that brings justice to the victims and accountability for perpetrators of war crimes and gender-based violence.


There has still been no accountability for the genocide in Darfur, and now the transitional government is tasked with making foreign policy decisions that could have massive consequences for civilian life. This conflict may single-handedly define Sudan’s near diplomatic future, and the interim government of Sudan must ensure the stability of all nations involved. With so much at stake, and with the international spotlight temporarily on every movement of Sudan’s interim government, we must stand firm in our commitment to effectively protect the human rights of all people living in Sudan, demand an end to violence in Darfur, and bring long-awaited justice for survivors of the genocide.


Caroline Kinsella is a recent Boston University graduate, with a BA in International Relations and a double minor in Public Health and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Passionate about advancing gender equity and ending gender-based violence, she serves as the current policy intern for Darfur Women Action Group.


Sudanese Government and Rebel Alliances Sign Peace Agreement

DWAG welcomes the signing of the peace agreement between the Sudanese interim government leaders and the opposition groups as a great step toward stability in Sudan and urges the parties and mediators to make an effort to bring onboard non-signatories and put forth accountability measures that will ensure demonstration of political will for implementation. We further call for the prioritization of human security and the protection of civilians in Darfur and other crisis-affected regions as an initial step for peace in Sudan.

On October 3rd, Sudanese government leaders along with crucial members of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) gathered at the South Sudanese capital, Juba, to sign a comprehensive peace agreement. With a large international, regional, and local presence in Juba, the signing ceremony on October 3rd has long been anticipated. 

Coined by SRF’s Security General as a historic day for Sudan and an end to the war, the peace agreement promises a better reality for the country and a resolution to the conflict. However, implementation of the written policies and procedures leave many weary of the significance of the agreement and whether a notable change will follow through. The absence of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) at the signing ceremony also reflect substantial challenges to the peace process.

The peace deal sets out the terms for the start of a transitional period of three years and accentuates fundamental concerns of Sudan’s crises in five central tracks (Darfur, the Two Areas, central Sudan, eastern Sudan, and northern Sudan). After a year of intensive negotiations, the deal includes regional and national inclusion of eight core protocols to be implemented on all five tracks. Addressing issues of the integration of rebels forces into security forces as well as political representation, power-sharing, and economic rights, the agreement acknowledges and attacks root causes of conflict in Sudan, including governance, justice, equality, identity, religion, and land distribution. 

According to the security arrangements protocol, a new force of at least 12,000 will be installed in Darfur. Half of the group will consist of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), and police and security officers while the other half would consist of former rebels. The force is mandated to enforce civilian protection in conflict-affected regions, which would include Darfur. To address concerns over humanitarian relief, the return of displaced individuals and refugees, compensation, and redevelopment, the agreement proposes autonomy for the Two Areas and restoration of a single Darfur region to allow for a significant reduction of power in conflicted regions and an allocation of resources and aid where needed. On the topic of transitional justice, the Sudanese government also promises to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the transfer of the ICC indictees to face trial. Under the power-sharing protocol, 40% of power would be established by members of the Darfur track, 10% would be allocated to movements that signed the agreement, 30% of power to the government, and 20% to the Darfur leaders. 

On paper, the peace agreement signifies a great deal of progress for the Sudanese people as concerns of fundamental issues of civilian security, justice, and representation appear to ultimately be acknowledged and confronted by the Sudanese government. However, the execution of policies will be gradual and challenging for Sudan. DWAG, and many others, remain skeptical of the peace agreement and the absence of the two powerful rebel groups reinforce the uncertainty that will ensue the signing ceremony. With a history of signing partial deals, Sudan often lacked the political resolve and commitment to materialize its policies towards peace-keeping and implement them on the ground. 

For the millions still living in displacement and refugee camps, peace is not simply an agreement between leaders and celebration but the recognition of and commitment to their safety and security. It is the restoration of their stolen land, a sense of justice against their struggles with lawlessness, and a guarantee of their safe return to their lands of origin.  

DWAG, therefore, calls on all parties to ensure that peace must be inclusive and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the affected communities. We further call on all parties to allow for a detailed step-by-step plan for capacity-building and an increase in the participation of women on all levels of decision-making pertaining to peace agreements, their implementation, and the interim process. 

We call on the international community and the regional actors overseeing the peace process in Sudan to ensure that peace must be inclusive and accountability measures must be put in place to hold all parties accountable if they fail to implement the agreement.

We further call on the Sudanese interim government as well as the regional and international stakeholders to make an effort to bring both the Sudanese Liberation Movement — the largest Darfuri opposition group, led by Abdel Wahid El Nur — and Abdelaziz Al-Hilu of Nuba Mountains to address their concerns, respond to their demands and retrieve their signatures to ensure that peace and security arrangements are complete, comprehensive, and sustainable.

International Day of Nonviolence Statement

In commemoration of the International Day of Nonviolence, DWAG would like to condemn all forms of violence, particularly violence against women. As you may know, the historical crisis in Sudan has been characterized by violence and systematic attacks against innocent civilians. For thirty long years, former president Omar al-Bashir has led a bloody regime, responsible for the brutal abuse and genocide against millions in Darfur. Coined by the United Nations as the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century, the atrocities in Darfur now persist as a daunting reminder of the catastrophic consequences of violence left unchecked and injustice unaccounted for. The conflict in Darfur has since spilled over to neighboring areas in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, both areas severely impacted by the detrimental effects of long-term crises.

For decades, the Darfur region has seen political leaders abuse power to promote genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and systematic rape as a weapon of war without repercussions whilst millions suffered from their rule. Violence against women grew and continues to grow in areas like Darfur while the international community fails to address societally-ingrained misogyny. Gender-based violence, including rape, domestic abuse, sexual harassment, and sex trafficking, are utilized to target and demoralize women in their daily lives as a political tool to enforce strict control over women. And despite the recent formation of Sudan’s interim transitional government, millions continue to suffer from the lack of civilian protection and lasting implications from the former regime. Not only are major war criminals like al-Bashir, Ahmed Harun, and Hussein, indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) still at large and have yet to face justice, but violence remains rampant across the country, often instigated by the escalation of attacks from armed groups and lead to disastrous civilian casualties.

Yet despite three decades of insistent conflict, the people of Sudan have chosen to resist Sudan’s legacy of violence. The power of the people shone among the crowds, with typically women and youth at the forefront, who chose to participate in a peaceful movement for change in Sudan despite the brutal response by government forces. If anything, their determination of non-violence and ultimate ousting of al-Bashir has proven that nothing more powerful than a unified non-violence movement can change the rule of force.

DWAG, therefore, calls on the interim government of Sudan, the international community, and the United States to ensure that violence against civilians is stopped for good. Accountability of the perpetrators of violence must be prioritized, to ensure the prevention of future violence. Pursuing justice for the victims is a necessity to ensure that impunity for serious violent crimes such as genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and gender-based violence is not an option. Empowerment of the historically excluded, the marginalized, and those subjected to violence is particularly crucial towards ultimately stopping and preventing violence. Promotion of the rule of law, in combination with the building of institutional reforms to progress and improve institutional potential, is extremely essential for countries prone to crisis countries such as Sudan in order to replace the rule of force and promote non-violent mechanisms. The provision of resources for independent civil society is critical to sustaining the efforts of the non-violence movement in Sudan and across the globe.

We stand in solidarity with all who have experienced violence including domestic abuse in the United States and other parts of the world and demand that justice for the victims of all forms of violence. Institutional reform is the best answer to change the course of widespread violence everywhere.

Please join us to stand in solidarity and demand justice.


With gratitude,

Niemat Ahmadi, DWAG President

And the DWAG team