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

More than 100 Dead After Five Weeks of Sudanese Floods

Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) is disheartened about the catastrophic floods that have severely damaged homes and displaced people in areas all over Sudan in the past five weeks and further calls for international attention. Since the beginning of August, at least 102 people have died due to the unprecedented floods and extreme rainfall. Affected areas not only include Khartoum, Blue Nile, and Darfur but 17 out of Sudan’s 18 states have been severely impacted by the floods and are in need of critical aid. 

Reports show that 46 more people are reportedly injured while over 64,000 homes were destroyed and more than 5,000 livestock has died. On September 5th, Sudan declared a state of emergency for a period of three months after half a million people lost their homes and over 100 have died. Radio Dabanga recently featured a video of a minibus, overturned and pinned down against rushing currents, with five passengers. In the area of Mafaza, a tornado destroyed schools and homes and led to great losses in neighboring villages. According to journalist Mohamed El Ameen, 30% of the people in the Red Sea state have fled their homes and water levels will continue to rise. On September 10th, record-breaking water levels threatened to ruin the ancient town of Merowe, home to important archaeological sites and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

As of September 11th, the Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources, Yasir Abbas, announced at a press conference that the unprecedented water levels and immense severity of the disaster were likely due to the narrowing of the river bed caused by urbanization. The Director of the Sudanese Civil Defense has called on the government to devise radical and practical legislation to prevent further house building near riverbeds and to safely relocate impacted people to safe spaces. 

The government, UN agencies, NGOs, and the private sector have responded with emergency assistance to affected families, but the initial forecast of 250,000 people affected was surpassed and a shortage of supplies and deliveries continue to leave many more helpless. The Floods Task Force currently coordinates humanitarian responses and government aid, but immediate care from the international community is urgently needed.

The coming days will be extremely difficult for the people of Sudan especially those who are already vulnerable and dealing with the long-standing crises. Everyone is on high alert and predicts emergency public health crises and the spread of communal diseases to increase.

DWAG, therefore, continues to call on the Interim Government of Sudan to take immediate action in the resolution of the crisis. This includes making a public statement announcing their plans for relief, particularly for the affected communities in Darfur and the remainder of the country, and follow-up efforts in meeting the needs of people displaced by the floods while also searching for those still missing. DWAG furthermore calls on international humanitarian organizations, including the UN agencies operating in Sudan, to work toward providing food, clean water, and safe shelter and adequate health assistance to avert major health crises. 

Only a joint effort by the Sudanese Government and international agencies can resolve this natural catastrophe. DWAG hopes to see decisive action for the sake of all victims affected. 

The people of Darfur are already vulnerable due to longstanding crises, and now the flood has exacerbated their suffering. Please join us to urge the interim government of Sudan and humanitarian agencies to stand up for the flood victims in Darfur.


Photo Credits: Radio Dabanga “Wad Madani, the capital of El Gezira, in August 2016 (RD)”

Al-Bashir of Sudan and the Genocide Crimes

Former president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, and two other indictees, Abdelraheem Hussein and Ahmed Haroun, all of whom have been charged with genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC), are in Sudanese custody. Two months ago, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok announced that the “government is fully prepared to co-operate with the ICC to facilitate access to those accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.”[1] The peace agreement initialed on August 31 between the Sudanese interim government and rebel groups also declared their joint commitment to fully cooperate with the ICC indictments. Mere collaboration with the ICC is not enough—the complex situation on the ground in Sudan and sensitive nature of these individuals’ trials necessitate a full extradition to the Hague. No documented progress towards cooperation or extradition has taken place.


Elements of Sudan’s own interim government and the international community agree that a full extradition to the Hague is in order. In February of this year, Mohammed Hassan al-Taishi, a member of Sudan’s sovereign council, announced that those wanted by the ICC would be handed over.[2] Still, Prosecutor of the ICC Fatou Bensouda said in June 2020 in an official statement that “the Court has yet to receive official communication from the Government of Sudan relating to any agreements reached in respect of the Court’s pending arrest warrants.”[3] There is no indication that the Government of Sudan has formally contacted the ICC since.


The Sudanese domestic courts have only sentenced al-Bashir to a two year prison sentence for financial corruption. They have yet to appropriately address his more serious domestic charges, which focus on his role in the 1989 coup and his brutal repression of protests during his 20-year reign.[4] At the International Criminal Court, al-Bashir would face charges that include five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes, and three counts of genocide.[5] When the ICC issued the arrest warrant for al-Bashir in 2009, he became the first and only sitting head of state wanted by the ICC. Under his regime, approximately 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million people were forced to flee from their homes. He oversaw the murder, forcible transfer, direct attack, and rape of thousands of civilians. The ICC’s charges hold al-Bashir accountable for the suffering he caused in Darfur.


It is crucial that al-Bashir answer for his crimes at the International Criminal Court. He must be held accountable for the atrocities that took place at his instruction. Darfur Women Action Group constantly called on the interim government to fulfill its legal obligation and arrange for a full extradition of al-Bashir and the other wanted criminals to the Hague. Recently both parties to the peace negotiations in Juba agreed to cooperate with the ICC and details of the criminals’ transfer will be included in the final Sudan peace agreement to be signed October 3rd.  Sudan must follow through on this commitment and comply with the ICC indictments. Today, accountability for the crime of genocide must not be a negotiation. The people of Darfur deserve justice.

By: Kylie Henry


[1] https://www.voanews.com/africa/sudan-ready-cooperate-icc-over-darfur-pm-says

[2] https://www.npr.org/2020/02/12/805128901/ousted-leader-of-sudan-to-face-war-crimes-charges-in-the-hague

[3] https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/item.aspx?name=200610-otp-statement-darfur

[4] https://af.reuters.com/article/idAFKBN25S4WQ

[5] https://www.icc-cpi.int/darfur/albashir



Bio: Kylie Henry is a junior at the George Washington University where she studies International Affairs with a minor in Economics. She hopes to pursue a career in international law after graduation. Kylie’s passion for genocide prevention and punishment began when she read Ambassador Power’s book, “A Problem From Hell.” She is currently the Outreach intern for Darfur Women Action Group, where she works to support DWAG’s mission to advocate for and empower genocide survivors.


Escalation of Violence in Kassala – Eastern Sudan

The Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) would like to express our grave concern over the escalation of events that happened last week due to the appointment of Kassala’s new civilian governor, Saleh Ammar, and the multiple casualties and injuries sustained during the violence that followed. In Eastern Sudan, reports of increased property damage and displacement since the peak of the conflict are still raising concern over the situation in Kassala.

On Tuesday, August 25th, a man was killed and 17 others were injured when opponents and supporters of Ammar’s appointment clashed in Kassala. The acting governor instilled a curfew for the next three days and deployed police and security forces to the town, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok ordered the “imposition of the prestige of the state and the Rule of Law” in the eastern Sudanese state. Saleh Ammar resided in Khartoum at the time and has postponed his arrival to the town due to the violence. On the next day, thousands of residents marched on the streets in support of the governor, demanding his speedy arrival to Kassala and ignoring the curfew. The demonstration continued peacefully as supporters urged the Sudanese government to allow Ammar’s return in the next 72 days.

For the next two consecutive days, violence erupted again in Kassala, leaving four dead and dozens of others wounded. Hundreds of people looted the Kassala Grand Market and set fire to shops before security forces dispersed the crowd. The violence occurred during the opposition protests in town when thousands of tribesmen marched through the Freedom Square, calling for the replacement of Ammar. 

Prime Minister Hamdok formed a ministerial delegation to Kassala to assess the situation, which concluded that much of the “growing chaos” in the town was due to the slow reaction from security forces to the Kassala violence and a lack of trust between civilians and armed forces due to their history of violence. A separate delegation was sent to the town for a peaceful coexistence initiative while the curfew in Kassala has been extended and a state of emergency was declared. 

However, the people in Kassala have grown weary of the violence. There has been an increase in people leaving the town and seeking refuge in neighboring areas. Shopkeepers are relocating their goods after the violence in the Grand Market, and meanwhile, activists are holding a vigil in Khartoum for the swift arrival of the new governor. 

The appointment of civilian governors has been a long-standing goal of the people since the revolution, but the mass disruptions caused by Saleh Ammar’s position in office expose a deeply rooted resistance to change prevalent among various groups in Sudan, despite the agreements made about a year ago. These disruptions have now cost multiple civilian lives as clashes re-emerge once again in Sudan. 

As Prime Minister Hamdok’s delegation revealed, the insistent violence in these areas is not isolated incidents but a part of a deeply political and social crisis regarding reform in Sudan. Militia, police, and other security forces have lost the trust of the people they are mandated to protect and with good reason. As frequent perpetrators of violence in Sudanese towns, groups such as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have not yet been held accountable for their crimes and continue to instigate violence on the streets. Not only does this endorse fear and insecurity among residents in Sudan, but it also discloses the numerous issues prevailing in the current Sudanese law enforcement and justice systems. Immediate effective action must be initiated in the state to put an end to the violence that proceeds to torment innocent Sudanese lives to this day. 

Prime Minister Hamdok must learn to not only take responsibility for and acknowledge the growing number of casualties and injuries across Sudan but also to apply proper measures to ensure and enforce the protection of civilians. DWAG calls upon the Sudanese government to act swiftly in response to people’s demand regarding their choice of who should be governing their state and take effective measures to halt violence among civilians. DWAG would further urge the international community to remain vigilant to the conflicts in Sudan as UN peacekeeping forces with a Chapter (VII) seven mandate must be readily deployed to ensure the safety of Sudan as well as the accountability of militia forces. International intervention is imperative to de-escalating the violence and in preserving the lives of the Sudanese people.