Humanitarian Aid: Omar al-Bashir’s Unconventional Weapon of Choice

The Sudanese government has employed a vast array of tactics across the country in its prosecution of multiple war efforts, ranging from the indiscriminate use of cluster bombs to the utilization of sexual violence to quell restless minorities. Yet a common strategy used in the regions of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile consists in preventing humanitarian actors from reaching civilian populations. Such tactics have allowed the regime in Khartoum to advance its sectarian agenda by depriving entire populations of much needed assistance, a policy that has spawned widespread international opprobrium.

A report released by Amnesty International entitled ‘’Don’t We matter? Four Years of Unrelenting Attacks against Civilians of Sudan’s South Kordofan State’’ not only details alleged war crimes committed by Sudanese troops against civilians in the region, but also describes how the regime’s strategy of restricting vital supplies has compounded the human suffering yielded by the conflict. Nyagoah Tut, the group’s campaigner on Sudan and South Sudan, contends in an interview given to Al-Jazeera that the government’s refusal to allow humanitarian actors to operate in the area has ‘’ had a terrible impact on people’s ability to access adequate food, water and health care.’’ The lack of humanitarian supplies has been reflected in the uptick in reported cases of measles in the region, which have climbed to five times the annual average according to Unicef.

The regime’s strategy has not gone unnoticed by the international community. Resolution 2228, passed unanimously by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) earlier this summer, extended the authorization for the joint UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known by its acronym UNAMID, until June 30, 2016. The potential withdrawal of the peacekeeping force has been contingent on benchmarks that have been repeatedly rejected by the regime in Khartoum. Chief among these requirements is for Sudan to allow unhindered access of humanitarian aid. As a result, Sudan’s calls for the peacekeeping mission to be decommissioned by the end of the year have been meet with a firm rejection by the UNSC.

The response of the international community to the Sudanese government’s heinous disregard for civilians has been encouraging, yet has fallen short of a demonstrable victory. Even in areas where peacekeepers are deployed, atrocities continue to be committed with impunity as narrow mandates prevent UN and AU troops from taking meaningful actions to protect civilians. The international response to Khartoum’s war crimes thus warrants a reconfigured strategy, which after 12 years of genocide in Darfur is long overdue.