Violence across Sudan despite the ongoing pandemic crises
In June, violence in Sudan continued particularly in Darfur where millions of the displaced are still in camps while the country battled the COVID-19 pandemic with its limited resources and the weight of economic crisis. Attacks against indigenous Dumfries by Arab militias continued casualties and injuries, causing thousands to protest against the constant violence and injustice due to the government’s blind eye to the protection of its people and its ability to hold perpetrators accountable. To commemorate the first anniversaries of the June 3rd massacre and the following June 30th ‘March of Millions,’ the people of Sudan held demonstrations for the victims in solidarity. Meanwhile, former Darfur Janjaweed leader, Ali Kushayb, was finally arrested by the Central African Republic and transferred to ICC custody for his war crimes and crimes against humanity. His arrest spread hope for refugees and other victims as discussion of extradition with other suspects continues.
As of June 20th, Sudan’s Federal Ministry of Health reported a total of about 8,900 coronavirus cases with at least 548 deaths. Hospitals were shut down early in the month due to a shortage of medical staff, who feared for their safety and urged for protective equipment and regulations. With both the extended lockdowns and the global economic crisis, food prices have risen to more than double the previous year. Sudan now faces high prices, reductions in labor income, lack of access to food, and increased malnutrition.
Meanwhile, woman activist Maryam Hussein visited about 10 displacement camps to spread awareness of COVID-19. Despite the dangers women face in camps, Hussein stressed that without easy access to the internet, camp residents must be informed and aware of the dangers of leaving their houses. The technological limitations in the area remain an issue as residents may be unaware of, or dismissive towards, COVID-19 protocol, which could be linked to a general distrust in the government.
However, during the week of June 12th, Sudan received its first COVID-19 aid package from the European Union. Carrying medical equipment, vaccines, water purifiers, kits, medicine, and medical staff protective equipment, the EU Humanitarian Air Bridge is provided by funding from the EU in response to the COVID-19 crisis to support and strengthen global health and economic systems. A second flight arrived in Sudan on June 24th with 35 humanitarian workers to help with medical and humanitarian services.
CONFLICT LEADS TO MORE DISPLACED
In early June, at the Ethiopian-Sudanese border, a Sudanese captain was killed in an Ethiopian shifta raid. Three civilians, including a woman, were wounded, but this incident appears to be one of multiple reports of armed attacks on Sudanese people having been made with many dead or wounded. The Ethiopian Ministry of Affairs has acknowledged the incident and believes no hostility between the two countries is necessary. At least 5,000 Sudanese residents were displaced and left their homes in fear.
In the South Kordofan capital Kadugli, recent violence has caused about 4,000 families to flee to the Nuba Mountains, a rebel-held territory in South Sudan. In the past month, 775 families have been affected by violent clashes. At least 17 people have died, and the district’s health unit, water source, and multiple homes were destroyed and looted.
As the displaced population increases from recent conflicts, the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) released a statement regarding an increase of rape for displaced women in North Darfur. The announcement linked the increase of urinary fistula among girls to a 50% increase in rape and sexual violence. As a result of the coronavirus precautions, military power in the state has increased, leaving human and women’s rights activists vulnerable or often ignored. Exposed to violence from militias and armed security forces while working in precarious jobs, the network emphasizes that the struggles of women must be acknowledged as serious issues in order for authorities to properly attend to them.
THE ARREST OF ALI KUSHAYB
On June 9, 2020, Ali Muhammad Ali Abd–Al-Rahman, or commonly known as Ali Kushayb, was taken into the International Criminal Court (ICC) custody and suspected for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. Former senior Janjaweed commander, Ali Kushayb allegedly played a major role in civilian attacks and the violence against rebel forces and Sudanese citizens. As a mediator between the Janjaweed militia and the Sudanese government, he has reportedly committed serious violent crimes in the killing of civilians, rape, torture, and other cruel treatments.
The ICC issued arrest warrants for Kushayb in 2007 until Ali Kushayb, for fear of arrest, fled to the Central African Republic, where he surrendered and was then arrested on June 8, 2020. As of June 15, the war criminal was transferred to The Hague in the Netherlands to face justice.
News of Kushayb’s arrest has renewed hope for refugees. Most consider his arrest to the ICC a great victory, but only one of many on the path to justice. Refugees and other victims continue to encourage and demand the extradition of other suspects in Sudan to face trial with the ICC. Cooperation with the transitional government is necessary to hold suspects accountable for the full extent of their crimes committed in Darfur. The Sudanese government welcomed Kushayb’s arrest to the ICC and have agreed to further discuss the extradition of others.
IN MEMORY OF THE VICTIMS
June 3rd marked the first anniversary of the June 3rd massacre of a government attack during a sit-in, which left 127 protestors dead, about 700 injured, 70 raped, and over 100 missing. Leaders of the uprising honored the victims with speeches and Koran recitations whilst demonstrators marched and urged the investigation committee to prosecute those responsible.
The June 3rd massacre was a horrifying government attack on Sudanese civilians during a peaceful sit-in in Khartoum. While protesting for the removal of former President Bashir, military forces opened fire on hundreds of protestors. After about a year demanding an investigation on the incident, the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group working with the government, and other government forces were ultimately deemed responsible for the violence that ensued in an investigation report by the Sudanese Archive and the Human Rights Center Investigation Lab, UC Berkeley. The Prime Minister has released a statement to arrest those responsible, but the Rapid Support Forces has notably been integrated into the Sudan Armed Forces and has been thriving with a vast business empire since. Protests continue to demand accountability from the government in the prosecution process for the victims of the massacre.
Later in the month, following the arrest of Ali Kushayb, demonstrations were held in Mukjar to commemorate the deaths of the 79 people killed in the 2004 massacre. Standing on the square where Ali Kushayb allegedly opened fire on the civilians, demonstrators mourned for the dead and read the opening Sura from the Koran.
The West Darfur Network for the Protection of Displaced Women, as well as other civil organizations for motherhood and childhood, stood vigil with many others in solidarity for the victims of the 2004 massacre. Bringing attention to women’s rights, organizational leaders spoke of Kushayb’s trial and the pursuit of justice for those responsible for the genocide, rape, humiliation, and displacement of women in Darfur. Moreover, leaders demanded the recognition of women and their role in peacebuilding, activism, and government along with support for local projects and initiatives.
In another demonstration on June 30th, protestors marched in memory of last year’s June 30th ‘March of Millions’ when demonstrators demanded a civilian government and an investigation of the violent events from the June 3rd massacre. Ten people were killed on that day, allegedly by security forces and the Rapid Support Forces. One year later, the Sudanese Professional Association released a press statement, echoing the voices of many in the Sudanese community to “complete the goals of the glorious December revolution and correct the path of the transitional period.” Families of the victims sent a memorandum to the Sovereign Council and the Council of Ministers, demanding justice and remembrance, whilst massive marches took place in Khartoum in commemoration.