Attacks in Darfur Require Accountability, Not Moral Equivalence

The United States Department of State released a statement in late April regarding the recent attacks in the Jebel Marra region of Sudan. You can read our summary of recent events in Jebel Marra on darfurwomenaction.org. The US statement had three major components. First, the United States expressed concern over the degree of violence and the ensuing humanitarian crisis which has been precipitated. Second, the United States called on all parties to cease military activities. Third, the United States urged that UNAMID, other UN agencies, and private humanitarian organizations be allowed into the crisis zone to provide aid to the recently displaced citizens.
Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) appreciates the concern expressed by the United States, reinforces its call for an end to the fighting, and unequivocally supports its demand that humanitarian aid be allowed into the region.
However, DWAG is exceptionally concerned about the US response to attacks by the Sudanese Government, which shifts the burden of responsibility of the recent violence from government forces alone to a shared responsibility by all groups. The recent fighting was undoubtedly initiated by government forces, and the history of government action in the region very clearly invalidates any moral equivalence between government and rebel forces. The US response lacks this necessary nuance and unduly dilutes the responsibility for the uptick in violence and the flood of newly displaced people that this violence has created.
DWAG must further remind the US Government that the recent attack is not an isolated incident but is part of a deliberate campaign of attacks against the people of Darfur which has been carried out by the al-Bashir regime for the last 15 years.
The context of the recent violence is enormously important. It is thus worth noting that the Government of Sudan is internationally recognized as perpetrating genocide in the region. Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell referred to the conflict in Darfur as genocide in 2004, and in 2009, President al-Bashir became the first sitting president ever indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The recent fighting in Jebel Marra was initiated by government forces, and sources on the ground confirmed that government forces alone had been seen perpetrating the wholesale destruction of villages: burning buildings, destroying crops, and stealing livestock. This destruction by government forces is what the displaced Darfuris are fleeing. Additionally, the Government of Sudan has a long, documented history of denying humanitarian organizations access to conflict zones in Darfur.
With these facts in mind, it is shocking to see the United States placing equal responsibility for the recent fighting on both sides of the conflict. DWAG urges the United States to hold the Government of Sudan accountable, by strongly condemning the al-Bashir regime for initiating the fighting and for the disproportionate level of violence during this fighting, including attacks overwhelmingly directed against civilians. The United States’ position of equal responsibility between rebel and government groups for recent attacks in Jebel Marra only emboldens al-Bashir.