Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) is alarmed by the reports of the looting of various former UN agencies’ compounds in El Fasher, North Darfur. The looting started on December 24-25 and has increased the region’s instability, as the vacuum created by the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur’s (UNAMID) withdrawal at the end of 2020 created a fragile foundation for peace and security throughout Darfur.
In early January, a large group of army soldiers, paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), police officers, and former rebel combatants raided UNAMID’s former headquarters of its remaining supplies and the current most extensive United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse in Darfur. This included the theft of four-wheel-drive vehicles, lorries, equipment, food items, and various other devices that DWAG fears will be used against the people of Sudan in their continued peaceful protests against the military junta and its coup led on October 25. This has caused an unprecedented threat and level of fear among UN agencies and international and national NGOs and has forced most to suspend their critical operations that provide lifesaving assistance for thousands of Darfuris, including internally-displaced people (IDPs) in the area.
In response, on December 31, the WFP suspended its operations after looting started on December 29 in all three of its facilities in the region. The WFP says the suspension could affect close to two million people. This is alarming, as an estimated 10.9 million people are food insecure in Sudan and in need of livelihood assistance.
The most recent incident began on Saturday, February 5 when an armed group attacked the former UNAMID headquarters in El Fasher, North Darfur. According to a military statement, Major General Fadhil El Malik of the Sudanese coalition forces and Lieutenant Muhammad Ezeldin of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) were killed in the armed conflict. The North Darfur Security Committee has begun an investigation into the incident. General Nimr Abdelrahman, the Governor of North Darfur, has directed all armed struggle movement forces to leave the city and move to predetermined assembly points within 72 hours.
We at DWAG are dismayed by the new humanitarian crisis emerging due to the looting of these sites and how it will continue disrupting the lives of Darfuris. Attacking, looting, and burning UN
agencies’ properties and interfering in other humanitarian operations constitutes a grave violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. Attacks against humanitarian agencies have been used to deepen the suffering of the genocide victims still living in camps, as their lives and livelihood have depended on humanitarian assistance for two decades. The resurgence of these tactics, which were also used by the Bashir regime, is causing IDPs to face further starvation, disease, and lack of lifesaving services.
Those on the ground believe that the looting, attacks and ensuing instability have occurred because of the coup d’etat. The continued use of starvation as a weapon of war in the longstanding crisis in Darfur has prolonged the suffering of the people of Darfur and is often ignored by the international community. Attacks on civilians in Darfur and across Sudan continue, and these recent incidents have occurred because of the failure of the international community to impose accountability measures on those responsible. The people of Darfur have suffered far too long, and the international community must pay attention to their suffering and heed their calls for peace, justice, and accountability in both this immediate crisis and the long term.
Therefore, DWAG calls upon the international community, the member states of the United Nations Security Council, particularly the United States government, to impose the following consequences on the military junta for these violations of international humanitarian law and the violence they have perpetrated since the end of October:
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