Despite the rhetoric of peace in Sudan, insecurity and violence continue to devastate the lives of the innocent civilians in Darfur. These are not isolated incidents. Rather, these systematic attacks on the Masalit people in El Geneina are a part of the Rapid Support Forces’ (RSF) well-calculated campaign against indigenous Africans in Darfur, a disturbing reproduction of genocidal violence to levels not seen since the early 2000s.
Notable incidents of mass violence in El Geneina reportedly instigated by the RSF include the January 16-17 clashes which left more than 160 people dead. The more recent incidents, for instance the eruption of violence on April 3 between Masalit and Arab tribes in the West Darfur capital of El Geneina, has resulted in more than 140 deaths. The RSF has been accused of supporting the recurrent attacks by gunmen on the internally displaced people (IDP) camps near El Geneina and has been deemed by many as the main cause of the violence in the region.
As violence in El Geneina continues to worsen, the governor (wali) of West Darfur, Mohamed El Doma, is appealing for urgent help from the federal government and international organizations. El Geneina was announced a disaster area last Tuesday April 20 due to deadly violence and an uptick in COVID-19 infections. As the displacement exponentially grows, the regional government has been unable to protect its civilians against these targeted attacks, resulting in their pleas for assistance while the interim government is failing to respond.
On April 27, the United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that since early April, 65,000 have been newly displaced in West Darfur alone resulting in a total population of 169,000 internally displaced people. This newly displaced population is in dire need of food, essential supplies, water, shelter, and protection. Likewise, more than 40% of the gathering sites have reported cases of gender-based violence.
As this violence continues, Vice Chairman of the Sovereignty Council Lt. General Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” has recognized the unprecedented bloodshed affecting the area. On the other hand, the Sudanese interim government has failed to Hemeti’s empty declaration was preceded by the arrival of the Chairman of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council Lt. General Abdelfattah El Burhan in El Geneina to investigate the situation in El Geneina. Hemeti, a former leader of the Janjaweed militia which instigated serious war crimes during the Darfur genocide, notably led the RSF during former president Omar Al-Bashir’s 2014-15 counter-insurgency campaign in Darfur that led to attacks against civilians including including indiscriminate aerial bombing, attacks on civilians, extrajudicial executions, rape and other sexual violence, torture, arbitrary detention and pillage.
This violence is, in part, due to the recent withdrawal of the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) from Darfur. Interviews with people on the ground conducted by The New Humanitarian have highlighted how the withdrawal of UNAMID has left a protection vacuum and has caused the increased violence that has been seen since January of this year.
Given the acknowledgement by Sudanese leaders of this unprecedented and disturbing violence, it is of tantamount importance that the interim government acts now to stop the ongoing violence in the region. The lack of concern shown from the interim government in its failure to provide protection and humanitarian intervention, coupled with legitimate public fear and distrust of the RSF, is a key impasse in the provision of security for the people of Darfur and needs to be adequately and urgently addressed.
Likewise as massive displacement, the COVID-19 pandemic, and conflict-related humanitarian disasters continue, the international community must immediately act to facilitate humanitarian aid and civilian protection in El Geneina and across Darfur where genocide victims still vulnerable to attacks.
Darfur Women Action Group remains vigilant and committed to continuing to draw attention to the situation. We urge the Sudanese interim government and the international community to act now to stop this violence before it reaches catastrophic levels. We also ask our supporters to use their voices and speak out on behalf of the people of Darfur.
Although the interim government is seeking normalization of relations with the international community, they must be held accountable for their lack of political will to establish peace in Darfur before they can gain support from the United States and the international community. Therefore, the Biden administration must prioritize accountability for genocide crimes, civilian protection, and the advancement of human rights as key priorities for any future diplomatic collaboration with Sudan.