Violence Against Civilians Raging While the UN Abandoned Darfur
Two weeks ago on July 17th, a violent artillery attack on the Sortony camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Kabkabiya locality killed 17 people and severely injured 9 more. Thousands were forced from their homes without any international or domestic aid. In the days following the barbaric attack, hundreds of protestors in El Fasher decried the attack against vulnerable men and women and demanded that recently appointed wali (governor) of North Darfur, Nimir Mohamed Abdelrahman, and Prime Minister Hamdok swiftly bring those responsible to justice. In the wake of devastation left by the assault which left thousands without shelter or aid, the interim government has utterly failed to either protect civilians, respond to protesters demands or hold those attackers responsible. With only a public expression of regret from Governor Nimir Mohamed Abdelrahman, the interim government of Sudan has disgracefully attempted to sweep this massacre under the rug. Consequently, on July 30, in the neighboring Tawila locality, an armed attack on IDPs from the Zamzam camp left one person injured, five children missing, and hundreds displaced from their homes. Locals described the heavy artillery shelling that killed internally displaced men, women, and children and wiped out a place they called home for years as carried out by government forces. Left with no place to seek shelter, four displaced children between the ages of seven and eight died from exposure in the unforgiving climate.
It is well known that no armed tribal groups in Darfur have access to the heavy artillery used in the Sortony attack, providing strong evidence for state-sponsored groups to be the perpetrators.
These attacks are not isolated incidents; they’re the most recent in a systemic pattern of state-backed genocidal policy that has raged across Darfur for two decades. The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have a long, bloody history of perpetrating or being complicit in attacks against innocent civilians. They are also among the few groups capable of such an attack. The RSF, commanded by politically ambitious and corrupt General Hemedti, are rooted in the janjaweed militia which was nationalized under former President Omar al Bashir in order to perpetrate his genocidal campaign in Darfur. In the first seven months of 2021 alone, the RSF have been explicitly implicated or named responsible for 388 casualties throughout the Darfur region. Many suspect them of being accountable for hundreds more or for arming militant tribes with the intention to encourage and enable attacks on the people of Darfur. DWAG condemns the RSF in the strongest terms for their undeniable role in perpetrating the Darfur genocide. While General Hemedti and his forces remain unchecked by the interim government and international community, any hope of peace or security is impossible for the people of Darfur.
From just May through July of this year, DWAG has recorded 30 violent incidents across Darfur and the Two Areas, resulting in at least 165 civilian casualties. In all but two of these incidents, it was reported that no government intervention was enacted to protect innocent civilians. The grotesque pattern shows that this interim government has very little interest in protecting the people of Darfur or stopping the genocide. Instead, Prime Minister Hamdok and his government actively silence the people of Darfur while they regain the favor of the international community through diplomatic gestures and shallow economic reform.
In the attack on the Sortony camp, seven women and five children were among the 17 casualties. Women, especially displaced women, remain the most vulnerable population in Darfur. COVID-19’s strain on humanitarian aid has made waiting in bread lines and gathering firewood pandemic a breeding ground for rampant sexual assault and abuse according to the most recent UNFPA study on gender-based violence in Sudan. While numbers are impossible to estimate due to stigma and fear of retribution, women and children are targeted at a grossly disproportionate rate to men. The strategic choking of resources and destruction of fragile IDP communities seeks to undermine the security of Darfur communities and terrorize families. DWAG calls upon the interim government to not only ensure security for women in IDP camps, but to provide essential and confidential health and counseling services to victims of sexual violence.
These attacks continue to take place even after al-Bashir’s removal because of the inaction by the international community and the disgraceful decision by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to prematurely withdraw UN forces without any alternative or a reliable civilian protection force in Darfur. The situation in Darfur is a crisis of a global magnitude – millions remain unable to return home and have been forced to settle outside of Sudan. It is dismaying that the international community assumes that the interim government, led by the generals who forced the people of Darfur out of their homes, would one day change their heart and protect their victims. The presence of UN forces in a crisis as internationally known as Darfur and Sudan is extremely important not only to protect civilians, but also to help in creating an enabling environment for justice, peace, and the safe return of IDPS and refugees.
DWAG condemns the interim government in their complicity as perpetrators of the Darfur genocide deepen their foothold in the interim government and refusal to bring those responsible to justice.
As the US prepares to name the first US Ambassador to Sudan since 1996 to assist the political transition to civilian-led democracy, President Biden must withhold this diplomatic appointment until the interim government is fully led by a civilian government and divested from malignant remnants of the previous regime. An ambassador must not be named until the interim government can meet their promise of accountability and security in Darfur and Sudan at large.
DWAG urges our supporters to speak up and to echo our demands to compel the Biden administration to organize their policy in Sudan around prioritizing the protection of human rights and accountability for the most serious international crimes committed in Sudan. The perpetrators must know that impunity for such crimes is not an option and will not defy our commitment to justice. We ask our supporters to share this statement with your social media network to bring attention to the ongoing attacks and to not let the perpetrators get away with murder without accountability. Together, we must demand that our international leaders uphold their legal and moral obligation to protect genocide victims in Darfur or wherever they are and hold those responsible accountable
Thank you for your never-ending solidarity with the suffering people of Darfur and Sudan at large. With our collective effort and action we can end the suffering and the long impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of crimes in Darfur.
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