On Tuesday morning, Radio Dabanga reported that Russian troops have been spotted in Um Dafug locality, South Darfur state. This report noted 500 Russian troops and 50 vehicles, as well as other military equipment stationed in the area. Additionally, the Russian troops were reported to have completed construction of an area for landing helicopters. We a received this report with great concern. DWAG writes to raise the alarm about the danger and the implication of Russian troops establishing a military base in Darfur and what that means to the people of Darfur. If it is allowed, it will be another phase of the Darfur genocide that the international community — including the United states — must avert.
There is no current international force capable of monitoring Russian activity in South Darfur. The international peacekeeping force in Darfur, UNAMID, is decreasing its presence significantly. This is part of a trend of decline which Russia, as a political ally of the al-Bashir regime, has pushed throughout the history of UNAMID. In July this year, the UN Security Council cut the mandated maximum authorized size of UNAMID forces from 13,763 to 4,050. This follows a trend of general sizing down of UNAMID, as seen on the chart below. The UN Deputy Under-Secretary General for Field Support declared this week that UNAMID intends to be entirely out of Darfur by 2020, though they are poised to return at any time should they be needed.Putting Russian troops on the border between Sudan and CAR has been discussed for several months. Both the United States and France expressed displeasure at this idea. Western powers do not want a heavy Russian presence in the Central Africa Republic, where Russia is taking a lead in supporting the government with arms sales and technical military training. There are reports that the Russian private military contractor company Wagner is operating in CAR. Wagner has previously deployed Russian private military contractors in Syria and Eastern Ukraine.
The closest UNAMID force to Um Dafug is one Pakistani Infantry Company in Buram, roughly 75 miles to the North-West. Next is one Egyptian Infantry Company in Graida, over 100 miles North-West, and two Ethiopian Infantry Companies in Mukhjar roughly 150 miles to the North. The point is, UNAMID fundamentally does not have the capacity to effectively monitor what Russian troops are doing in South Darfur. Even if they did have this capacity, UNAMID has proven useless in protecting the people of Darfur from Government militia attacks, let alone Russian troops.
In addition to Russian diplomacy supporting the al-Bashir regime at the UN, Russia has also had a significant military role in the government’s campaign in Darfur. This is because Russia is heavily responsible for arming the government of Sudan throughout the genocide in Darfur. Since the genocide began in 2003, Russia has delivered to Sudan:
These weapons constitute 47% of the arms imports to Sudan throughout the period 2003-2017, according to SIPRI estimates. These sales were also in violation of international law. The UN placed an arms embargo on Darfur in 2005, though sales of arms to Sudan were legal so long as the weapons did not end up in Darfur. Amnesty International reported in 2012 that there were credible reports Russian weapons were being used in Darfur. The government of Sudan method of attack often involves indiscriminately shelling villages, killing civilians and forcing many into displacement.
Darfur need peace and accountability, not Russian troops putting the weight of Russian military might behind a genocidal Sudanese regime. This report is extremely alarming and must be immediately addressed. We call on the United States and the member states of the UNSC to publicly denounce Russian troops present in Darfur and demand that Russian must withdraw its troops from Darfur.