Coverage of Sudan’s new internal conflict, now entering its second month, has focused on the battle for Khartoum, the nation’s capital. But some of the worst fighting has taken place in El Geneina, capital of West Darfur state. On top of combat between the army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), clashes have broken out in the town between local RSF-aligned Arab militias and members of the Masalit ethnic group. By the count of local medical groups, the total death toll in El Geneina now exceeds 2,000, while more than 150,000 people from the town and surrounding areas have been displaced. Many have fled across the border to neighboring Chad.
The security situation has been better in Darfur’s other main towns since community leaders brokered ceasefires between the army and RSF—but some of these initiatives now appear to be breaking down. Across the country, over half the population needs aid—some 25 million people. This is the highest number ever recorded in Sudan, according to the UN, which has launched an appeal for $3 billion in funding. (The New Humanitarian)
The UN Human Rights Council on May 11 narrowly passed a resolution condemning violations of humanitarian law amid the violence sweeping Sudan. The resolution, which slammed violations of international law on both sides of the conflict, also expanded the mandate of a UN monitoring group in the country. It was adopted by 18 countries, and rejected by 15, including Sudan itself, with 14 abstentions.
Volker Türk, High Commissioner for Human Rights, strongly condemned the ongoing violence, while a panel of UN experts warned the conflict is having an grave impact on civilians:
Hundreds of civilians have been killed and thousands injured, including women and children, since the fighting began. The crisis has also resulted in hundreds of thousands of people being forcibly displaced from their homes in search of safety. Reports have indicated that civilians of all ages are experiencing various human rights abuses, including sexual assault and gender-based violence, as well as looting and shortages of food, water, healthcare, including reproductive healthcare, fuel and other basic goods and services, and collapse in communication channels.
The experts also called for unimpeded access to life-saving assistance and humanitarian aid, political negotiations for a civilian-led government, and accountability for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
The statement also lamented the exacerbation of what was already a serious crisis of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Before the new conflict erupted, Sudan had some 3.7 million IDPs. The ongoing violence has pushed another 800,000 people into that demographic, and another 250,000 have been forced to flee to neighboring countries, according to the latest UN Situation Report. (Jurist)
The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and RSF signed a two-week ceasefire agreement May 20, to facilitate the delivery of urgent humanitarian aid and restore essential services across the country. Mediated by the United States and Saudi Arabia, the agreement reaffirms the principles and commitments established in the Jeddah Declaration of Commitment to Protect the Civilians of Sudan, siged on May 11.
To ensure compliance with the ceasefire and coordinate humanitarian assistance, the parties have agreed to establish a Monitoring & Coordination Committee, with representatives from the SAF, RSF, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and international humanitarian agencies. Several previous attempts at a ceasefire ave failed to hold. (Sudan Tribune)
Photo: Remains of an IDP camp in El Geneina, via Radio Dabanga