The conflict in Sudan rose to a new level in 2023 when the power struggle between two rival factions Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), took a violent turn. This resulted in extreme human rights violations.
The Sudanese army, led by de facto leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, is in constant battle with Hemedti, which Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo leads.
Over the years, the factions have started conflicting with one another. Moreover, this conflict emerged following unsuccessful discussions about merging the RSF into the Sudanese army. The main issue revolved around determining the hierarchy in their new arrangement.
Today’s situation is dire as people fight for their basic human rights during the inhumane conflict.
Highlights of Human Rights Violations
Mass Grave in West Darfur
In July 2023, a mass grave containing the remains of 87 individuals was discovered in West Darfur, Sudan. This grim discovery prompted the UN’s high commissioner for Human Rights to call for a comprehensive and independent investigation into the events occurring in that region.
This incident is the most recent distressing development to emerge from Sudan, a nation mired in conflict since April. The conflict ignited when rival groups clashed, resulting in extensive devastation.
Death, Injuries, and Home Displacement
In the subsequent three months, a staggering 4 million people have been forced to flee their homes, while thousands are believed to have lost their lives, and even more have sustained injuries. Entire neighborhoods have been obliterated.
Disturbingly, UN agencies have received credible accounts of 21 instances of conflict-related sexual violence involving at least 57 women and girls. Shockingly, in one such incident, up to 20 women were reportedly subjected to rape in a single attack.
Killings Signalling Genocide
The situation is further compounded by reports of extrajudicial killings, ethnically motivated violence, and widespread famine. A former UN humanitarian coordinator has described the ongoing events in Sudan as displaying “all the signature characteristics of genocide.”
Peace talks, which were underway, were abruptly halted the previous month due to ongoing violations of ceasefires by both sides.
Since May, the issue of food insecurity has intensified significantly, impacting over 20.3 million individuals, almost twice the previous number.
Alarmingly, around 700,000 children are now facing the imminent threat of severe malnutrition and even death. The economic situation is deteriorating rapidly, and the healthcare system is teetering on the brink of collapse.
At the beginning of August, the Sudanese Ministry of Health revealed a dire situation, indicating that out of 130 hospitals in Khartoum, a staggering 100 of them were no longer operational.
Response of International Bodies
International Criminal Court (ICC)
The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced an investigation into fresh allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s West Darfur region.
Two decades ago, this region endured severe atrocities and violence. Now, it’s again under scrutiny for humanitarian affairs as the discovery of a mass grave containing 87 victims comes to light.
The ICC prosecutor voiced concern that history might repeat itself without action. The Sudanese army clashes with the RSF (Rapid Support Forces) in Khartoum, the capital. The RSF’s involvement in a new Darfur conflict is evident. These events draw alarming parallels with the Janjaweed militias, the RSF’s precursor, accused of genocide two decades ago.
Reports indicate that the RSF is continuing a similar pattern of warfare, targeting civilians in their homes and causing widespread destruction in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur.
The ICC’s investigation also encompasses home burnings, looting, and a focus on crimes involving children and sexual and gender-based violence.
Amidst the ongoing violence, United Nations (UN) agencies are dedicated to aiding survivors. The UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) actively offers assistance.
They manage gender-based violence cases and provide critical sexual and reproductive care. It includes clinical management of rape cases.
Furthermore, the UNFPA aims to establish secure spaces for women and girls. It would distribute essential dignity kits, train service providers, and expand remote services to accommodate limited physical access.
Collaborating with other health partners, the WHO (World Health Organization) is expediting access to emergency health supplies in conjunction with UNFPA.
Within a broader framework of protection initiatives, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) delivers comprehensive support to survivors. This includes medical and psychosocial assistance.
Meanwhile, UNICEF focuses on procuring post-rape kits, minimizing risk factors, empowering women and girls, and implementing preventive and responsive measures.
Neighbors to Sudan
The neighboring countries of Sudan, including Ethiopia, Chad, the Central African Republic, Libya, and South Sudan, have experienced internal political upheavals and conflicts in recent years.
This has raised concerns that prolonged and escalated fighting within Sudan could exacerbate the instability of a region already in a fragile state. Of particular concern is Egypt, which fears that the conflict could negatively impact its economy and border security.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi recently orchestrated a significant meeting to address the conflict, attended by leaders from the seven countries closest to Sudan (including Eritrea).
The objective was to establish a durable ceasefire. Notably absent from the summit were RSF and the Sudanese army representatives. However, both groups expressed approval for the meeting through social media channels.
During an African Union-led negotiation proposed by El-Sissi, he urged both sides to engage in talks. He emphasized that all hostilities would cease during these negotiations.
Although the summit aimed to address the crisis, it has faced criticism. Ahead of the meeting, Sudan’s ambassador to Egypt reacted coolly to the inter-country discussions concerning Sudan’s situation.
The ambassador expressed concern that “external forces” were effectively interfering. However, the involvement of multiple parties further complicates the situation.
In 2023, the turmoil in Sudan stands as a stark embodiment of human rights violations. The ongoing conflict and atrocities expose vulnerable populations to unimaginable suffering, demanding urgent international attention.
As UN agencies strive to aid survivors and mitigate the crisis, global efforts must unite to address the gravity of the situation. It offers hope for a future where the protection of human rights is prime.