BusinessMonths Of Futile Suffering, Death, Loss And Destruction

Months Of Futile Suffering, Death, Loss And Destruction


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As the conflict in Sudan approaches the sixth month, the atrocities in the region see no end in sight. Thousands of civilians have been killed, thousands injured and abused, and over 5.1. million have been forcibly displaced from their homes. More than one million are seeking refuge in neighboring countries. The conflict has pushed millions to the brink of poverty. More than 7.4 million children are without safe drinking water. At least 700,000 children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition. Among the ever-growing reports are the use of rape and sexual violence and the ethnic targeting of civilians in Darfur. Despite promises, these atrocities have not been investigated yet.

In August 2023, U.N. experts raised their concerns in relation to the brutal and widespread use of rape and sexual violence by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). According to the U.N. experts, women and girls have been subjected to enforced disappearance and acts tantamount thereto, forced to work, and sexually exploited. Reportedly, “hundreds of women have been detained by the RSF, held in inhuman or degrading conditions, subjected to sexual assault, and are vulnerable to sexual slavery. (…) It is alleged that men identified as members of the RSF are using rape and sexual violence [against] women and girls as tools to punish and terrorize communities. Some of the reported rapes appear to be ethnically and racially motivated.” The U.N. experts noted that “despite the RSF’s declared zero-tolerance policy for sexual and gender-based violence, the commission of these alleged crimes, among others, have repeatedly been attributed to the RSF.”

End of August 2023, the Sudan Conflict Observatory, a collaborative effort between Yale’s Humanitarian Research Lab (HRL) and the geographic information systems companies Esri and PlanetScape Ai, published the findings of their research into the situation in Nyala, South Darfur, warnings about the increased fighting between RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) within civilian neighborhoods. According to the report, Nyala has been reduced to a war zone. Between abductions, shelling, and clashes, Nyala’s security situation has become untenable and incredibly dangerous for those still living in the city. As the report explains, “heavy fighting erupted between August 10 and 28, 2023, and at least 60 people have been reportedly killed and 250 injured. Widespread reports of indiscriminate fighting have killed civilians and jeopardizes the safety and livelihood of civilian populations, including through damages to infrastructure. Nyala has been the epicenter of intermittent fighting in South Darfur since the beginning of the conflict but this is the worst violence in Nyala since RSF began an assault on the north part of the city in mid-July.” At least 50,000 people have left Nyala since August 11, 2023, but many civilians remain trapped in the city. Furthermore, the dire situation will affect other areas, including El-Fasher located 195 km away. Indeed, fighting in Nyala and control of the road linking the two cities will determine the human security conditions at El-Fasher.

In September 2023, the Sudan Conflict Observatory further reported on finding satellite imagery evidence of the alleged disposal of objects that are consistent with body bags containing human remains at a site of a possible mass grave in El-Geneina, West Darfur. The report noted that “[the] location has light-toned objects consistent with human remains enclosed within a body bag corroborates a report from Sky News and Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS) claims that this is a site of where decomposed bodies were reportedly dumped. This location has additional indicators which are consistent with other witness reports of body disposal in El-Geneina. Witnesses have reported that bodies have been disposed of in water catchments in proximity to the main highway connecting El-Geneina to Chad. Local actors report that this area is under the control of the RSF and that there are multiple credible reports of as many as 30 different mass grave sites in El-Geneina according to CNN and others.”

The report does not identify the people or organizations responsible for the presence of these objects consistent with alleged body disposal. Indeed, the evidence did not enable attribution for the apparent activity this report documents. However, it comments on the widespread and credible reports that the RSF and aligned forces committed alleged atrocities, including massacres, against civilians in El-Geneina. As the report concludes, “these atrocities mirror a pattern of targeted ethnic violence against non-Arab populations, the majority of which are from the Masalit and the Burgo tribes.” Indeed, U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Volker Türk, in a statement to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2023, described these attacks as “ethnically motivated attacks perpetrated by the RSF and allied Arab militia.”

Commenting on the situation in Sudan more broadly, U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Volker Türk stated that the last months have seen “futile suffering, death, loss and destruction. (…) There is no reprieve in sight.” His team collected testimonies from people who managed to flee to Chad and Ethiopia: “We heard stories of family members being killed or raped. Stories of their relatives being arrested, without reason. Of disappeared loved ones. Of piles of abandoned bodies in the streets. Of desperate, lingering hunger. Stories of a level of fear and uncertainty for their future unfelt before, despite the decades of turmoil in which Sudan has been embroiled. The unbearable story of a fifteen-year-old girl, attacked and raped, and taken away from her family.”

These reported atrocities must be met with comprehensive responses. Responses to help victims and survivors, and responses to stop further atrocities. Furthermore, all those responsible must be brought to justice. As the conflict approaches the sixth month, these responses are not in sight yet.



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