Explanation: The reason for Darfur’s transformation into a “humanitarian calamity and catastrophic human rights crisis”
Approximately 9 million individuals require humanitarian aid and there have been reports of approximately 4000 individuals being deliberately targeted and killed based on their ethnicity.
Recent worries have arisen about Darfur regressing back to the period of violent conflict and growing acts of violence last seen twenty years ago, resulting in the deaths of approximately 300,000 individuals and the displacement of millions.
What is currently occurring in Darfur? Here is a breakdown of the conflict.
What is the background or historical setting?
Darfur gets its name from the Arabic phrase “dar fur,” which translates to “the land of the Fur.” The Fur people used to lead the Islamic Sultanate of Darfur until the last Sultan was killed in 1916. Nowadays, Darfur is inhabited by around 80 tribes and ethnicities, including both nomadic and settled groups.
Although conflicts based on tribal and ethnic differences are not rare, the situation became more severe in 2003 when rebel groups, specifically the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), began using weapons to oppose the Sudanese Government. Their actions were a response to the unequal distribution of economic resources.
Sudanese Government forces, aided by a group of allied militia referred to as the Janjaweed, engaged in a conflict with rebel factions who were opposing the authoritarian leadership of former President Omar al-Bashir.
The outcome was a catastrophic impact on Darfur. An estimated 300,000 individuals perished and millions were uprooted, including 400,000 refugees who were coerced to seek shelter in nearby Chad.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) responded to these brutal acts by issuing warrants for the arrest of multiple high-ranking Sudanese officials, such as Omar al-Bashir, for committing crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.
Is there a repetition of history occurring in Darfur?
Despite occasional periods of decreased violence, Darfur saw a significant increase in conflict in April 2023, when the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Forces engaged in hostilities. This came after a period of relative calm during the presence of the joint UN-African Union mission, UNAMID.
In November, Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee, the Assistant Secretary-General for Africa at the UN, spoke to the Security Council about the situation in Sudan. She expressed concern over the escalating hostilities and the country’s current state of a severe humanitarian crisis and human rights emergency.
The recent upsurge of violence in Sudan’s Darfur region has caused concern that the horrific acts of the past may be happening again.
UNHCR has expressed concern about ongoing reports of sexual violence, torture, arbitrary killings, extortion of civilians, and targeted attacks against specific ethnic groups.
The UN’s human rights chief reports that in West Darfur, numerous individuals have lost their lives in attacks driven by ethnic motivations, carried out by the RSF and their allied militia.
“The progress made serves as a reminder of a tragic history that should never be repeated,” stated Volker Türk, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as he acknowledged the “months of fruitless agony, fatalities, devastation, and devastation.”
In July, the ICC prosecutor initiated a probe into purported war crimes and crimes against humanity in the area after mass graves containing the bodies of approximately 87 Masalit community members were found. The victims were reportedly killed by the RSF and associated militia groups.
Is the UN providing assistance to the people in Darfur?
Previously, the United Nations played a significant role in Darfur through the establishment of UNAMID by the Security Council in July 2007. The responsibilities of this mission included safeguarding civilians and aiding in the distribution of humanitarian aid by the UN and other relief groups.
On December 31, 2020, UNAMID completed its mission and the Government of Sudan assumed the task of safeguarding civilians in the area. This was made possible by a significant peace agreement between the Sudanese government and two armed factions in Darfur.
The United Nations’ UNITAMS mission was created to aid Sudan in its transition to a democratic government. This support included setting up the PCC, which played a crucial role in implementing the Darfur Track of the Juba Peace Agreement and preventing future political conflicts in Darfur.
In December of 2023, the United Nations Security Council made the decision to end the authority of UNITAMS and gradually decrease its activities within a three-month time frame, concluding on February 29th, 2024.
The UN Joint Human Rights Office has received concerning reports of 13 mass graves in El Geneina, located in western Darfur, and the surrounding areas. These reports are believed to be credible and suggest that the RSF and Arab militias have been targeting civilians, primarily from the Massalit community. If proven true, these actions could be considered as war crimes.
What about the present moment?
The United Nations expresses great concern for the state of Darfur, where infants are losing their lives in medical facilities, families are experiencing extreme malnutrition, and refugee camps have been destroyed.
Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee, representative of the UN, reported to the Security Council that there are ongoing instances of sexual and gender-based violence, including allegations of sexual violence committed by members of the Rapid Support Forces, as well as incidents of rape and sexual harassment involving the Sudanese Armed Forces.
Is assistance being provided?
The UN’s humanitarian organizations departed Darfur during the outbreak of the April 2023 conflict, resulting in the looting or destruction of several of their facilities. On certain occasions, they have come back to offer humanitarian aid when the security conditions permit.
In November, a group of UN partners successfully traveled to Central Darfur State in a road convoy. The journey, which took five days, allowed for the delivery of medical supplies from Kosti in White Nile State. This was the first time this was possible since the start of the conflict.
The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced that aid has been delivered from Chad to El Fasher, the main city in North Darfur, to help 185,000 individuals.
Numerous humanitarian workers have lost their lives in Darfur, while some continue to operate in exceedingly difficult circumstances in order to assist the local population.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has stated that Sudan is currently facing the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world. However, the plan to address this crisis is only 33% funded. OCHA has warned that without additional support, there is a high risk of thousands of people losing their lives.