Continued Military Hostilities, Sexual Violence, Attacks against Citizens Pushing Sudan into ‘Catastrophic’ Humanitarian Crisis, Speakers Warn Security Council
Continued violence in parts of Sudan, particularly sexual and ethnically targeted violence, risks engulfing the country in a prolonged conflict with regional spillover, senior United Nations officials told the Security Council today, as they warned that the country’s descent into a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe continues to deepen.
Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa, Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, said that fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces continues, particularly in Khartoum, Bahri, Omdurman and Darfur. However, while the East is relatively calm, there are indicators of active mobilization efforts in support of the Sudanese Armed Forces. “The humanitarian and protection needs are rising by the day with no signs of a reprieve,” she stressed, expressing deep alarm over the surge in sexual violence and recruitment of children into armed groups.
The United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) continues to denounce such acts, including ethnically motivated attacks, systematic looting, rape, and aerial bombardments, she went on to say. It has also named those responsible. She also reported a rising trend of pressuring civilians and tribal leaders to take sides in the war, adding that such action could lead to a wider civil conflict with ethnic and regional repercussions for decades to come. Warning that calls by some to continue the war to achieve a military victory will only contribute to destroying the country, she emphasized: “Now is the time to end this senseless war.”
Edem Wosornu, Director of Operations and Advocacy, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), also describing the harrowing situation that the Sudanese people are going through, reported that since the last briefing on 23 June, more than 1.4 million additional people have fled their homes. Having visited the country two weeks ago, she recounted the myriad of stories of sexual violence, harassment, and physical assaults. “From the lack of coverage of Sudan in the global media, one could be mistaken in believing that the situation was improving,” she said, adding: “This could not be further from the truth.”
Nearly four months into this conflict, more than 4 million people have now fled the violence — 3.2 million displaced internally and close to 900,000 who have crossed the border into Chad, Egypt, South Sudan, and other countries, she continued. Noting that negotiations regarding the delivering of aid are becoming increasingly complex, she stressed the need to conduct direct contact on humanitarian issues with concerned parties. In addition, the ability to scale up assistance remains constrained by delays in the issuance of visas and the granting of travel permits, she said.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members expressed deep alarm over the country’s worsening humanitarian situation, with many of the speakers strongly condemning the persistent sexual violence, as well as other crimes committed against civilians amidst the fighting.
The United Kingdom’s representative, describing the impact of the conflict on civilians as “catastrophic”, warned that Sudan is now among the worst in the world for aid access. Further, there is credible evidence to suggest serious violations of international humanitarian law have been committed by both the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces. “Those who have the ability to end this suffering should spare no effort to bring an end to the conflict,” she urged.
Some speakers, expressing concern about the conflict possibly spreading throughout Sudan and even beyond its borders, lauded diplomatic efforts undertaken by regional organizations, including that of the African Union, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the League of Arab States.
Mozambique’s delegate, also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, reiterated calls on the parties to cease hostilities and embrace dialogue and diplomacy. With the humanitarian crisis descending into a very dark place, he appealed to all armed groups of Sudan to refrain from fighting and help realize the aspirations of the Sudanese people. The people want peace and a return to normalcy, he declared.
Echoing that, Ecuador’s delegate underscored that the Sudanese people have been through enough, with continued sexual violence, indiscriminate attacks, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and attacks against schools and hospitals. “We cannot sit by in silence as violations of international humanitarian law and human rights are committed,” he stated.
“History is repeating itself in the most tragic way possible,” the representative of the United States, Council President for August, said in her national capacity. The horrific scenes out of Sudan unfortunately conjure up memories of the genocide committed in Darfur two decades ago, she said, condemning in the strongest term the recent reported atrocities.
Several Council members underscored the need to respect Sudan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, including the Russian Federation’s delegate, who emphasized that external interference in the sovereign affairs of Sudan could add fuel to the fire. More so, implementing unilateral sanctions could exacerbate the suffering of the people. Stressing the need to support State institutions in the country, she highlighted the road map to resolution, presented by the Sudanese authorities.
Clarifying his country’s stance, the representative of Sudan underlined that the war is not a war between two parties but, supported by a regional Power, a conflict where the Sudanese Armed Forces are defending Sudan’s people against an indiscriminate ethnical war. Further, the Forces are not involved in any sexual violence but are defending people from the perpetrators, he stated, asking Council members what their Governments would do if in this situation: watch militias raping women or deploy forces to defend people.
In addition, he stressed that the Government is very much cooperating with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Delayed visa issuances are to ensure the safety of aid workers, given that already 18 such personnel have been killed since the conflict began, he pointed out. The current crisis cannot be solved by the expanded mechanism and Sudan’s sovereignty must be respected, he said, calling for a flexible way to resume political talks while rejecting sanctions and foreign intervention.
REPORTS OF SECRETARY-GENERAL ON SUDAN AND SOUTH SUDAN
MARTHA AMA AKYAA POBEE, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa, Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, said that more than 100 days have passed since the eruption of fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces. Clashes between the parties continue in various parts of the country, particularly in Khartoum, Bahri, Omdurman and Darfur. With neither side achieving victory nor making any significant gains, fighting is continuing in neighbourhoods. This week the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces both ordered residents to leave their homes in a part of Omdurman, declaring it “an area of operations”. The brutal violence in El Geneina and Sirba are particularly concerning and could engulf the country in a prolonged ethnic conflict with regional spillovers. Welcoming Chad’s proposal to convene a grouping of Darfurian stakeholders to address the situation, she said that they should ensure the participation of armed groups, tribal leaders, civil society and women’s groups.
The situation in the two Kordofan and the Blue Nile states of Sudan continues to be fragile, with persistent military actions and frequent road closures, she continued. While the East is relatively calm, there are indicators of active mobilization efforts in support of the Sudanese Armed Forces. “The humanitarian and protection needs are rising by the day with no signs of a reprieve,” she reported, expressing deep concern that the situation on the ground is growing worse. Sexual violence continues to be perpetrated on a large scale and children continue to be killed or victimized or recruited into armed groups. The systematic abductions and killings of human rights defenders in Darfur and Khartoum are on the rise. The United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) has denounced ethnically motivated attacks in West Darfur, as well as systematic looting, rape, and aerial bombardments and has named those responsible.
Welcoming efforts undertaken by the African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), she commended the United States and Saudi Arabia for their role in facilitating negotiations between conflicting parties. “Civilians, tribal leaders and others are coming under increasing pressure to take sides in the war,” she noted, adding that such pressure will only lead to a civil war with ethnic and regional repercussions for decades to come. The voices of civil society, women’s rights groups, young people and resistance committees must be heard and the Mission continues to encourage their inclusivity. More so, Sudanese women are leading the way, calling for the immediate cessation of violence and accountability for human rights violations. Warning that calls by some to continue the war to achieve a military victory will only contribute to destroying the country, she emphasized: “Now is the time to end this senseless war.”
EDEM WOSORNU, Director of Operations and Advocacy, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that since the last briefing on 23 June, Sudan’s descent into a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe has only deepened. In these six weeks alone, more than 1.4 million additional people have fled their homes. When she visited the country two weeks ago, she heard stories of sexual violence, harassment and physical assaults, of husbands disappearing never to be seen again, and of education interrupted, careers ruined and livelihoods lost. “Everyone had a story of parents, children, colleagues and friends who had perished in this devastating conflict, with fears of many more to come as the warring factions push on, regardless of the consequences,” she said, warning: “From the lack of coverage of Sudan in the global media, one could be mistaken in believing that the situation was improving. This could not be further from the truth.”
Nearly four months into this conflict, more than 4 million people have now fled the violence — 3.2 million displaced internally and close to 900,000 who have crossed the border into Chad, Egypt, South Sudan and other countries, she continued. About 80 per cent of hospitals across the country are not functioning, and more than 20 million people, or over 40 per cent of the population, are facing acute food insecurity. The banking system has been heavily disrupted, as have public and civil institutions, including many Government functions. Electricity blackouts are extensive and schools are closed. “It is the story of a country and its people being driven to the point of collapse,” she reported, underscoring that the situation is particularly alarming where the conflict is at its most intense — notably in Darfur, Khartoum and Kordofan.
Nevertheless, humanitarian organizations have been deploying immense efforts to restore the flow of humanitarian supplies, particularly to the Darfur states, she said. On 3 August, following intensive negotiations with the parties, a convoy of 10 trucks was able to deliver 500 metric tons of improved seeds to East Darfur just in time before the planting window closes. Last week also saw the first delivery of food assistance into West Darfur from Chad. Stressing the importance of cross-border access into the Darfur region, she acknowledged the generosity of Sudan’s neighbours to facilitate these critical efforts. Assistance is also being provided in Chad to support the more than 350,000 people who have fled across the border. Nationwide, since this conflict started, more than 2.9 million people have received some form of humanitarian assistance, including cash or in-kind food assistance, health services, or access to basic water services. But this, unfortunately, represents only a fraction of the 18 million people in need, she added.
In Khartoum, a humanitarian convoy to the capital has not been granted passage to replenish supplies since late June, she said. Noting that negotiations under the Jeddah process are becoming increasingly complex, she underlined the urgency to re-establish a forum for direct and regular contact on humanitarian issues with the parties at a senior level in order to negotiate access and protect the space for humanitarian operations in Sudan. However, the ability to scale up assistance also remains constrained by delays in the issuance of visas and the granting of travel permits for movement within the country, she noted, adding: “We have asked the Sudanese authorities to ease procedures in these areas and to expedite approvals. We ask them to do so again today. Without adequate staff on the ground, it is extremely difficult for us to expand the delivery of assistance.” More so, the strong support of Member States is needed. The $2.6 billion Humanitarian Response Plan 2023 for Sudan is still only 24 per cent funded, she said, appealing to all Member States to come forward to fund the plan. Until a political resolution is reached, all parties must respect international humanitarian law and minimize human suffering, she emphasized.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), describing the impact of the conflict on civilians as “catastrophic”, warned that Sudan is now among the worst in the world for aid access. There is credible evidence to suggest serious violations of international humanitarian law have been committed by both the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces, which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. This includes incidents of sexual violence and air strikes in populated areas resulting in heavy loss of civilian life. Noting credible reports of the targeted killing of civilians and atrocities against specific ethnic groups in Darfur, with much of the bloodshed attributed to Rapid Support Forces units and allied militias, she welcomed the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s decision to commence investigations as well as diplomatic efforts of regional partners, including the African Union, IGAD and the League of Arab States, to restore peace to Sudan. “The people of Sudan have suffered far too long,” she said. “Those who have the ability to end this suffering should spare no effort to bring an end to the conflict”.
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation), expressing deep concern about the political situation in Sudan, underlined that the hostilities between units of the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces in the capital region have exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation in the country. Thousands of people have been killed and injured, more than 3 million people have become internally displaced, and hundreds of thousands fled to neighbouring countries. She called on the Sudanese parties to take immediate measures to put a definitive end to the armed confrontation, adding that any dispute can be solved with negotiations. Stressing the need to support State institutions in the country, she highlighted the road map to resolution, presented by the Sudanese authorities. She also described any external interference in the sovereign affairs of Sudan, which could add fuel to the fire of the conflict, as “unacceptable” and called on all to refrain from implementing illegitimate unilateral sanctions which only further exacerbate the suffering of the local population.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) called on the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces to immediately stop fighting and return to a peaceful and inclusive political process. “It is regrettable that almost four months have passed without any clear sign from the parties of a readiness to end hostilities,” he added. He urged both parties to seriously commit to international and regional efforts towards a long-term ceasefire, unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid and the resumption of political dialogue. The parties also must uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law and ensure the safety of civilians, including humanitarian personnel. All violence must stop immediately and obligations under international humanitarian law must be upheld by all. Also expressing concern that the deteriorated situation could pose a risk beyond the border, he commended Sudan’s neighbouring countries for hosting refugees despite their own humanitarian challenges.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) underscored that efforts must continue to alleviate the dire humanitarian situation facing millions of Sudanese. It is essential to secure food and water supplies as well as health services, as almost half the population is suffering from high levels of food insecurity. Attention must also be paid to the needs of displaced persons and refugees, she said, appealing to the international community to provide support to Sudan and neighbouring countries, given the lack of funding received by the United Nations and its humanitarian partners for this year. For its part, the United Arab Emirates provided emergency relief assistance, transporting more than 2,000 tons of medical and food items to Port Sudan and Chad to support Sudanese refugees. Stressing the need to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure and to secure unhindered humanitarian access, she called for the full implementation of the commitments reached in Jeddah.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique), also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, condemned the persisting attacks against civilians, hospitals and critical national infrastructure, as well as the perpetration of sexual abuses against women and girls. “Such acts are unacceptable, and they grossly violate international humanitarian law,” he stressed, reiterating calls on the parties to cease hostilities and embrace dialogue and diplomacy. He encouraged the efforts led by regional organizations, such as the African Union, IGAD and the League of Arab States, towards a sustainable solution to the fighting. He further welcomed the Communiqué of the IGAD Quartet meeting and urged warring parties to engage in the implementation of the Communiqué of the African Union Peace and Security Council.
He called on all armed groups of Sudan to refrain from participating in the conflict and help realize the aspirations of the Sudanese people for a de-escalation of hostilities. “With an estimated 24.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, we call on donor partners to step up their financial support to help to meet the target for the humanitarian response plan,” he stressed. Moreover, the growing needs of refugees and internally displaced peoples must be properly and adequately addressed. “We voice our collective rejection of any external interference in the ongoing conflict which would further complicate the situation on the ground,” he added.
SÉRGIO FRANÇA DANESE (Brazil), noting that the violent power struggle has plunged Sudan into disarray, condemned the atrocities committed by the warring parties and expressed regret that the protection of civilians has been utterly neglected in some parts of Sudan. The situation is a tragedy for the Sudanese people as well as a threat to the stability and prosperity of the region. The humanitarian effects have been deeply felt in the country’s borders with Egypt, Chad, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Libya and Eritrea. Sudan can rely on the United Nations, African Union, Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the Arab League and many of its key partners for mediation and good offices. Peaceful conflict resolution is necessary to build the bridge to a political transition that millions of Sudanese desire and deserve. “This is an important message for all Sudanese political forces to listen,” he said, urging the Council to act together. “Inaction will reify a heavy toll to the Sudanese people, who simply cannot afford it,” he added.
FRANCESCA GATT (Malta) strongly condemned the cycle of violence that has engulfed Sudan over the past 100 days and called on both parties to cease hostilities. She deplored the loss of life and the targeting of civilian infrastructure and humanitarian and medical personnel. Voicing concern over increasing reports of civilians being caught in the crossfire, she said children remain at high-risk, with over 2,000 having been killed and maimed since the start of the conflict. Further, she highlighted the extensive reports of sexual and gender-based violence in Khartoum and in El Geneina, including attacks on women’s human rights defenders and civil society organisations and the abductions of women and girls. Support for survivors’ access to medical care and psychosocial support must be given priority, she said, stressing the need to provide justice to victims and survivors of atrocity crimes. Regrettably, at least 18 humanitarian workers have been killed since the beginning of the conflict, and over 53 attacks were made on health-care facilities, she reported.
NATHALIE BROADHURST (France) voiced concern over the deteriorating security situation in Sudan and the recent large-scale attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure. The opening of new fronts in southern Kordofan is also a matter of concern, she added. It is imperative that the fighting ceases and all parties respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. Any external interference that contributes to prolonging the ongoing conflict will further aggravate the humanitarian situation and undermine regional stability. Calling on the international community to mobilize to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Sudan, she warned that 20 million people could be in a situation of severe food insecurity in Sudan by September. Despite the urgency of the situation, humanitarian aid cannot reach Khartoum and Darfur due to clashes and the absence of security guarantees, she cautioned, calling on all parties to guarantee safe, full and unimpeded access to all Sudanese territory.
ADRIAN DOMINIK HAURI (Switzerland), spotlighting the new escalation of violence accompanied by serious violations of international law, condemned in the strongest possible terms the continuing violence and attacks against civilians. “From Darfur we are receiving alarming allegations of ethnic killings, summary executions and sexual and gender-based violence committed primarily by the Rapid Support Forces and allied militias,” he said, adding that serious violations of children's rights are committed on a daily basis. It is essential that those responsible are held accountable for their actions in an effort to bring justice to the victims and prevent future violations. Nearly 4 million people — half of them children — have fled the conflict in search of protection and essential goods, while millions of people are on the brink of starvation as a result of the conflict. “The suffering of the Sudanese people cannot end until the fighting ceases,” he stressed.
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) urged conflicting parties to immediately stop the fighting and for all armed groups in Sudan to abstain from further participating in hostilities. “We are alarmed by figures indicating that more than 20 million Sudanese will experience acute food insecurity through September due to this conflict and already dire macroeconomic conditions,” she added. The credible reports from Sudan, and particularly from Darfur, are also deeply concerning, revealing instances of sexual and physical assaults on women, along with indiscriminate shooting of women and children. More troubling reports highlight ethnically targeted violence in Darfur, including ethnically motivated killings. “The suffering of civilians cannot be ignored,” she stressed. She commended all diplomatic and mediation efforts led by the African Union, IGAD, League of Arab States, the United Nations, and other regional stakeholders and called for close coordination on these efforts.
DAI BING (China) deplored the civilian casualties and dire humanitarian situation that mark the ongoing conflict, noting that the process of finding a political solution is continuing. It is important to establish a ceasefire and reach a resolution through dialogue, he said, welcoming regional diplomatic efforts by the African Union, IGAD and the League of Arab States. The international community outside the region should also provide necessary support. Expressing concern over the spillover effects on neighbouring countries, he called for increased humanitarian response capacity. In doing so, however, the sovereignty and ownership of Sudan must be respected. Sudanese parties must abide by international humanitarian law and grant unhindered aid access. He also stressed the importance of avoiding external interference or unilateral measures, including sanctions.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador) condemned the armed violence that has now gone on for 116 days and the harmful effects that it has had on the civilian population. “We cannot sit by in silence as violations of international humanitarian law and human rights are committed against the Sudanese people,” he stressed. They have, amongst other things, suffered sexual violence, indiscriminate attacks against civilians, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, attacks against schools and hospitals and killings based on ethnic origin. “Above all, we are concerned by the increase in cases of sexual violence,” he said, underscoring that the perpetrators of these crimes must be brought to justice. It is indispensable for the international community to continue contributing to humanitarian assistance that may provide some partial relief to the suffering of millions of Sudanese. “Now is the time to unite forces into a single, inclusive and consolidated peace process,” he said.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), Council President for August, speaking in her national capacity, called the Sudanese Government’s warning it would end the United Nations Mission in Sudan if the Special Representative of the Secretary-General participated in this meeting “unacceptable”. It has been over 100 days since fighting broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces. In that time, senseless violence has brought unthinkable suffering, she said, adding that the situation has become “a living hell”, with millions of people displaced, civilians shot dead in the streets, children orphaned and forcibly recruited and women brutally raped. The Rapid Support Forces and allied militias have carried out continued atrocities in West Darfur, including killings based on ethnicity, widespread sexual violence and the burning and looting of homes and villages. “History is repeating itself in the most tragic way possible,” she said, condemning in the strongest term these reported atrocities which are an ominous reminder of the horrific events that led the international community determine in 2004 that genocide had been committed in Darfur.
AL-HARITH IDRISS AL-HARITH MOHAMED (Sudan) said that his country has spared no effort to end the war that was imposed on the Government. Depicting this war as a war between two parties will not lead to anywhere and therefore is not strategic or realistic. A regional power supported this aggression. In fact, people started fighting against this aggression in self-defence, which is provided for under international law. Thus, the Sudanese Armed Forces are fighting in self-defence, not for power. They are defending Sudan’s people against indiscriminate ethnical war, which was condemned by many countries, the Troika [United States, the United Kingdom, and Norway] and human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Clarifying that the Mission did not send a letter that his Government was threatening to boycott the session, he reported that he received a confusing letter saying that he could not participate in today’s meeting under rule 37, but was later assured by the representative of the United States that he was entitled to participate.
On the matter of sexual violence, he said that his Government has transmitted complete information and the reports of the Anti-Violence Unit to all delegations and the Council. The Sudanese Armed Forces are not involved in any sexual or gender-based violence but are defending people from the perpetrators, who are well known and have been alluded to by some speakers here without naming names. He asked Council members what their Governments would do in this situation: watch militias raping women and looting properties or deploy forces to defend people. Turning to the humanitarian issue, he said the Government is cooperating with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. A higher committee was established by the Minister for Social Welfare to coordinate efforts. Here in New York, the Office and his delegation are working on visa approval. Delayed visa issuances are to ensure the safety of aid workers, given that already 18 such personnel have been killed since the conflict began, he said, emphasizing that this should not be seen as “bureaucratic impediments”. The current crisis cannot be solved by the expanded mechanism and Sudan’s sovereignty must be respected, he said, calling for a flexible way to resume political talks while rejecting sanctions and foreign intervention.