9611th Meeting (PM)

One Year After Fighting Erupted between Warring Parties in Sudan, Civilian Plight Remains Bleak, Famine Looms, Under-Secretary-General Tells Security Council

One year after fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group brutally interrupted Sudan’s democratic political transition, the outlook for its people is bleak, as conflict continues to rage, and the risk of famine is imminent, a senior United Nations official today told the Security Council, urging scaled-up action by the parties to protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian access.

Despite calls for a ceasefire, “the warring parties have stepped up preparations for further fighting,” said Rosemary DiCarlo, the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affair, underscoring the need to bring an immediate end to the war ravaging Sudan. 

The conflict started in Khartoum but has since engulfed large parts of the country, and it continues to spread, she observed, noting a possible imminent Rapid Support Forces attack on El Fasher and clashes between the Rapid Support Forces and Sudanese Armed Forces-aligned members of the Joint Protection Forces in Mellit.  “Fighting in El Fasher could unleash bloody intercommunal strife throughout Darfur” and further impede the delivery of humanitarian access, she cautioned.  Beyond Darfur, greater Khartoum continues to be the epicentre of the fighting. 

The fact that the parties have been able to sustain their confrontation “is in no small part thanks to the material support they receive from outside Sudan,” she emphasized, noting that these external actors continue to flout the sanctions regime imposed by the Council to support a political settlement, thereby fuelling the conflict.  “This is illegal, it is immoral, and it must stop,” she asserted.

On the alarming humanitarian situation in the country, she said that, since 15 April 2023, over 14,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands wounded.  Further, half the country’s population — 25 million people — need lifesaving assistance, while more than 8.6 million have been forced to flee their homes, including 1.8 million refugees.  Also, allegations of atrocities abound, with reports of widespread use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, the recruitment of children by parties to the conflict, and extensive use of torture and prolonged arbitrary detention by both parties. 

Detailing the UN’s efforts for a durable cessation of hostilities and effective international mediation, she cited the Jeddah platform as “a promising vehicle” for dialogue between the warring parties to reach agreement on a ceasefire and transitional security arrangements.  However, she emphasized that a renewed push for peace also requires continued efforts towards Sudan’s democratic transition.

“The people of Sudan cannot wait another month, week or even day — for their suffering to stop,” said Edem Wosornu, Director of Operations and Advocacy of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), speaking on behalf of Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.  She noted it has been just over a year since Sudan was plunged into “an unthinkable catastrophe”. 

On April 15 and the days that followed, the world watched in horror as Khartoum descended into conflict, she recalled, adding that residential neighborhoods became battlegrounds and civilians fled the city, lugging whatever possessions they could carry.  “Little did we know then how much worse it would get, how fast and far the conflict would spread across the country, how starvation and disease would surge, and how almost 9 million people would be forced to flee their homes,” she said.

On 13 April — following weeks of rising tensions and airstrikes — Rapid Support Forces-affiliated militias attacked and burned villages west of El Fasher, she continued.  Since then, clashes in the eastern and northern parts of the city have displaced over 36,000 people.  She warned that the violence poses an extreme danger to the 800,000 civilians who reside in El Fasher and risks triggering further violence in other parts of Darfur — where more than 9 million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

She spotlighted the humanitarian conference on Sudan, held on 15 April in April, which resulted in new pledges of funding for the humanitarian response.  Noting the record levels of food insecurity in Sudan, with 18 million people facing acute hunger, she asserted:  “We have a very narrow window to respond.  This is now.”  The conference also discussed urgently required humanitarian access, she said, stressing that humanitarians must be able to reach affected communities “wherever they are and through all possible routes”.

Mohamed Ibn Chambas, High Representative for the Silencing the Guns Initiative of the African Union Commission, stressed that “the war has set the country back several decades, and it will take more than a generation to rebuild Sudan to its pre-war state”.  The prospects of Sudan attaining the Sustainable Development Goals, or the goals of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 look “ever so bleak”, condemning millions of Sudanese to poverty and suffering for decades to come.

Spreading from Khartoum to the main agricultural production centre — El Gezira State — the war has severe implications for food production, he cautioned.  Also, the international community’s efforts to bring peace to Darfur — which is once again witnessing ethnic cleansing and inter-ethnic conflict — “have been hugely set back”, he observed, urging for effectively coordinated efforts to mediate the crisis.  However, external interference — “the elephant in the room” — undermines the efforts to negotiate a ceasefire and is “the main reason this war has lasted for so long”.

He detailed the African Union’s efforts in bringing peace to Sudan, including its road map for the resolution of the conflict. Additionally, the appointment of the High-Level Panel on Sudan in January 2024 reflects the Union’s mediation efforts in Sudan as it engages the Sudanese actors to implement the road map.  He underlined that the Council’s support for the Panel will further enhance the Union’s collaboration with the UN in Silencing the Guns in Sudan and allow the Sudanese people to live in peace and dignity. 

When the floor opened for discussion, numerous Council Members sounded the alarm over the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the country, calling for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire and the unimpeded access of humanitarian relief.

“One year ago, two rival generals sent their armies into battle and set Sudan on a path to death, destruction and devastation,” observed the representative of the United States, adding:  “War has turned Sudan into a living hell.”  Also spotlighting the price paid by civilians — the highest, as is true in any conflict — he urged a surging of humanitarian aid to those in need. On that, he noted that the United States is the largest donor of humanitarian aid to the response for Sudan and its neighbours, having provided more than $1 billion since 2023.

Expressing concern over growing calls to arm civilians amidst widespread mobilization, the representative of Ecuador spotlighted the potential for deepened intra-community tensions and further ethnic violence.  Persistent armed conflict is worsening the humanitarian crisis and “peace cannot wait”, he urged.

The representative of Switzerland stated that the struggle for power between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces “is a struggle against the civilian population and against their hope and determination to live in freedom and dignity”.  Underscoring that the fighting must cease so that “enormous protection needs” can be met, he said that at the recent conference in Paris to refocus the international community’s attention and make urgent commitments,  Switzerland pledged an additional $21 million for 2024.

In that vein, France’s representative said that her country — who along with the European Union and Germany, organized the conference for Sudan and its neighbours — said it enabled pledges of €2 billion.  For its part, France will allocate €110 million to meet the needs of the people in those countries.  She said the declaration adopted at the conference includes calls on the parties to cease hostilities and guarantee unfettered humanitarian access. “We must remain united so there is no second anniversary of this conflict,” she urged.

Even the first anniversary, however, is “an unacceptable milestone in an unjustifiable conflict”, stressed the United Kingdom’s representative, also noting that her country will double its humanitarian aid to almost $110 million over the next year.  However, she pointed out that it will not reach those in need without sustained access.  Echoing concern over access, the representative of the Republic of Korea nevertheless joined others in welcoming pledges made at the Paris conference and reported that his country was “pleased” to contribute to those efforts.

Also welcoming the Paris conference, Slovenia’s representative said that it provided a much-needed platform for boosting collective humanitarian funding and advocating for aid access to prevent mass starvation.  He also underlined, however, the need for unhindered humanitarian access across borders and conflict lines.  Expressing concern over renewed fighting around El Fasher, he spotlighted the city’s importance as a haven for civilians and as “an indispensable humanitarian hub”.

Echoing that, the representative of Malta, Council President for April, joined other Council members in pointing out that a siege by the Rapid Support Forces on El Fasher could result in “horrific humanitarian consequences” for the internally displaced persons present there.  “In a war that has already killed thousands, we cannot afford the devastation of a major UN humanitarian hub that distributes life-saving assistance across all five Darfur states,” she underscored. Also welcoming the Paris conference, she said her country provided a financial contribution to support the Sudan Humanitarian Fund.

Japan’s representative similarly noted her country’s contribution of approximately $149 million since 2023 to support internally displaced persons, refugees and returnees in Sudan and neighbouring countries.  She also added her voice to a call made by many today — that Member States must refrain from external interference.  Also reminding States of their obligation to comply with the arms embargo pursuant to resolution 1556 (2004), she underlined the importance of the mandate of the Panel of Experts concerning Sudan renewed by resolution 2725 (2024).

“It is never enough to call on external actors to abstain from interfering in the conflict in Sudan,” stressed the representative of Algeria, also speaking for Guyana, Mozambique and Sierra Leone.  He pointed out that there is a sanctions regime in place, also recalling the provisions of Council resolutions regarding the transfer of arms.  While external interference must be publicly and firmly condemned, he urged those involved to desist and yield to dialogue, cooperation and international law.

China’s representative, meanwhile, emphasized that the conflict in Sudan can trace its origin to external pressure, interference and “a forcible push for democratic transition”.  For its part, the international community must avoid forcing its will on Sudan and, noting the recent Paris conference, he expressed hope that those concerned will honour their financial pledges and avoid politicizing humanitarian action.

Along those lines, the representative of the Russian Federation said that all humanitarian issues should be resolved through central authorities and expressed regret that — despite its supposedly humanitarian nature — the hosts of the Paris conference “gave it a political dimension” by not inviting the Sudanese parties involved.  Also stating that the conflict in Sudan persists not because of the “ambitions of the main players” — but because of the inability and unwillingness to assist Sudan with real solutions — she called for efforts to fix root causes, not their consequences.  “If you have mice in your home, there is no use blaming the cat for eating them,” she observed.

The representative of Sudan said to silence the guns, the cause of the conflict must be diagnosed.  “There are several elephants in the room,” he said, responding to Mr. Chambas.  The war in Sudan — caused by the Rapid Support Forces’ deliberate escalation — would not have begun without the support of the United Arab Emirates, which provides military, logistical and political support to the Forces.  Underscoring the need to “call the sponsors of this war by their name”, he said that, while Sudan has been combating impunity, the Council is better equipped to take practical steps against those parties that are exacerbating the situation.  In this regard, he underscored that the Rapid Support Forces should be designated as a terrorist organization.

To end the conflict, the voice of the African Union must be amplified, he continued.  On humanitarian assistance, he said that his Government has opened crossing points by land, air and sea. “If there were impediments to humanitarian assistance, how would the UN manage to deliver aid to 8 million people?” he asked. However, he emphasized that to fully address the humanitarian challenges, the hostilities must cease. Also, the United Arab Emirates — the sponsor of the war in Sudan — must be stripped of any role in Sudan’s future. Meanwhile, he noted that Iran is not playing any role in the Sudanese conflict.  Stressing the need to respect Sudan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he stated:  “At the end of the day, the Sudanese people should have the final say.”

For information media. Not an official record.