War in Sudan is ‘a crisis of epic proportions’ as atrocities abound

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The Sudanese people have endured “unbearable suffering” since the conflict started just over a year ago when an outbreak of fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) “brutally interrupted the political transition”, Rosemary DiCarlo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, said.

“This is a crisis of epic proportions; it is also wholly man-made,” she told ambassadors, stressing that both parties have failed to protect civilians.

Over 14,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands wounded, half the country’s population – 25 million people – need lifesaving assistance and more than 8.6 million people have been forced to flee their homes, including 1.8 million refugees.

Widespread atrocities

Allegations of atrocities abound,” she said, citing reports of widespread use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, of the recruitment of children by parties to the conflict and of extensive use of torture and prolonged arbitrary detention by both parties.

She said the UN stands ready to redouble efforts with its multilateral partners – including the African Union, Intergovernmental Authority for Development, the League of Arab States and key Member States and partners – to help end hostilities and foster inclusive and effective international mediation.

She said the UN Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Ramtane Lamamra, has engaged with national, regional and international stakeholders to promote the coordination of mediation initiatives, and the recent humanitarian conference in Paris emphasised the need for unity of purpose and action to end the fighting in Sudan.

Rosemary DiCarlo (centre), Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, briefs the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Sudan and South Sudan.

Rosemary DiCarlo (centre), Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, briefs the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Sudan and South Sudan.

External actors fuelling war

At the same time, all warring parties must uphold their obligations under international law and adhere to the Jeddah Declaration of Commitment to Protect the Civilians of Sudan, Ms. DiCarlo said, calling on all actors to exercise maximum restraint and avoid further bloodshed.

However the rival armies have been able to keep fighting in no small part thanks to the material support they receive from outside the Sudan, she said, adding that these external actors continue to flout the Council’s sanctions regime to support a political settlement and to fuel the conflict.

This is illegal, it is immoral and it must stop,” she said. “At this critical moment, in addition to global support for aid, we need to redouble our efforts to achieve peace in the Sudan.”

A child is screened for malnutrition in Gezira state in Sudan.

© UNICEF/Ahmed Elfatih Mohamdeen

A child is screened for malnutrition in Gezira state in Sudan.

‘The elephant in the room’

Echoing that point, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, High Representative for the Silencing the Guns initiative of the African Union Commission, said external interference has been “a major factor” stymying efforts to negotiate a ceasefire and to stop the war.

“External support in terms of supply of war materiel and other means has been the main reason why this war has lasted for so long,” he said via videolink from Post Sudan. “It is the elephant in the room.”

For its part, the African Union has been proactive, he said, recalling its swift action five days after the outbreak of fighting to form a mechanism to coordinate efforts as well as its subsequent drafting of a roadmap to peace and appointment of a High-Level Panel on Sudan.

Decades of development wiped out

Yet, the ongoing year-long war has already set Sudan back several decades, he said, adding that “it will take more than a generation to rebuild Sudan to its pre-war state.”

He said the war has also led to egregious violations of international human rights law, international humanitarian law and the laws governing the conduct of war.

“It must end,” he said, emphasising that the Jeddah process must speedily recommence with the full participation of the African Union to bring about an unconditional ceasefire to end Sudan’s suffering.

Edem Wosornu, Director of Operations and Advocacy at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), briefs the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Sudan and South Sudan.

Edem Wosornu, Director of Operations and Advocacy at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), briefs the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Sudan and South Sudan.

Humanitarian conditions worsening

Edem Wosornu, director of operations and advocacy at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that one year on, the outlook for the people of Sudan is “bleak”.

Extremely concerning levels of conflict-related sexual violence continue to be reported, and aid workers, health workers and local volunteers are being killed, injured, harassed and arrested with impunity, she said, speaking on behalf of UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths.

In addition, the spiralling violence in recent weeks poses an extreme and immediate danger to the 800,000 civilians who reside in El Fasher and risks triggering further clashes in other parts of Darfur, where more than nine million people are in dire need of assistance, she said.

Famine prevention plan

Meanwhile, food insecurity in Sudan has reached record levels, with 18 million people facing acute hunger, a number that is set to surge as the lean season fast approaches, Ms. Wosornu said, noting that OCHA had launched a famine prevention plan last week.

“If we are to avert famine, the parties must take urgent steps to facilitate humanitarian relief for all civilians in need, as required under international humanitarian law,” she said.

What is needed now is scaled up action to protect humanitarian workers to deliver lifesaving aid, more funds and more international engagement to silence the guns, she said.

A school and centre for displaced people in West Darfur, supported by Save the Children, were destroyed in late April 2023 due to ongoing fighting in Sudan. (file)

A school and centre for displaced people in West Darfur, supported by Save the Children, were destroyed in late April 2023 due to ongoing fighting in Sudan. (file)

‘The people of Sudan cannot wait’

“We need a fundamental change in the way we support Sudan,” Ms. Wosornu said. “The people of Sudan cannot wait another month, week or even day for their suffering to stop. Every day that passes puts more lives at risk.”

Expressing gratitude for pledges made at the recent Paris humanitarian conference on Sudan, she said funds must be disbursed as soon as possible and that “we have a very narrow window to respond”.

“Within the coming six weeks, we need to preposition lifesaving supplies before the rainy season starts in June. We need to get seeds into the hands of farmers before the planting season in June, and cash into the pockets of displaced people before they fall even deeper into hunger.”

While OCHA will “do everything we can”, Ms. Wosornu said “we cannot do this alone.”

“We need your help,” she told Council members. “Now is the time to act, before it is too late. Millions of lives depend on us.”



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