US, UK and Norway openly acknowledge RSF responsible for atrocities as Sudan’s citizens flee across borders
In what amounts to a dramatic shift in tone from statements made since the outbreak of hostilities in Sudan on 15th April, members of the Troika – the governments of the UK, US and Norway, have issued a joint statement today 27th June 2023, condemning widespread human rights abuses ‘mostly attributed to soldiers of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied militias’.
Whilst the statement urged both leaders of the Sudan Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces along with its associated militias to ensure respect for human rights and to hold accountable those responsible for attacks against civilians, the focus of condemnation was clearly directed at the RSF leadership. The statement read:
‘Troika envoys condemned the widespread human rights violations, conflict-related sexual violence, and targeted ethnic violence in Darfur, mostly attributed to soldiers of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied militias’
Since the commencement of hostilities, all joint statements have shown a reluctance to differentiate between the actions of the Sudan Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces. The statements have been careful to persistently hold all parties to the conflict equally responsible for assaults on civilians, despite overwhelming evidence that looting, kidnapping, sexual violence and killing of unarmed civilians was taking place at the hands of militia and rebel forces under the command of Hemeti.
Pundits have pondered why the sudden change of tone and whether it is in any way connected to the conflict in Ukraine and geo-political considerations of engaging with Wagner militia forces. It may simply be that the situation in West Darfur in recent days has become so desperate, echoing the worst days of the ravages of the Janjaweed during the period 2003 until 2005, when human rights organisations reported a clear programme of ethnic cleansing of non-Arabic Darfurians from Sudan.
Carnage in el-Geneina
Reports in the last few days from el-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, indicate a rapid deterioration in conditions in the region and a dramatic escalation of atrocities, marked so brutally last week by the abduction and subsequent cold blooded murder by RSF troops of the West Darfur Governor, Khamis Abakar, after he spoke by phone to a TV journalist in which conversation he blamed deaths of civilians on the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
One news report quoted eyewitnesses referring to the smell of rotting and decomposing corpses filling the streets in el-Geneina. A relief worker said that they had collected as many as 700 dead bodies and that double that number were still lying on the streets and inside some houses unable to be collected.
The violence is now so widespread that nobody feels safe. Shops and markets have been taken over by RSF militiamen, who when they have finished looting and pillaging, allow some civilians access to essential items in exchange for hard cash. Homes are robbed and their inhabitants raped and shot in cold blood.
In the 11 weeks since the fighting began, over 2.5 million people have been displaced, mostly crossing the border into Chad. 100’s of thousands more, remain trapped in their homes unable to risk the perilous journey out of the region. Aid workers have appealed for international intervention to provide a safe corridor for people to leave their homes. Leaders of neighbouring African countries have become increasingly weary of the possibility that the conflict may so easily spread across borders.
The Troika statement also expressed "deep concern" about the fighting in Blue Nile and South Kordofan and recognised the likelihood that this "risked further broadening the conflict".
The United Nations have reported that Hundreds of civilians have additionally fled over the border to Ethiopia in response to the fighting near to Kurmuk in Blue Nile and they warned that a record 25 million people in Sudan now need humanitarian aid and protection.