Kenyan President William Ruto says the four-day conflict in Sudan has already reached atrocious levels, including violation of international law.
In an unusual statement on Wednesday, Dr Ruto warned that Sudan’s warring parties had shown a “real danger” of ballooning the conflict beyond its borders, making the region unstable.
“Kenya is alarmed that a misunderstanding over a single outstanding item in the political framework agreement, namely the timeframe for the reintegration of Rapid Support Forces (RSF) into the Sudan armed forces, has degenerated into violent conflict,” Dr Ruto said in a recorded video from State House, Nairobi.
He said the parties to the conflict – the Sudan Armed Forces and the paramilitary group RSF, have disregarded resolutions passed by the regional bloc, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), which on Sunday called for a cessation of hostilities and resumption of dialogue.
But he also worried that the fighting had encroached on other norms, such as fighting in residential areas and attacking diplomatic installations.
“A pattern of systematic violation of established norms and principles of international humanitarian laws is clearly emerging and this situation is evolving into a threat to regional and international peace and security.
“Kenya notes that disregard for the resolutions, coupled with the evident lack of commitment to ending the conflict, strongly indicates that attacks on diplomatic installations and personnel, as well as the targeting of hospitals, hotels, and other vital public and social spaces, are deliberate, systematic and tantamount to atrocities against humanity.”
The army and the RSF have been fighting since Saturday when the Sudanese junta leader, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and his deputy Mohammed Daglo ‘Hemedti’ clashed over power. Their differences have been simmering for months since the Sovereign Council, as the junta is known, agreed on a Political Framework Agreement with civilian movements for the resumption of a transitional government led by civilians. But the two sides disagreed on whether and how to integrate the RSF, a paramilitary unit led by Hemedti that has operated independently of the army, into the armed forces.
The RSF is an offshoot of the Janjaweed, the militia that helped crush a rebellion in Darfur, killing more than 300,000 people and earning then-Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir an indictment at the International Criminal Court.
The current conflict has seen at least 270 people killed and thousands of others injured.
The fighters have come under criticism after a United States diplomatic vehicle in Khartoum was fired at and the residence of the European Union ambassador to Sudan targeted.
“All of our people are safe and unharmed. But this action was reckless, it was irresponsible, and of course unsafe – a diplomatic convoy with diplomatic plates, a US flag, being fired upon,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told journalists at a press availability in Japan on Tuesday.
“In the calls that I had this morning with generals Hemedti and Burhan, I made very clear that any attacks, threats, dangers posed to our diplomats were totally unacceptable. This particular incident is still being investigated in terms of understanding exactly what happened,” Mr Blinken added, referring to a call for 24-hour ceasefire, which the parties didn’t honour, but blamed one another.
Humanitarian organisations on Wednesday warned Sudan’s situation would worsen as long as no new supply lines opened. CARE group said the country already has 11 million people in need of food, with four million children under five “acutely malnourished” due to previous factors.
“Sudan is currently facing a humanitarian crisis with more than 15 million people in need of assistance,” said Kate Maina-Vorley, CARE International Regional Director for East, and Central Africa, in a statement on Wednesday.
“We are deeply concerned about the ongoing armed conflict’s impact on the lives of women and girls. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by violence, especially when they are forced to flee from their homes and communities. We call on all parties to ensure that all civilians, especially women, and girls, are protected from all forms of violence and exploitation.”
President Ruto said parties should honour the Igad decision, an organisation Sudan chairs, to ensure a delegation of leaders from the region tour Khartoum for mediation and to allow unhindered humanitarian access.
“There is real danger that the escalation of hostilities in Sudan could implicate external, regional and international actors and degenerate into a security and humanitarian crisis on a disastrous scale.”