United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Alice Wairimu Nderitu says she is “extremely concerned” about allegations of mass killings of displaced people in Darfur as the fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (Saf) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) escalates.
Ms Nderitu cited refugee camps in Ardamata and Geneina, where more than 800 people were reportedly killed and 8,000 others fled to neighbouring Chad.
The numbers could be much higher due to reports of RSF blocking displaced civilians from crossing into that country, Nderitu said in a statement.
She said she was “highly alarmed” at the renewed escalation of fighting between the Saf and the RSF and their affiliated militias in Darfur, particularly in Nyala, Geneina and Zalingei. There are reports of mass graves believed to contain the remains of members of the ethnic Masalit tribe in the area.
“The most recent developments in Ardamata and West Darfur constitute one more step in a cycle of violence that finds no end. Violence since the initiation of hostilities by the Saf and RSF in April this year has amounted to at least 9,000 people reportedly killed and more than 5.6 million people displaced, including at least 1.2 million fleeing to neighbouring countries,” she said.
“There is no stop in the fighting and no stop in the suffering. This horrific level of violence, with all the signs of atrocity crimes being committed is not new in the country and is part of a cyclical process which has lasted for decades. It is essential that the world pays attention and responds. This must not become a forgotten crisis,” she added.
She condemned grave human-rights violations and abuse that continue being committed in country, including identity-based killings, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture, enforced disappearances, mass arrests and detention, bombings of civilian homes and infrastructures and lootings.
She said these attacks, if confirmed, could constitute acts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
She called on the warring parties to ensure that civilians are protected, in respect of international human rights and humanitarian law, and the commitment the parties adopted at the Jeddah Declaration of Commitment to Protect the Civilians of Sudan.
“The latest reports from the Darfur region depict a deeply disturbing picture of continued systematic and indiscriminate attacks against civilians, including along ethnic lines, when the seven-month conflict has already seen a devastating number of deaths, injured and displaced persons. Current dynamics in the region could lead to further mass killings in an environment of complete lawlessness and impunity, The risks of genocide and related atrocity crimes in the region remain grimly high,” the Special Adviser stated.
“While the commitment expressed on November 7 by the warring parties in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to reaffirm their obligations to protect civilians and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance constitutes a positive step, words must be urgently accompanied by actions. Vicious attacks against civilians must cease.”
Alluding to her previous statements of September 8, 2022, November 3, 2022, June 13,2023 and September 5, 2023, the special adviser stressed that the violence, if unabated, could engulf the entire country, amid the proliferation of illegal small arms and light weapons and the continuing clashes in the capital Khartoum, Kordofan and the Blue Nile states.
The number of the Sudanese refugees arriving in the neighbouring countries has increased following the renewed clashes. Thousands of civilians who remain in the country continue to be at a heightened risk of attacks.
Access to food, water and health facilities also remains limited, including because of deliberate action by paramilitary groups and militias. Recalling her October visit to refugee camps in Chad and her engagements with refugees from West Darfur in Farchana and Adré, the Special Adviser reiterated grave concerns about targeted attacks against members of the ethnic Masalit community by the RSF and their allied militias, allegedly perpetrated with an explicit intent to destroy the community.
“The voices of victims speak loud and clear,” underlined the Special Adviser.
“Men and boys of fighting age have reportedly been particularly targeted; rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, including sexual slavery, have been rampantly perpetrated as a weapon of war; entire villages have been burnt, often with the plan to attack announced in advance; derogatory and dehumaniaing language – such as ‘slaves’ – has been persistently used as an element of incitement to violence; conditions of life have been deprived, with medical facilities and transportation destroyed; and access to water and electricity deliberately obstructed. This all points to risk factors for genocide and related crimes.”