Disturbing Reports of Sexual Violence Emerge in Sudan
In a strong and unequivocal condemnation, the United States Department of State has raised serious concerns over the pervasive conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) plaguing Sudan. Credible sources, including victims, have attributed these distressing incidents to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and their allied militias.
The alarming accounts of rape, gang rape, and other forms of gender-based violence against women and girls, particularly in West Darfur and surrounding areas, paint a bleak picture. These acts of brutality are not isolated, forming an emerging pattern of targeted ethnic violence.
United Nations and United States Unite Against Sexual Violence
Echoing the sentiments of UN Special Representative Secretary-General Patten, the U.S. Department of State urges the RSF to publicly denounce CRSV, commit to robust measures to prevent and address any CRSV activities, and establish a policy of zero-tolerance towards sexual violence.
The focal point of concern remains the Nyala region in South Darfur, where tens of thousands of civilians find themselves trapped amidst escalating clashes between the RSF and Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF).
The urgent call to action demands an immediate halt to hostilities and the provision of safe passage for all civilians out of the conflict zone. The imperative of holding perpetrators accountable for their heinous acts cannot be overstated.
Accountability Takes Center Stage in U.S. Policy
The U.S. government underscores the centrality of accountability for sexual violence in conflict, as exemplified by President Biden’s November 2022 Presidential Memorandum.
This directive compels the utilization of a comprehensive toolkit encompassing legal, policy, diplomatic, and financial avenues to deter and combat such violence.
Engaging with Key Players
In a subsequent press release dated 01 August 2023, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Patten has taken a proactive approach to engage with Major General Abdul-Rahim Dagalo, Deputy Commander of the RSF. This engagement aligns with the Security Council’s mandate to liaise with all stakeholders in armed conflicts.
Rising Sexual Violence and Dire Humanitarian Situation Addressed
During their meeting, SRSG Patten raised urgent concerns regarding the escalating instances of sexual violence in both Khartoum and Darfur. Notably, these concerns implicated armed individuals affiliated with the RSF.
The discussion also encompassed the distressing issue of targeting medical facilities and personnel essential for aiding survivors of sexual violence.
The alarming rise in attacks on women’s rights defenders, and civil society organizations, as well as the abduction of women and girls, were also key points of discussion. Reports of slave markets in Darfur added to the gravity of the situation.
A Call for Action and Accountability
SRSG Patten reiterated her previous appeal, originally expressed in a press statement dated 24 May 2023, urging all parties involved in the conflict to immediately cease violence against civilians, especially sexual violence. Furthermore, unfettered access to humanitarian aid providers is urgently required.
A History of Suspected Perpetrators
The press release additionally highlighted that the annex to the Secretary-General’s Report on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence since 2017 has listed both the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF.
This classification designates them as parties credibly suspected of committing or being accountable for patterns of sexual violence within the context of the Security Council’s agenda.
Path Forward: Condemnation and Commitment
In a proactive step towards resolution, SRSG Patten urged the RSF to issue a formal and unequivocal condemnation of conflict-related sexual violence. This call to action is to be realized through a “unilateral communiqué.”
Moreover, there is an anticipation for the presentation of an actionable and time-bound implementation plan. This plan will be accompanied by command orders that showcase an unwavering zero-tolerance policy towards sexual violence, playing a pivotal role in upholding military discipline.
A Positive Response Towards Accountability
In acknowledgment of this, Major General Abdul-Rahim Dagalo recognized the seriousness of the situation and the ramifications of sexual violence in the realm of armed conflict.
As a demonstration of his dedication, he has made a commitment to release the previously mentioned communiqué, which stands as a significant stride towards addressing these reprehensible offenses.
Background History of the Conflicts in Sudan
An intricate interplay of factors has significantly shaped the history of conflicts in Sudan. These factors include foreign invasions, resistance movements, ethnic tensions, religious disputes, and resource conflicts.
Commencing in the early 19th century, Sudan encountered multiple foreign invasions, each competing to establish control over its plentiful resources and crucial geographical position. From Turkish-Egyptian rule to British colonization in the late 19th century, these invasions brought about substantial transformations and disturbances to the region.
Ethnic tensions have also played a significant role in Sudan’s conflicts. The country’s diverse population consists of more than 500 ethnic groups speaking different languages and following various traditions.
The tension between Arab Muslims in the north and African Christians or animists in the south has been particularly notable, leading to long-standing hostilities that escalated into decades-long civil wars.
Religious disputes have further exacerbated conflicts throughout Sudan’s history.
While the majority of Arabs in Sudan practice Islam as their dominant religion, a significant Christian minority is primarily concentrated in the south. This divide has fueled religious-based conflicts periodically over time.
Additionally, resource disputes have contributed significantly to conflict dynamics within Sudan. The country possesses abundant natural resources such as oil reserves and fertile agricultural land.
Control over these resources has sparked tensions between different groups seeking economic benefits and political power.