UN Security Council demands end to siege of el-Fasher in Sudan’s Darfur

Resolution calls on Sudanese military and RSF to ensure protection of civilians and seek immediate end to violence.

People fleeing the violence in West Darfur, cross the border into Adre, Chad, August 4, 2023. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
To Match Special Report SUDAN-POLITICS/SEXUAL-VIOLENCE
People fleeing the violence in West Darfur, cross the border into Adre, Chad, August 4, 2023 [File: Zohra Bensemra
/Reuters]

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has approved a resolution demanding that Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) halt the siege of el-Fasher in North Darfur region and end fighting in the area.

The resolution, approved in a vote of 14-0 with Russia abstaining on Thursday, expressed “grave concern” at the spreading violence and reports that the RSF is carrying out “ethnically motivated violence” in el-Fasher.

The conflict in Sudan broke out in April 2023 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the RSF, which are loyal to General Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo.

The violence has killed at least 14,000 people and displaced more than 10 million others, according to UN estimates.

Thursday’s resolution demanded that the RSF and government forces ensure the protection of civilians, including allowing those wishing to leave el-Fasher to do so.

Hundreds of thousands of people are trapped in el-Fasher – the last large urban centre in the vast, western Darfur region not under RSF control.

The UNSC measure called for de-escalation around el-Fasher and for “the withdrawal of all fighters that threaten the safety and security of civilians”.

It called on the RSF and military “to seek an immediate cessation of hostilities, leading to a sustainable resolution to the conflict, through dialogue”.

It also called on all nations to end interference fomenting conflict and instability instead of peace efforts.

“Crucial roads out of el-Fasher are blocked, preventing civilians from reaching safer areas, while at the same time limiting the amount of food and other humanitarian aid coming into the city,” said Othman Belbeisi, the International Organization for Migration regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch, welcomed the resolution on Thursday.

“Today’s resolution puts the Sudanese Armed Forces & Rapid Support Forces on notice that the world is watching,” Charbonneau wrote in a social media post. “It warns of imminent famine, especially in Darfur, & calls for accountability for violations of int’l humanitarian & human rights law.”

Earlier this week, the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, appealed for evidence for an investigation by his office into alleged war crimes in Darfur.

“I am extremely concerned about allegations of widespread international crimes being committed in el-Fasher and its surrounding areas,” Khan said in a video statement on Tuesday.

He added that the probe “seems to disclose an organised, systematic and a profound attack on human dignity”.

In 2009, the ICC issued arrest warrants for former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges including genocide allegedly committed in Darfur between 2003-2008.

The RSF was born out of the Popular Defence Forces militias, commonly known as Janjaweed, mobilised by al-Bashir against non-Arab tribes in Darfur.

The Sudanese military removed al-Bashir from power in 2019 after months of antigovernment protests.

A promised transition to full civilian rule in the post-Bashir era did not materialise, and the Sudanese military staged a coup against the civilian government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in October 2021, leading to his resignation early in 2022.

Weeks before violence between the military and RSF erupted last year, Sudan’s leaders appeared set to sign a deal to return the country to its democratic transition, but the accord was delayed because of outstanding disagreements.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies