Geneva/Washington/New York: In yet another ethnically motivated mass attack on non-Arab Masalit civilians in West Darfur in just a few months, Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and their allied Arab militia killed hundreds of ethnic Masalit civilians in Ardamata town of West Darfur earlier this month.
Credible reports say Arab militias affiliated with the Rapid Support Forces committed serious human rights abuses between November 4 and 6, 2023, particularly in the capital of West Darfur province, El Geneina, according to Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa, Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations.
In Geneva, Jeremy Laurence, Spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today said that preliminary information obtained by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) from survivors and witnesses suggested Masalit civilians suffered six days of terror at the hands of the RSF and its allied militia after they took control of the Sudanese army’s base in Ardamata on November 4, 2023. The base is just outside El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur. Some of the victims were summarily executed or burnt alive.
Many of those killed were young Masalit men and relatives of Sudanese soldiers remaining in Ardamata after the troops fled the town, Laurence stated. Women and girls were reportedly subjected to sexual violence in the Ardamata Internally Displaced Peoples’ (IDP) camp and some homes.
Focusing on two IDP camps – Ardamata and Dorti – and the Al-Kabri neighbourhood, which are majority inhabited by the Masalit, the RSF and its allied militias reportedly looted property, tortured IDPs, and executed many of them before leaving their bodies unburied in the streets.
Thousands have been displaced, some crossing the border to Chad. People fleeing to Chad from West Darfur have reported a new surge of ethnically driven violence directed towards the Masalit community. Sudan now is the world’s largest displacement crisis, with 7.1 million people forced from their homes. The health situation is extremely worrying, while 4.1 million people have received life-saving assistance since April 2023. Sexual and gender-based violence continues, with the Rapid Support Forces accused of sexual violence and the Sudanese Armed Forces personnel implicated in rape and sexual harassment.
The United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in the Sudan (UNITAMS) is working to verify both this and reports that a Masalit militia targeted violence against the Arab community in El Geneina, “risking cyclical bouts of violence”, Martha told the UNSC in New York.
The OHCHR said that on November 5 alone, 66 Masalit men were summarily executed in three separate incidents. In Al-Kabri district, men were separated from women and killed. Hundreds more men were arrested and taken to various RSF-run detention camps. Their fate and whereabouts remain unknown.
The Ardamata attack is the second reported mass attack by the RSF and its allied Arab militia against Masalit civilians in a matter of months. Between May and June 2023, hundreds of Masalit men, women, and children – including the governor of West Darfur – were killed. Many of them were buried in mass graves while the bodies of others were left in the streets. Such attacks may constitute crimes under international law.
There are also serious allegations that in revenge attacks, some Arab civilians were reportedly attacked by some members of the Masalit militias.
“All violations must stop immediately, and those responsible must be brought to justice following thorough, independent and impartial investigations. We restate the call by High Commissioner Volker Türk in June 2023 on the RSF leadership to unequivocally condemn and stop the killings, other violence and hate speech targeted at civilians, based on their ethnicity,” Laurence stated. Amid “worrying reports” of an imminent RSF assault on El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, the OHCHR reminded them and all other parties to the conflict to respect their international humanitarian law obligations to ensure protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure.
“It is high time that the warring sides recognize the futility of continued fighting and prioritize dialogue and de-escalation,” Martha said.
Meanwhile in Washington, the United States Department of State Spokesperson Matthew Miller today described the situation in Sudan as “very, very difficult”, and told reporters that the US just recently launched renewed talks to push for the parties there to refrain from hostilities. “We’ve had diplomatic personnel on the ground engaged in those diplomatic efforts. It continues to be a tragedy…”, he said.
At UNSC, Sudan’s representative said that since April 18, 2023, his country’s Government has been cooperating with all regional and international forces to bring an end to the war and the suffering of the Sudanese people. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court must take note of the crimes of the Rapid Support Forces, he said, adding that the militias are continuing with the forced expulsion of citizens, ethnic cleansing and other international crimes, despite the commitments they made during the Jeddah talks.
– global bihari bureau