It’s not just Gaza where there is no cease-fire. A week of Saudi-brokered talks between Sudan’s warring parties ended Tuesday, yielding vague commitments to opening up deliveries of humanitarian aid — but no truce for a conflict that has raged in the heart of Africa since April. In the months thereafter, the two sides, Sudan’s military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), agreed to cease-fires that they summarily violated. Their battles garnered global attention for a few weeks as foreigners in the Sudanese capital Khartoum scrambled to get out, but the war ground to a brutal, bloody stalemate and receded from international attention.
Now, a new tipping point seems to have been reached, as my colleague Katharine Houreld reported. In recent weeks, the RSF and allied militias seized what appears to be de facto control of the western region of Darfur, driving their rivals out of a host of regional capitals and scattering their forces into the desert in what Houreld explained “is the most significant military breakthrough” by the RSF since the conflict began in April.
The gains of RSF have also come with a new wave of alleged mass killings. Houreld spoke to a number of eyewitnesses who described how the paramilitary group and its allies, predominantly ethnic Arab, carried out slaughters of non-Arabs after they seized the army headquarters in the West Darfur capital of Geneina. Representatives of international organizations documented reports of massacres of whole families, rape, sexual assault and widespread looting.
Away from the killing fields, U.N. officials warned of a disaster of a vast scale taking place in Sudan. Some 4.5 million people — close to a tenth of the country’s overall population — have been internally displaced during the conflict. More than a million others have fled the country, with some half a million people, primarily from Darfur, sheltering in squalid camps in neighboring Chad.
In a statement released Sunday, Dominique Hyde, director of external relations for the U.N.’s refugee agency, warned that relief agencies are overwhelmed and struggling to deliver essential services to those in need. Malnutrition and disease stalk the land. In White Nile State, where Hyde visited along the border with South Sudan, more than 1,200 children under the age of 5 have died in a measles outbreak worsened by food shortages. Hyde added that water and sanitation conditions make the country “ripe for an outbreak of cholera.”
The global silence speaks volumes and has dire implications. “Sudan’s population is more than three times that of the combined number of people living in Israel and the Palestinian territories,” Vox’s Bryan Walsh noted. “When a crisis like this civil war comes to a country of this size, one where an estimated 35 percent of people are living on less than $2.15 a day, the humanitarian consequences are proportionately terrible.”
U.N. officials have pleaded for months with the international community to muster more aid for beleaguered Sudan. Those entreaties have fallen flat. A nearly billion-dollar humanitarian response plan, aiming to meet the needs of Sudan’s 5.2 million most vulnerable people, has only been 26 percent funded with less than eight weeks left in the year. Onlookers are urging Western governments to do more.
Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.
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