Open Letter to the United Nations, African Union, Intergovernmental Authority on Development, European Union and their member states, and other regional and international actors concerned about the situation in Sudan, including the US, UK, Canada, Egypt, and the Gulf Cooperation Council
June 15, 2023
We, the undersigned organizations, write to alert you to the escalating violence against civilians in El Geneina, West Darfur which we believe shows a pattern of ethnic cleansing that may further increase and qualify as serious international crimes, including possibly genocide.
El Geneina and surrounding areas have seen major violence since 2019, when the UN/AU peacekeeping mission withdrew under pressure from the government of Sudan. This violence has escalated dramatically since the outbreak of war in Khartoum. The town has been mired in conflict between Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and armed Arab militia on the one hand, and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and other armed actors including some civilians who were forced to pick up arms to fend for themselves when SAF failed to protect them from the attacks.
The violence surged in May and the first half of June, and reports suggest these were not merely armed clashes between the two forces but rather coordinated, systematic attacks by RSF and allied militias against civilians, civilian property, hospitals, homes, and humanitarian supplies including food. Doctors reported the death toll has risen to over 1,200 and thousands have been injured, while the hospital has been destroyed and medical services are not working.
More than a hundred thousand people have now fled over the Chadian border and many have arrived with gunshot wounds. Many arrived with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. Recent footage circulated on social media shows a harrowing mass exodus of the population of the town on foot. Survivors who fled to Chad told media how attackers systematically targeted non-Arab populations, especially Massalit. Social media footage shows RSF soldiers using ethnic slurs and claiming to turn the region into an Arab area.
On June 14, the governor of West Darfur state told al-Hadath news that the situation was “indescribable” with attacks spreading across the town and calling it a “genocide.” Within hours of the interview, RSF soldiers abducted and killed the governor. The sheer scale of the violence, ethnic targeting, destruction of property and displacement is reminiscent of the violence against civilians in Darfur in 2003, during which crimes were so serious that the United Nations Security Council referred the situation to the International Criminal Court in 2005.
The international response has thus far been muted and insufficient. The head of UNITAMS and the UN’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide condemned the violence but did not acknowledge RSF’s role in the ongoing atrocities. The AU and IGAD, while vying to lead the diplomatic process to resolve the crisis in Sudan, have failed to condemn the perpetrators of the widespread atrocities underway in the country. Under international law, commanders are liable for the crimes committed by the forces under their command. RSF commanders are liable for the widespread and systematic abuses of their forces. Yet the RSF’s leaders have denied their involvement and have taken no action to prevent or punish the alleged serious crimes by their forces.
We are calling on you, as members of the international community charged with maintaining peace and security and with long involvement in Sudan, to publicly denounce the RSF’s role in carrying out atrocity crimes in West Darfur, insist the RSF be held to account for failing to reign in the widespread and systematic civilian killings by their soldiers, and discuss and devise measures for the protection of civilians in the Darfur region and across Sudan. The SAF should also be held to account for alleged crimes, including failing to exercise its constitutional duty to protect civilians from the heinous crimes currently being committed in West Darfur.
Act for Sudan
Al Khatim Adlan Center for Enlightenment and Human Development
Altghyeer online newspaper
Civic Center for Peace and Justice
Confederation of Sudanese Civilian Society Organizations
Darfur Bar Association
Darfur People’s Association of New York
Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG)
The Democrat newspaper
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART)
Investors Against Genocide
Khartoum University Lecturers Initiative
Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur
Massachusetts Sudanese Community Association
Massalit Community of New York
Massalit Association in the USA
Never Again Coalition
The New York Coalition for Sudan
Regional Centre for Training and Development of Civil Society (RCDCS)
Rights for Peace
Society for Threatened People
Sudan Human Rights Network
Sudan and South Sudan Forum e.V.
Sudan Transparency Policy Tracker
Sustainable Development Response Organization (SuDRO)
Tomorrow’s Smile, Inc.
USESA (US-Educated Sudanese Association)
Women of Civic and Political Groups (Mansam)
World without Genocide
Zaghawa People’s Associations of the United States of America
Zeinab Women for Development