Open letter on the situation in Sudan

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

Gisa Group

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

Sudan Unlimited

Sustainable Development Response Organization (SuDRO)

The Sentry

Tomorrow’s Smile, Inc.

USESA (US-Educated Sudanese Association)

Waging Peace

Women of Civic and Political Groups (Mansam)

World without Genocide

Zaghawa People’s Associations of the United States of America

Zeinab Women for Development

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