June 2023 | Ethnic violence escalates in West Darfur
In June, senior UN officials warned of escalating ethnic violence in West Darfur State, after reports emerged of large-scale and targeted attacks by Arab militiamen on non-Arab civilians living in the state’s capital El Geneina, a contested location in Sudan’s ongoing conflict. Prior to the conflict, both sides (the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF)) had recruited fighters from rival ethnic communities. When fighting broke out in El Geneina in April 2023, it took on an ethnic dimension, establishing a pattern of violence in which the RSF and their local Arab militia are alleged to have systematically killed, raped and forcefully expelled members of the non-Arab Masalit community, whose fighters were allied to the SAF. The violence in El-Geneina is thought to have peaked in mid-June, when thousands were killed (including West Darfur’s Governor) or fled. Similar attacks have been reported elsewhere in West Darfur. The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide stated that, if confirmed, the attacks could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
April 2023 | Intense fighting breaks out between junta factions
On 15 April, intense fighting broke out between two factions within Sudan’s ruling junta – the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary organisation. Despite several partially observed ceasefire agreements, the violence was reported on 14 May to have killed at least 676 people, including civilians. The number of casualties has continued to grow. The conflict has severely restricted civilians’ access to basic goods and services, caused widespread displacement and led to a surge in sexual violence and looting. It erupted shortly after key deadlines were missed in the roadmap for Sudan’s transition to democracy, which commentators say is likely to be further imperilled by the fighting. Under a recently signed framework agreement, the parties had been due to establish the civilian state institutions that would govern the country during a two-year transition period, but the deadline lapsed after SAF and RSF disagreements over security sector reform prevented the signing of a final transition agreement.
December 2022 | Transitional agreement signed by Sudan’s military junta and civilian organisations
On 5 December, the military junta signed a framework agreement with more than 40 Sudanese political parties, movements and professional groups aimed at restoring the country’s transition to democratic rule. The framework agreement provides for the transfer of power from the junta to a civilian transitional government, which is to govern Sudan for a two-year period ending in elections. In vague terms, it sets out the formation of several transitional state institutions, including a national legislative council, a council of ministers, and a head of state, that are to be based on human rights, the rule of law, civic participation and social equality. The agreement also enumerates issues and tasks to be addressed during the transition, such as security sector reform, transitional justice and constitution-making – although it leaves the resolution of the thorniest of these (most notably security sector reform) to a future, final agreement. While the framework agreement is an important breakthrough, the process is fragile and it has been rejected by many grassroots activists, who distrust the junta.
October 2022 | Protestors decry lack of state protection as ethnic violence escalates
Between 19 and 20 October, at least 220 people were killed and 7,000 others were displaced in ethnic fighting in the Wad Al Mahi locality of Sudan’s Blue Nile region. The violence represents a big escalation in a conflict between the Hausa and Berta people, which between mid-July and early October killed at least 149. The fighting was ignited by a land dispute, but many analysts regard the growing ethnic violence to be a product of the power vacuum in the region caused by the country’s 2021 military coup. A curfew and a ban on weapons and gatherings was in place in Wad Al Mahi prior to the fighting, and the regional governor has since declared a region-wide 30-day State of Emergency and brought more troops into the area. However, the Resistance Committees, a grassroots pro-democracy group, have blamed the country’s military junta for not doing enough to protect ethnic groups, a sentiment that has been echoed by local protestors.