Sudan: UN-African Union Mission in Darfur in final shutdown phase (28.07.2021)

The mission has so far handed over some $41 million in facilities and equipment to local authorities.

NEW YORK, United States of America, July 28, 2021 – Practically all peacekeepers and staff have now left the hybrid UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), in line with its drawdown plan, a senior UN official told the Security Council on Tuesday.

Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support, updated ambassadors on progress towards the mission’s closure and final liquidation, following the end of its mandate last December after 13 years protecting civilians uprooted by conflict.

Nearly 6,000 troops and police were repatriated from the Sudanese province ahead of the drawdown deadline of 30 June, and nearly 1,200 civilian staff were separated from the mission.

Expedited timelines achieved

The UN General Assembly recently approved nearly $80 million to support final closure no later than 30 June 2022.

Mr. Khare was in Sudan earlier this month, where he met with senior officials as part of efforts to ensure progress remains on track.

“All leaders shared their satisfaction at the successful achievement of the expedited timelines and discussed ways to resolve outstanding issues related to the liquidation and wider transition implications,” he reported.

Only a 360-strong Guard Unit remains at UNAMID to protect staff working on the exit, and the remaining UN assets, though primary responsibility for security rests with the Sudanese Government.

Remaining UN assets in Darfur are being disposed of in two phases, the first of which is already underway.

‘Enormous’ inventory list

The mission has so far handed over some $41 million in facilities and equipment to local authorities, but 10 of the 14 sites reportedly have suffered “varying degrees of destruction and theft”, which Mr. Khare called a major loss for local communities.

“I note that although authorities have made commitments to investigate these incidents, various Sudanese interlocutors have nevertheless suggested that these events resulted from underlying tensions among groups locally, along with concerns, whether real or perceived, surrounding equitable access to the facilities and equipment that was handed over,” he said.

Mr. Khare pointed to the potential of properties such as the UNAMID logistics base in El Fasher. Its numerous assets include more than 1,000 self-contained housing units, a hospital facility, a power generation and distribution network, a fuel storage depot, and water storage and purification equipment.

Hundreds of vehicles and other moveable property are also being stored there.

Pure water for a million

UNAMID also currently holds enough sodium hypochlorite salt to purify roughly seven billion litres of water, sufficient to meet the drinking and cooking needs for one million people for a year.

“It is critical that the Government of Sudan makes every effort to ensure that this enormous reserve of facilities and equipment is sustainably applied to national imperatives for civilian use,” he said.

Although some $8 million in equipment has been transferred to other UN field operations, or to a peacekeeping reserve in Italy, Mr. Khare stressed that the bulk will be donated to the Sudanese authorities for civilian use.

“To this end, during my recent visit to Sudan, I implored all government interlocutors to emphasize the immediate development of a single, holistic donation plan, with input and agreement from Government interlocutors at the national and local levels,” he said.

Handover challenges

The UN intends to gradually handover the El Fasher site to the authorities, starting in November, a process that would lead to the phased reduction of the Guard Unit.

“For all this to occur in an orderly and speedy fashion, I must raise the issue of the armed movements that have stationed forces around the El Fasher compound since the beginning of June,” Mr. Khare told the Council.

“After an initial period of confusion among these groups which led to the disruption of UNAMID movements, and, in some cases, harassment of United Nations personnel and vendors, movements have for the most part proceeded as needed in the recent weeks.”

However, he said coordination and leadership among these groups is critical if the liquidation process is to proceed smoothly “for the long-term sustainable benefit of Sudan and its people.”

Domestic Violence, Forced Marriage, Have Risen in Sudan: UN-Backed Study (20.07.2021)

Deteriorating economic conditions since 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic have fuelled an increase in domestic violence and forced marriage in Sudan, a UN-backed study has revealed.

NEW YORK, United States of America, July 20, 2021 – Voices from Sudan 2020, published this week, is the first-ever nationwide qualitative assessment of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country, where a transitional government is now in its second year.

Addressing the issue is a critical priority, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Government’s Combating Violence against Women Unit (CVAW), co-authors of the report.

“The current context of increased openness by the Government of Sudan, and dynamism by civil society, opens opportunities for significant gains in advancing women’s safety and rights,” they said.

Physical violence at home 

The report aims to complement existing methods of gathering data and analysis by ensuring that the views, experiences and priorities of women and girls, are understood and addressed.

Researchers found that communities perceive domestic and sexual violence as the most common GBV issues.

Key concerns include physical violence in the home, committed by husbands against wives, and by brothers against sisters, as well as movement restrictions which women and girls have been subjected to.

Another concern is sexual violence, especially against women working in informal jobs, but also refugee and displaced women when moving outside camps, people with disabilities, and children in Qur’anic schools.

Pressure to comply

Forced marriage is also “prominent”, according to the report. Most of these unions are arranged between members of the same tribe, or relatives, without the girl’s consent or knowledge.

Meanwhile, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) remains widespread in Sudan, with varying differences based on geographic location and tribal affiliation.  Although knowledge about the illegality and harmfulness of the practice has reached community level, child marriage and FGM are not perceived as key concerns.

Women’s access to resources is also severely restricted.  Men control financial resources, and boys are favoured for access to opportunities, especially education. Verbal and psychological pressure to comply with existing gender norms and roles is widespread, leading in some cases to suicide.

The deteriorating economic situation since 2020, and COVID-19, have increased violence, especially domestic violence and forced marriage, the report said. Harassment in queues for essential supplies such as bread and fuel has also been reported.

Data dramatically lacking 

Sudan continues to move along a path to democracy following the April 2019 overthrow of President Omar Al-Bashir who had been in power for 30 years.

Openly discussing GBV “has not been possible for the last three decades”, according to the report.

“GBV data is dramatically lacking, with no nation-wide assessment done for the past 30 years, and a general lack of availability of qualitative and quantitative data,” the authors said.

To carry out the assessment, some 215 focus group discussions were held with communities: 21 with GBV experts, as well as a review of existing studies and assessments.

Research was conducted between August and November 2020, encompassing 60 locations and camps, and the data was scanned through a software for qualitative analysis, followed a model first used in Syria.

Joint UN Press Release – UN agencies in Sudan reach conflict-affected communities in non-government-controlled areas for first time in a decade (13.06.2021)

United Nations humanitarian agencies have not been able to reach or provide life-saving assistance to support people in the five locations since 2011.

KHARTOUM, Sudan, June 13, 2021 – For the first time in ten years, United Nations humanitarian agencies have been able to access conflict-affected communities in the five non-governmental areas controlled by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) El Hilu in South Kordofan and Blue Niles states of Sudan.

A series of humanitarian missions to the five isolated enclaves has concluded, just as renewed peace talks between the Government of Sudan and SPLM-N are ongoing in Juba, South Sudan. These five areas have largely been cut-off from support over the last decade and the missions’ findings indicate people are in dire need of improved food security, education, health, and water and sanitation services.

“This response marks a significant breakthrough in humanitarian access and response to conflict-affected communities previously unreached by UN humanitarian assistance. We commend the local efforts to support essential needs during the years of hardship. The humanitarian community in Sudan is calling for increased access and critically needed assistance to support these marginalized communities,” said Khardiata Lo N’diaye, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General and Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan.

United Nations humanitarian agencies have not been able to reach or provide life-saving assistance to support people in the five locations since 2011, when conflict broke out between the Government of Sudan and the SPLM-N. Gaining humanitarian access to these communities provides a critical opportunity to improve lives and rebuild livelihoods.

“Communities in these areas have been struggling and surviving on little or nothing for a decade. Access for humanitarian agencies so they can increase their assistance to these vulnerable communities is critical. With improved food security and other opportunities, families will be able to reintegrate with the rest of Sudan and start to recover and rebuild,” said Eddie Rowe, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director in Sudan.

WFP delivered 100 metric tons of nutritious biscuits for 25,000 school children in 83 schools on the five missions. This was the first assistance that people in these isolated areas had received from the UN in the last decade due to conflict and access constraints. A lack of food for students is one of the main challenges Page 2 of 3 in maintaining school enrolment in these isolated areas. Providing school meals is among the top priorities for WFP’s response as access continues to open.

“Whilst these missions mark a major development, we need to ensure that humanitarian access to children and communities in need is always granted. No conditions should ever be set on access; humanitarian assistance should be provided at all times and from all places to those that need it. Findings from this mission are bleak. These children have been entirely ‘left behind’. We have to act now to ensure these children have a future. Collectively, efforts must be made to ensure access and sustain and scale up assistance,” said Abdullah Fadil, UNICEF Representative in Sudan.

Expanding humanitarian access to SPLM-N controlled enclaves is crucial to providing urgent assistance to an estimated 800,000 people in these areas, who desperately need relief following years of isolation. Ramping up support will help stabilize communities and pave the path for peacebuilding efforts, while reinforcing the UN’s commitment to assist marginalised populations in Sudan.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) participated in missions over the last six weeks to five isolated areas in SPLM-N El Hilu controlled areas including Zozak and Amora in Blue Nile State and Kau/Nyaro, Rashad/New Tegali, and Western Jebels in South Kordofan State.

Sudan: West Darfur clashes force nearly 2,000 refugees into Chad (13.04.2021)

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

GENEVA, Switzerland, April 13, 2021 – Recent intercommunal clashes in El Geneina, in Sudan’s West Darfur State, have forced 1,860 refugees to cross into neighbouring Chad in the past week.

The refugees, mostly women, children and the elderly, have fled homes in villages near the border, in the aftermath of deadly clashes that started on 3 April. The resurging violence has reportedly left 144 people dead and more than 230 injured. In the meantime, humanitarian agencies are trying to establish the exact number of newly displaced people within West Darfur, which is estimated to be in the thousands.

Refugees arriving in Chad speak of houses and properties being destroyed, and of sites hosting displaced people being targeted. Some of the new arrivals had already been displaced by earlier clashes last year and in January this year.

El Geneina is only 20 kilometers away from the Sudan-Chad border. Refugees have crossed near the town of Adré, in Ouaddaï province and are currently being hosted just 200 metres away from the volatile border.

UNHCR teams from our nearby office in Farchana have rushed to receive refugees. Our staff report conditions on the ground being dire with displaced families staying in the open or under the little shade of trees or makeshift shelters, with barely any protection from the elements in an area where temperature can rise to 40 degrees Celsius during the day. Food and water are also urgently needed.

UNHCR, with our government counterpart and humanitarian partners are on the ground and coordinating the humanitarian response. The priority is to relocate the refugees to a safer location where essential assistance and access to health can be provided, and quarantine measures against COVID-19 implemented.

Ouaddai province where the new arrivals are crossing already hosts 145,000 Darfurian refugees and UNHCR expects the influx to continue if security is not quickly restored in Darfur.

Sudan: OHCHR – Press briefing notes on violence in West Darfur (09.04.2021)

We are appalled by the latest resurgence of violence between Masalit and Arab tribes in West Darfur, in Sudan, that left at least 87 people dead, more than 191 injured and forced thousands to flee their homes. We are also disturbed by the slow progress in ensuring accountability for this and previous violence, despite repeated calls by victims and their families.

The latest bout of violence erupted on 3 April in Al Geneina town when unknown assailants shot at a group of men from the Masalit tribe, killing two and injuring one. In response, armed elements from Masalit and Arab tribes mobilized, leading to clashes between them.

By the evening of 5 April, the streets of Al Geneina were strewn with dozens of bodies, including those of women and children. These scenes recalled those seen in West Darfur following previous clashes, in late 2019 and, most recently, in mid-January 2021.

During the violence last weekend, public and private property was destroyed or damaged, including a hospital, and a UN compound. At least one ambulance was attacked and health personnel injured.

Similar to previous situations of violence in Al Geneina, the authorities failed to stop the clashes despite a robust security force presence in the town. We urge the authorities to fully uphold their role to protect the population without discrimination. In this regard, we call on the Government of Sudan to accelerate the implementation of the National Plan for the Protection of Civilians.

All tribes responsible for violence in Darfur must be disarmed and the State must be able to maintain order and ensure the rule of law, including by preventing armed civilians from taking the law into their own hands.

We acknowledge that, after the latest clashes, the authorities have taken steps to contain the situation in the area. We also welcome the Government’s commitment to addressing the root causes of the violence, especially disputes over land, pasture and water resources – disputes that are at the heart of the entrenched tribal divisions. These commitments need to result in concrete actions.

Independent, impartial and thorough investigations into these acts of violence must be initiated without delay. Effective accountability processes must be established to pave the way for genuine reconciliation and lasting peace.

We note that the Sudanese Attorney General has announced that 15 prosecutors have been sent to West Darfur to investigate the recent violence. We also welcome the decision to refer 33 alleged perpetrators for trial over the clashes in January 2021, as well as the establishment of the committee set up to investigate a similar incident in December 2019.

We urge the Government to ensure prompt, transparent and effective follow-up to these investigations. All those responsible for human rights abuses must be held accountable. Grievances from both sides must be tackled after decades-long ethnic disputes stoked by the previous regime.

Our Office in Sudan stands ready to assist the Government of Sudan towards achieving accountably and justice.

Sudan: Declaration of Principles between the Transitional Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (28.03.2021)

Sudan: Council of Ministers – Press Statement (26.03.2021)

Sudan: Conflict – Flash Update #9 West Darfur As of 16 February 2021 (16.02.2021)

Sudan: UN independent experts call for ‘justice, accountability and reparation to victims’ in Sudan (02.02.2021)

An intercommunal violence on 16 and 17 January led to clashes between Arab nomads and the non-Arab ethnic Masalit in West Darfur.

NEW YORK, United States of America, February 2, 2021 – Recent intercommunal violence and deadly attacks in Darfur have prompted two independent UN human rights experts on Monday to urge the Government of Sudan to urgently implement strong measures to ensure the safety of civilians, including the internally displaced.

“We urge the Government of Sudan to step up its efforts to protect civilians, including those internally displaced, prevent further displacements and advance solutions to internal displacement by promptly and fully implementing its National Plan for the Protection of Civilians,” said Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, and Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

On 18 January, clashes between the Rezigat and Falata communities in El Gereida locality, in South Darfur, reportedly left 72 people dead, more than 70 injured and about 100 families displaced.

And intercommunal violence on 16 and 17 January led to clashes between Arab nomads and the non-Arab ethnic Masalit in West Darfur, which reportedly affected the Krinding and Abu Zar camps for internally displaced persons. Some 163 people were reported killed, 217 injured and 50,000 people displaced.

Moreover, civilian property was damaged and looted.

The UN experts upheld that a thorough investigation be conducted and the perpetrators be brought to justice.

Darfur concerns

While welcoming the establishment of a committee to investigate the recent West Darfur attacks, the UN experts encouraged the Government to also investigate the violence in South Darfur.

“Justice, accountability and reparation to victims are essential to address insecurity, prevent further violence and displacement, and support durable solutions for internally displaced persons”, they said.

The experts also expressed grave concern for the internally displaced persons in the Darfur region, particularly the long-term displaced.

“Many have been living in protracted displacement in dire conditions, and the challenges they face to achieve durable solutions, in particular due to insecurity and land disputes, are disturbing”, the Special Rapporteurs spelled out.

The independent experts are currently in contact with the authorities.

Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not paid for their work.

Sudan: WFP’s response to inter-communal violence in Darfur, Sudan (29.01.2021)

This is a summary of what was said by WFP spokesperson Tomson Phiri – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

GENEVA – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is ramping up assistance to displaced people following a spate of inter-communal violence in West and South Darfur which has forced over 100,000 people to flee in search of safety.

An estimated 70,000 of the displaced people are gathered in over 70 centres across Geneina city in West Darfur. Additional gathering points have been identified as people continue to arrive where WFP and Sudan Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) joint population assessments are being planned. The total number of displaced people is feared to exceed 100,000.

WFP started distributions of emergency food assistance to people inside Geneina, so far reaching 40,000 people in 30 of the 71 centres. Assistance comprises staples – sorghum, pulses and salt to make meals – as well as high energy biscuits, which provide immediate nutrition for children and adults without the need for water or cooking. Food distributions to the remainder of the affected population are ongoing within the city while food distributions outside Geneina will start once the verification exercise is complete.

WFP is extremely concerned with the continued violence. November to January is when farmers are engaged in the winter season planting and the main season harvesting of millet and sorghum. Even a momentary burst of violent disruption of livelihood activities, can have a long-lasting impact. If a planting or harvesting period is missed, it may not be resumed. If livestock cannot be moved to pasture or water, they may not survive. The biggest loser in all this, are the poor households whose food security situation is further compromised.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.