tThe conflict in Sudan is rapidly escalating, having already killed nearly 1,000 people (some estimates go as high as 2,000 in West Darfur alone) and forced nearly 1 million people forced to flee their homes — all at the hands of two generals, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who leads the Sudanese Armed Forces, and his former ally, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who heads the paramilitary group the Rapid Support Forces. In response to mounting death and destruction, the Biden administration has authorized sanctions against individuals and entities that destabilize Sudan and “undermine” its democratic transition. But the executive order issued earlier this month is still just talk, and until it is implemented and targets key war enforcers and their financial networks, the United States will continue its failed policy towards Sudan.
The Biden administration drafted the initial version of the executive order after the October 2021 coup in Sudan, which consolidated power in the hands of military generals, severing Sudan’s democratic transition. But the administration never released him to avoid disturbing the peace of Burhan and Hemedti. This decision meant blind faith in the two generals to resolve their differences and usher in a peaceful democracy, despite their two-decade history of committing atrocities with impunity in Sudan.
Sudanese General Abdel Fattah Burhan, speaks during an army-backed rally in Omdurman, Sudan, in June 2019.
Hussein Mulla – AP
Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, takes part in a rally in the village of Abraq in June 2019.
Yasuyoshi Chiba – AFP/Getty Images
From 2003 to 2008, Burhan and Hemedti orchestrated mass atrocities in Darfur in a conflict that has killed more than 300,000 people, forcibly displaced more than 3 million, and resulted in the ICC’s only charge of genocide against Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir. in 2010. In 2019, after a popular uprising precipitated a military coup, al-Bashir was ousted from power, and the Transitional Military Council was established. Burhan headed the council, and Hemedti served as his deputy. The two generals portrayed themselves as the guardians of Sudan’s glorious revolution. They even arrested Bashir and other senior members of his regime. But their forces soon massacred pro-democracy demonstrators in Khartoum in front of the military headquarters.
The Transitional Military Council and the Forces for Freedom and Change, an umbrella group that has spearheaded the pro-democracy protests, negotiated a political agreement to form a civilian-led government, under which the Transitional Sovereignty Council was created. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces then appointed Abdullah Hamdok as prime minister in 2020. Although a civilian government was established, power remained largely in the hands of Burhan and Hemedti. Then, in October 2021, the generals violently take over the country in a military coup – arresting Hamdok and the majority of his cabinet, as well as dissolving the Transitional Military Council.
Despite all this, the United States has only imposed sanctions One Sudanese entity Since the coup, a low-level police unit has called out Sudan’s Central Reserve Police for using excessive force against protesters. This is a stark contrast to the approximately 3,000 Russian individuals or entities currently under US sanctions duty This week of US visa bans on individuals who are undermining Nigeria’s democratic process during the 2023 general election.
Sudanese refugee women, who have fled violence in their country and are desperately waiting for food distributions, dodge soldiers trying to stop them from getting their bags of provisions when they see that supplies brought in by the Turkish Relief Organization (IHH) are running low. Near the border between Sudan and Chad on May 7.
Zahra Bensemra – Reuters
The Biden administration could do more. The financial networks underpinning the current conflict can be directly traced and targeted, as has already been revealed by independent investigations by the Clingendael Institute, Global Witness, and others. Such sanctions will restore the United States’ image to the people of Sudan and enhance its role as a mediator because they will be applied equally and impartially to all parties involved in the ongoing violence. They can force a change in the accounts of Burhan and Hemedti, isolate them, and cut them off from the financial flows that are financing the war.
There is an urgent need for such work given the scale of the crisis in Sudan. The country faces imminent environmental, water and health disasters. The healthcare system is on the brink of collapse, with 70% of hospitals near battlefields now out of service. The situation is even more serious in a country where 1.3 million refugees and more than 4 million internally displaced people live in precarious conditions. A third of the population was already dependent on humanitarian aid before Fighting; Now more than half of Sudan, or 25 million people, need assistance and protection. However, international humanitarian organizations have largely pulled out of the country due to safety concerns.
As this conflict continues, the people of Darfur face a situation more frightening than the reach of international observers. The region’s longstanding security fragility has been exacerbated by the withdrawal of the United Nations African Mission in Darfur without alternative forces to protect civilians and humanitarian workers. Given the power vacuum, Darfur is increasingly vulnerable to an influx of sub-Saharan terrorist groups and conflict along ethnic lines between what are perceived as Arab and non-Arab African ethnic groups.
Citizens stand near a trench in Khartoum amid ongoing fighting between the forces of two rival generals on May 18.
However, sanctions are not the only tool available to the Biden administration. The United States and its allies should engage directly with the popular democracy movement as the rightful guardians of a peaceful future Sudan. The international community must also support local resistance committees and community leaders who have more effectively protected and aided the vulnerable. Meanwhile, key diplomatic players can work to permanently stop hostilities, open up humanitarian safe zones, and protect aid groups.
The United States has an opportunity to reverse its past mistakes toward Sudan and lead its allies in a concerted effort to target the funding that underpins this war, rather than stand by while Burhan and Hemedti commit open atrocities. The international community has the common sense tools at its disposal to impose immediate costs on the individuals waging this war and prevent further destruction. At this critical juncture, the United States and its allies can choose to perpetuate 20 years of impunity or chart a new course forward that prioritizes the dignity of human life. The choice is clear.
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