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African church leaders warn of new genocide risks in Sudan

People board a truck as they leave Khartoum, Sudan, on June 19, 2023. [Credit: Associated Press.]

YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – Church leaders representing various denominations in Africa have called on the African Union, governments and regional bodies to take immediate action “to stop [a] repetition of genocide in Darfur and other war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

In a joint statement issued June 24, members of different ecumenical organizations including the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA) and various other Christian bodies, such as Bread for the World and the World Council of Churches, expressed concern over the continued killings and rights violations on the impoverished African country.

The statement was signed, among others, by Father Antony Makunde, Secretary General of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa, who noted that the conflict that started April 15 “has so far displaced hundreds of thousands and killed hundreds of people, and seems to have no immediate prospect of ending.”

The current fighting has brought disturbing memories of a genocide that unfolded in the Darfur region 20 years ago, especially given that military generals leading the current conflict were also involved in the 2003 genocide.

General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, who now commands the Sudanese Military, is fighting against General Mohammed Dagalo, the head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, ending their temporary alliance after both men came together to overthrow the government of Omar Al- Bashir in 2019.

They are fighting for political control, but more importantly for the control of their economic empires.

But there are rising indications that while the fight for the control of the capital city of Khartoum plays out, the Rapid Support Forces, which was formed from the Janjaweed, is fighting another war in Darfur.

The Janjaweed is an Arab tribal militia that was unleashed by Bashir to crush a non-Arab rebellion against his government’s perceived inequalities in 2003. The resulting fighting left at least 300,000 people dead and displaced 2.5 million, according to the UN, and it led to charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against Bashir and others.

The current fighting has led to a re-emergence of the Janjaweed, apparently supported by the RSF, and again they are unleashing mayhem on non-Arabs in Darfur in what is now seen as another unfolding genocide.

“50 percent of the young men have been killed in battle. There is no way of counting the dead, there is no government. Bodies are in the streets and in homes,” tweeted Darfur resident Marwa Tageldin on June 23, although that claim has not been independently verified.

Speaking during the Paris Summit on a new financing pact last week, Kenyan President William Rutto noted that “there are already signs of genocide” in Darfur.

“What is going on in Sudan is unacceptable. Military power is being used by both parties to destroy the country and to kill civilians. The war is senseless, the war is not legitimate in any way,” Ruto said.

According to Reporters Without Borders, at least 2,800 people have been killed and 2.8 million people uprooted.

In their June 24 statement, the Church leaders expressed concern over “unwarranted destruction and looting of civilian and public infrastructures including schools and hospitals; and the continued use of citizens and civilians as human shields therefore exposing them to grave dangers.”

They condemned “all forms and acts of violence by all parties, because such acts are against the fullness of life of God’s people.”

Recalling the “heartfelt appeal of Pope Francis to the warring parties to lay down arms and call for dialogue,” the Church leaders called on the Sudanese people to “remain vigilant against being instrumentalized for conflict and division, and to reject all forms of violence; to stand up and collectively and peacefully demand sustainable solutions to end the current violence; and to continuously extend the hand of mercy and love to all, and especially to those who have gravely suffered the consequences of violence, irrespective of their social, ethnic, religious and political identity and affiliation.”

They also called for a revival of an October 2020 “Juba Agreement for Peace in Sudan” that amended the country’s 2019 Constitutional Charter.

The peace agreement amongst other things indicated that Sudan would become an “asymmetric federation”, with the future Darfur region exercising “a different set of powers to Blue Nile and Kordofan.” It also established “a complex web of transitional justice mechanisms, including truth and reconciliation mechanisms, investigations and the possibility of pardons.”

In addition, it made for extensive transitional security arrangements, with each part of the country set to have its own security mechanisms and institutions, while individual members of armed groups would be integrated into the national security forces.

Conscious of the shortcomings in the peace agreement, the Church leaders called for a return to the “negotiation table… with the purpose of determining the common areas of actions.”

As an issue of urgency, the Church leaders urged the international community to “facilitate speedy, structured and all-acceptable return to civilian rule in the country.”

They called on regional inter-governmental bodies and governments to apply all the existing mechanisms for peace interventions to facilitate intra-Sudanese engagements for the purpose of finding local solutions; to define and apply appropriate diplomatic pressure including selected sanctions and membership suspension of Sudan; to work together with the Arab League, to reignite the Juba peace process; and immediate action to stop repetition of genocide in Darfur and other war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In addition, they called on governments to facilitate the movement of refugees, to build and create alternative spaces for civil society and other non-state actors to help in bringing sustainable solutions to the situation in Sudan.


(c) 2023, Crux


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