The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is deeply concerned about the dire risk of genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Twenty years after the Museum first warned of genocide there, today’s warning should galvanize the world to prioritize the protection of those vulnerable to attack.
“That Darfuris again are at risk of genocide, and that today’s perpetrators have ties to the same actors who perpetrated the first genocide, is an indictment of the collective failure to advance accountability and prevent mass atrocities,” said Naomi Kikoler, director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide.
Millions of civilians throughout Sudan have faced a threat of mass atrocities since fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF)—a paramilitary group with ties to the Janjaweed, which terrorized civilians in Darfur two decades ago—began on April 15, 2023. Both the SAF and the RSF are accused of committing crimes against civilians.
In Darfur, the RSF and its allied militias have engaged in targeted, ethnically-motivated violence against non-Arab populations. Reports of widespread sexual violence and the destruction of entire villages are reminiscent of past crimes.
Already, over 1,100 people have been killed in the city of El Geneina in West Darfur alone, with untold numbers killed elsewhere. Over 2.5 million Sudanese have been displaced.
Several factors point to the risk of genocide, including the prior history of the crime, the lack of effective deterrence—including rampant impunity for past crimes, the high capacity of perpetrators to commit mass atrocities, hate speech against marginalized groups, and the deepening ethnically-charged nature of the targeting of civilians in Darfur.
“World leaders should recommit themselves to ending ongoing crimes against civilians, and to responding to the specific threat of genocide in Darfur. Policymakers have various options for limiting the capacity of perpetrators to commit mass atrocities, helping protect civilian populations under threat, and ensuring that Sudan receives dedicated policy attention at the highest levels,” Kikoler said. “For years, civil society groups within Sudan have done the incredibly difficult and important work of documenting mass atrocities, working for peace, and pressing for accountability.”
“The people of Sudan deserve more,” said Tom Bernstein, chair of the Museum’s Committee on Conscience. “It has been almost 20 years since Secretary Powell determined that genocide had been committed in Darfur, and it is heart-wrenching that history may be repeated.”
A nonpartisan federal institution, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is America’s national memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, dedicated to ensuring the permanence of Holocaust memory, understanding, and relevance. Through the power of Holocaust history, the Museum challenges leaders and individuals worldwide to think critically about their role in society and to confront antisemitism and other forms of hate, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity.
(c) 2023, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum