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IMMINENT WARNING: UN WARNS OF POTENTIAL ETHNIC CONFLICT IN DARFUR AMID VIOLENCE AND POWER STRUGGLES

June 28, 2023

Gabriel Helupka, Dan Flanagan

Cameron Munoz, Senior Editor

Darfur Region (Highlighted Dark Yellow on Left), Sudan[1]


Event: On June 27, the UN announced tensions between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are fueling the emergence of an ethnic conflict in Darfur.[2] Since April 15, a power struggle has consumed the SAF and RSF, arising from escalating disputes between their respective leaders, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan of the SAF and Mohammed Hamdan Daglo of the RSF. Tensions stem from plans to integrate RSF soldiers into the SAF and who would ultimately lead the unified force following their joint coup that toppled the civilian-led government in October 2021.[3] Daglo, a native of Darfur, is supporting Janjaweed militias in their fight with non-Arabic communities in the region.[4] The RSF is an off-shoot of the Janjaweed, who were used by the Sudanese government to suppress a 2003 uprising in Darfur, resulting in war crimes charges.[5] Darfur has witnessed the most severe violence since the commencement of fighting between the SAF and RSF.[6] Darfur's adjacency to Chad and Libya has impeded efforts to stabilize the region, with UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Raouf Mazou stating "the situation in Darfur is probably the one that concerns us most.”[7] Those fleeing to Chad often arrive with injuries, leading the UNHCR to request neighboring countries to keep their borders open for refugees, despite acknowledging the challenges of delivering aid to refugees due to insecurity, limited access, and insufficient funding. The organization estimated 100,000 refugees would arrive in Chad over six months and has since updated that number to 245,000.[8]


Significance: The Janjaweed are very likely exploiting the power struggle to escalate efforts to remove non-Arab ethnicities from Darfur, likely to exert greater regional control. Janjaweed militants will likely resort to aggressive tactics like confronting fleeing refugees or inciting widespread violence against citizens to determine their ethnic background, likely intensifying UN concerns over ethnic violence. These tactics will likely raise alarm over Darfur collapsing into a warlord state run by militants, likely raising concerns that the area will harbor terrorism in the future. The UNHCR will likely increase the number of projected refugees, likely resulting from increased violence in Darfur. Chad and Libya will likely close border crossings into Darfur to limit refugee numbers and lack of resources to accommodate them. The UN will unlikely deploy investigators to confirm cases of ethnic targeting or war crimes, very likely citing the dangers Darfur poses to its personnel. They will likely escalate calls for the RSF and SAF to establish safe passage corridors for fleeing refugees and increase safe delivery of humanitarian access for refugees. International actors like the UN and US will likely attempt to negotiate additional ceasefires between SAF and RAF on humanitarian grounds in Darfur, likely failing to achieve sustainable long-term agreements. Prolonged diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict will unlikely succeed, likely leading to the African Union (AU) mounting a regional intervention. Ethnic community leaders in Darfur will likely call for more action from the AU and Western countries, likely demanding an end to the fighting and the restoration of civilian-led democratic rule.


Recommendations

  • The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) recommends the UN and neighboring countries work with both factions in Sudan to create protected evacuation corridors for refugees fleeing the conflict.

  • CTG recommends the SAF and RSF commit to protecting international aid for refugees and allowing relief efforts to go unimpeded.

  • CTG recommends humanitarian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) temporarily avoid or cease ongoing unilateral operations to avoid looting or attacks in Darfur. We also recommend calling on the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to increase efforts to establish unimpeded delivery and safe distribution of humanitarian aid.

  • CTG recommends neighboring countries call for a permanent solution to the conflict and play a role in mediating negotiations between the SAF and RSF.

  • CTG recommends ethnicities targeted by RSF and Janjaweed coordinate with one another to inform each other of potential raids and share best tactics to avoid the groups.

  • CTG recommends Western Intelligence agencies monitor developments and watch for potential infiltration of known terror groups in Darfur.

  • If there is any additional and or critical information, please contact us at The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) by Telephone 202-643-2848 or email info@counterterrorismgroup.com.

 

[1]Map of Darfur” by Пакко licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

[2] Sudan: UN warns on possible ethnic conflict amid war, Africa News, June 2023, https://www.africanews.com/2023/06/27/sudan-un-warns-on-possible-ethnic-conflict-amid-war/

[3] What is happening in Sudan? Fighting in Khartoum explained, Reuters, May 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/whats-behind-sudans-crisis-2023-04-17/

[4] Sudan: UN warns on possible ethnic conflict amid war, Africa News, June 2023, https://www.africanews.com/2023/06/27/sudan-un-warns-on-possible-ethnic-conflict-amid-war/

[5] Sudan Capital Sees Heavy Fighting on Eve of Muslim Holiday, Voice of America, June 2023, https://www.voanews.com/a/sudan-capital-sees-heavy-fighting-on-eve-of-muslim-holiday-/7155473.html

[6] UN Worried By Sudan Conflict's 'Alarming' Turn In Darfur, Barron’s, June 2023, https://www.barrons.com/news/un-worried-by-sudan-conflict-s-alarming-turn-in-darfur-4085d03

[7] Sudan: UN warns on possible ethnic conflict amid war, Africa News, June 2023, https://www.africanews.com/2023/06/27/sudan-un-warns-on-possible-ethnic-conflict-amid-war/

[8] Ibid

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