Sudan and El Fasher Update

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office written statement – made am ar 15 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

A year ago, the Sudanese people were plunged into a brutal and needless conflict. The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continue to inflict terrible violence and harrowing suffering on their people.

The conflict in Sudan has resulted in a country-wide humanitarian catastrophe. 24.8 million people, 51% of the population, are in desperate need of assistance. Nearly five million people are at risk of famine with estimates that we could see half a million to one million excess deaths. The crushing food insecurity that millions of Sudanese people are facing continues to be exacerbated by access constraints imposed by the warring parties.

Nearly nine million people have been displaced. In a visit to Chad at the end of March, I saw first-hand the harrowing consequences of the conflict, not only for those who have fled to escape violence and hunger, but also on neighbouring states who have so admirably stepped up to help those in desperation, feeling across the border seeking a safe haven.

El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, is currently the centre of escalating tensions between the RSF, SAF and armed groups. Whilst the RSF have not yet launched their widely-expected offensive against the city, there have already been devastating violence and dire humanitarian impacts. As highlighted in a recent report by Human Rights Watch, we have already seen from events in El Geneina last year the terrible violence that the RSF and their allies inflict.

Villages surrounding the city have been razed to the ground and continued airstrikes have resulted in civilian areas being caught in the crossfire. Last weekend, two children and a number of caregivers were killed after a bomb fell near the Medecins Sans Frontieres-supported Babiker Nahar Paediatric Hospital, in El Fasher. Reports have suggested that ethnically-motivated attacks by the RSF and allied militia against non-Arab communities are taking place in villages west of El Fasher. The UK-funded Centre for Information Resilience has also verified fire damage to 32 settlements around El Fasher in April. Humanitarian partners have raised serious concerns about the imminent threat to the civilian population in El Fasher, which includes more than 1 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs); consisting of civilians displaced by the conflict in Darfur 20 years ago, and those who have fled their homes in the last nine months from other parts of Darfur. The city is now entirely cut off from water, food and fuel supplies.

In April, the UK led negotiations at the UN Security Council (UNSC) to deliver a press statement, urging the warring parties to de-escalate in El Fasher and comply with their obligations under International Humanitarian Law. We also called for a closed UNSC consultation on the situation. On 2 May, I publicly called upon the RSF and SAF to protect civilians and spare Sudan from their wilful destruction and carnage. The UK will continue to do all we can to bring a sustainable end to the conflict. This is the only way that the abhorrent violence currently taking place in El Fasher, as well as across Sudan, will stop.

Indeed, we continue to pursue all diplomatic avenues to achieve a permanent ceasefire, and we welcome plans to restart talks in Jeddah, jointly led by the US and Saudi Arabia. We urge the region to refrain from actions that prolong the conflict, and to engage positively with peace talks.

As part of our diplomatic efforts to achieve peace in Sudan, we speak to all parties. We have used our exchanges with the warring parties strongly to condemn atrocities they have perpetrated and to demand that their leadership makes every effort to prevent further atrocities in territories they have captured or threatened to capture; as well as to press the need for improved humanitarian access.

On 15 April, I announced a package of sanctions designations, freezing the assets of three commercial entities linked to the warring parties. We will continue to explore other levers to disrupt and constrain the sources of funding that both warring parties are using to sustain themselves.

At the Security Council in March, where the UK is penholder on Sudan, we used the opportunity of the OCHA White Note on the risk of conflict-induced famine to highlight its warning that the obstruction of humanitarian access is resulting in the starvation of the Sudanese people. Using starvation as a method of warfare is prohibited by international humanitarian law.

Our ongoing partnership with the Centre for Information Resilience is also vital in documenting reported atrocities, and preserving and sharing evidence, so that those who are alleged to have committed these horrific acts can be brought to justice. We are committed to ensuring there is no impunity for human rights abusers, no matter what it may take to hold them to account.

On 15 April, my Noble Friend Lord Benyon attended the international humanitarian conference for Sudan in Paris where donors pledged 2.03 billion euros to Sudan. To meet the growing need in Sudan, UK aid to the country, including Darfur, will nearly double to £89 million this financial year.

Finally, we will keep working to ensure that the voices of Sudanese civilians are heard: whether that is the survivors and witnesses of human rights abuses; the brave Sudanese NGOs, women’s rights organisations and activists helping their communities; or those trying to develop a political vision for Sudan’s future. UK technical and diplomatic support has been instrumental in the establishment of the anti-war, pro-democracy Taqaddum coalition, led by former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, and we will continue to support Taqaddum’s development.

One year on from the beginning of the conflict, we must maintain international pressure on the warring parties to stop this senseless war, for troops to return to their barracks and for civil society to have the space to pursue a political track to return peace and build security through all parts of Sudan.