Three months into the renewed conflict in Darfur, there one glaring question: where the hell is the United Nations Security Council?
After three months of increasing attacks against civilians and horrific atrocities on the ground – including mass killings, sexual violence, and even the destruction of entire towns – we’ve yet to see anything concrete from the global body charged with peace and security.
The Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a notoriously abusive independent military group, and its allied militias, continue to slaughter and terrorize non-Arab communities in West Darfur. Looting and arson go hand-in-hand with killing and rape. They attack critical civilian infrastructure, like hospitals, and markets.
The assaults and ongoing violence have displaced hundreds of thousands of people throughout the region since April, but the RSF is also attacking the sites where those who had been displaced in previous attacks gathered in hope of finding safety. More than 320,000 people have fled across the border to Chad.
The UN Security Council meanwhile has been tiptoeing around the issue. Sudan and Darfur have technically been on the agenda, but nothing’s come of it apart from this empty formality that helps no one.
Part of the reason has been diplomatic pushback from the three African members of the Security Council – what’s sometimes called the “A3” and is currently comprised of Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique. They shunned proactive Security Council involvement, preferring to let regional and bilateral efforts to solve the crisis take precedence.
This kind of diplomatic effort is often called, “African solutions for African problems,” and when it works, great. No need to involve global bodies if regional efforts can get results and save lives.
But it’s been three months, and those regional efforts have not stemmed the slaughter. Ethnic attacks continue in Darfur. Atrocities keep mounting.
This is a matter of global, humanity-wide concern, and the body charged with international peace and security – the UN Security Council – needs to act.
Tomorrow, the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council falls to the United States, which will have the entire month of August to try to make things happen. The people of Darfur need to see them shift the Council’s direction.
There are some encouraging signs. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Ambassador to the UN and a member of President Biden’s cabinet, has not been shy in talking about mass atrocity crimes unfolding in Darfur. Just days ago, she said: “In Sudan, we are beginning to see reports use the dreaded word genocide to describe the situation in Darfur.”
And in a media interview last week, she said: “What is happening in Sudan should be on the agenda of the Security Council.”
But, as we’ve seen, it’s not just about keeping the issue on the agenda. It’s about taking actual steps to address the gravity of the issue. Specifically, these are some of the concrete actions we need to see:
First, the UN Security Council should expand the current Darfur-specific arms embargo to cover the whole of Sudan and commit to publicly call out countries not respecting the existing arms embargo on Darfur.
Second, the Council should impose targeted sanctions against those individuals most responsible for atrocities in Darfur.
Third, the Council should involve the UN’s expert on conflict-related sexual violence to report to the Council and pave the way for sanctions against commanders responsible.
Fourth, they should invite atrocity survivors from Darfur to come to New York and address the Council personally.
Fifth, they should consider how to step up civilian protection, starting by asking the UN Secretary General to give the Security Council a report with options on what the UN could do to protect civilians, as soon as possible.
These five steps would be a start to the world treating the deepening crisis in Darfur with the seriousness it demands.
Special note: Starting tomorrow, we will be featuring short dispatches and notes from our researchers who have been in Chad, interviewing victims of atrocities in Darfur.