In a stunning development, Volker Perthes, the United Nations’ top envoy in Sudan, has resigned amidst struggles with the Sudanese government.
This announcement comes four months after he was instructed by the government to leave the country. In his parting remarks, Perthes did not hold back in his criticism of Sudan’s military and the rebel Rapid Support Forces.
During a Security Council meeting on Wednesday, Perthes expressed deep concern about the state of affairs in Sudan, stating that the ongoing conflict has created a tragic legacy of human rights abuses. He went on to describe the indiscriminate attacks against civilians by the warring parties as gross violations of human rights.
According to the United Nations, the conflict that erupted between rival generals on April 15 has resulted in the death of at least 5,000 people and the injury of over 12,000 others. Furthermore, the number of internally displaced persons in Sudan has risen to over 5 million, with more than one million seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.
Of particular concern to the international community is the escalating ethnically targeted violence in the Darfur region. This region has a dark history of ethnic violence and crimes against humanity, which occurred in the early 2000s. There is now a fear that history could repeat itself.
Perthes shared alarming figures, revealing that hundreds of ethnic Masalit have been killed in El Geneina and other parts of West Darfur. Additionally, the United Nations has received credible information about the existence of at least 13 mass graves in El Geneina and its surroundings. The RSF and their allied Arab militias have been directly implicated in these attacks on civilians.
The envoy did not mince words when placing blame for the conflict. He stated, “There is little doubt about who is responsible for what.” This indicates that Perthes has identified the actors involved in the atrocities committed against the civilian population.
According to Perthes, indiscriminate aerial bombing is often carried out by those who possess an air force, namely the Sudan Armed Forces. He further notes that the majority of sexual violence, lootings, and killings occur in areas controlled by the RSF and are either conducted or tolerated by the RSF and their allies. Both sides are also arbitrarily arresting, detaining, and even torturing and executing civilians. It is imperative that we impress upon the warring parties that they cannot operate with impunity, and there will be accountability for the crimes committed.
A group of Security Council diplomats expressed their concern about the rampant use of sexual violence in the conflict. Reports of rape, including gang rape, sexual slavery, abduction, and sexual harassment have been prominent throughout the conflict. Women and girls, particularly in the Darfur region, are subjected to horrifying acts of sexual violence, and reports of gender-based violence are used as a tactic of war to instill fear and control in the population and assert dominance over local communities. The diplomats urge the warring parties to cease such violence and uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law.
The United States also issued a call for the warring sides to end this brutal conflict, stating that the people of Sudan deserve freedom, peace, and justice. Both parties have instigated unrelenting violence that has caused death and destruction across Sudan. As previously stated, both parties must comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, including obligations related to the protection of civilians.
The resignation of the UN envoy highlights the challenges faced by international actors in addressing the complex situation in Sudan. It underscores the difficulties in holding those responsible accountable and achieving a lasting peace.
Despite the efforts of regional organisations such as the African Union and IGAD, as well as the support of the United States, European Union, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan’s neighbouring countries, the conflict in Sudan persists. When asked about the situation, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasised the importance of African solutions to African problems.
However, the ongoing fighting has had devastating consequences for civilians, and the international community must come together to urge those leading the fight to cease their actions.
The humanitarian crisis in Sudan is worsening rapidly, with millions of people at risk of famine and a collapsing healthcare system. The United Nations warns that if the fighting continues, this potential tragedy will become a reality. It is imperative that all parties involved work towards a peaceful resolution to prevent further harm to the Sudanese people and regional stability.