For more than six years the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and armed rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) have been engaged in armed hostilities in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that there are as many as 700,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) spread across government and SPLM-N controlled territory in the two states, while nearly 280,000 people have fled to neighboring countries. The government of Sudan prohibits access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile and systematically obstructs aid from reaching vulnerable civilians. Despite a significant decline in fighting during 2017, recurring armed conflict poses a threat to civilians in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
The SAF has previously committed war crimes, including extrajudicial killings, forced displacement and widespread sexual violence against civilians in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur. It has also engaged in "scorched earth" tactics, systematically targeting food sources and deliberately destroying civilian infrastructure. The SPLM-N and their armed wing, the SPLA-N, have also perpetrated war crimes, including indiscriminate attacks on civilian-populated areas, alleged recruitment of children and attacks on UN personnel.
During 2016 the African Union (AU) High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) for Sudan proposed a Roadmap agreement to help end the conflicts in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Despite the Sudanese government and a number of rebel groups, including the SPLM-N, signing the Roadmap, the parties failed to agree on a permanent cessation of hostilities. On 4 January President Omar al-Bashir further extended a unilateral ceasefire for Blue Nile and South Kordofan states until 31 March 2018. The SPLM-N's unilateral ceasefire is currently due to expire on 31 January 2018.
Civilians in Darfur continue to face the threat of recurring inter-communal violence, as well as possible attacks by the SAF and Rapid Support Forces, a pro-government militia. As of December 2017, a total of 2.1 million people were still displaced in Darfur. During May the AU and UN reported that the security situation in parts of Darfur remains precarious due to activities of militia groups. However, according to the UN Refugee Agency, a growing number of refugees and IDPs are gradually returning to Darfur.
The government continues to systematically obstruct the AU-UN hybrid peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID), tasked with a civilian protection mandate, from carrying out human rights monitoring. Since 2008 more than 70 UNAMID peacekeepers have also been killed.
The government has a history of perpetrating atrocities in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Previous attacks on civilian areas by the SAF and SPLA-N demonstrate an unwillingness to distinguish between combatants and civilians, actions that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The government and SPLA-N have consistently defied external pressure to hold perpetrators of these atrocities accountable.
Since its deployment in Darfur in 2008, UNAMID has been unable to consistently provide adequate protection to civilians. Sporadic inter-communal clashes and SAF operations contribute to the risk of recurring armed conflict. Attacks on UN peacekeepers constitute war crimes, while restrictions on UNAMID's freedom of movement contravene the Status of Forces Agreement between the UN, AU and Sudan. While the overall level of violence in Darfur decreased during 2017, several areas, especially Jebel Marra, still require a robust peacekeeping presence.
International pressure is necessary to ensure that the government of Sudan upholds its Responsibility to Protect and is held accountable for mass atrocity crimes previously committed in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur.
The UN Security Council (UNSC) has adopted at least 57 resolutions on Sudan since 2004, most of which have not been fully implemented.
Following a UNSC referral regarding the situation in Darfur, between 2007 and 2014 the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for three Sudanese government officials, including multiple warrants for President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The ICC has also issued warrants for one pro-government and two anti-government militia leaders. None of the indictees have been surrendered to the Court and the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC has repeatedly criticized the UNSC for failing to meaningfully assist in their arrest.
On 29 June the UNSC adopted Resolution 2363, which extended UNAMID's mandate until 30 June 2018. The Council mandated a phased reduction of the military component of UNAMID by 44 percent and the police component by 30 percent.
The UN has imposed an arms embargo on Darfur since 2004 and travel ban and asset freeze against six individuals since 2006. On 6 October 2017 the United States lifted sanctions against Sudan.
The government, SPLM-N and other parties must abide by the AUHIP Roadmap and permanently end armed hostilities in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The UNSC and AU should ensure the government and SPLM-N facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable civilians.
Following the reconfiguration of UNAMID, the UNSC must closely monitor the precarious security situation in Darfur. The UNSC should also actively support efforts to bring ICC indictees to justice. States parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC should deny President Bashir entry to their country or should comply with ICC warrants and arrest him.
Last Updated: 15 January 2018