The refugees are fleeing a rapidly worsening humanitarian crisis, with Sudan’s armed forces fighting against the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group and their affiliated militias. Fighting broke out in April, a few years after both sides jointly deposed Sudan’s longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir in a coup.
The U.S., the U.N. and human rights groups say that sexual violence is being used as a weapon of war in the conflict. The number of victims of gender-based violence is believed to have been grossly underreported, according to a U.S. official.
The U.N. has also authorized the International Criminal Court to investigate whether a genocide is unfolding in Sudan, with reports of massacres and ethnic cleansing mainly carried out against the Masalit tribe and other non-Arab communities.
In June, Sudan’s doctors’ union reported that more than 1,100 people had died in El-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, in just the first two months of the civil war, according to Human Rights Watch.
Thomas-Greenfield announced sanctions against a leader of the RSF, Abdelrahim Hamdan Dagalo, as well as visa restrictions for Dagalo and the RSF’s commander in the West Darfur region of Sudan, where the U.S. is accusing the RSF of engaging in ethnically motivated killings and other atrocities. Dagalo is the brother of the RSF’s leader, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti.
Observers warn that the past is repeating itself in Sudan. Nearly 20 years ago, a genocide in Darfur carried out by “Janjaweed” militias against non-Arab tribes killed more than 300,000 people, according to the U.N. Those militias have evolved into today’s RSF.
“You know it did change but now we are seeing the evidence of it starting again,” Thomas-Greenfield said when asked whether anything had changed in the years since. “What we see happening in Darfur right now portends to what we saw happening in Darfur in 2004. So, we have gone backwards in those years. And that is why it is so important that we hold those responsible accountable.”
The International Criminal Court still has outstanding arrest warrants for the accused perpetrators of the genocide in the 2000s. (The U.S. and Sudan are not parties of the ICC.)
Andrea Mitchell and Abigail Williams reported from Chad, and Owen Hayes from Washington.