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Sudan sides must urgently commit to political process, negotiate for peace: UN Rights chief

May 11, 2023 at 3:04 pm

Chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, Gen. Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman al-Burhan (L) and Deputy Chairman of the Sovereignty Council, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (R) in Khartoum, Sudan on September 22, 2021 [Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency]

It is essential that both sides in the Sudanese conflict urgently commit to “an inclusive political process and to a negotiated peace,” the UN Human Rights chief said on Thursday, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Volker Turk’s remarks came during his speech at the 36th Special Session of the Human Rights Council on Sudan, where the Army and a large paramilitary group have been engaged in clashes since mid-April, especially in and around the capital, Khartoum.

“The ongoing talks in Jeddah, which focus on creating a ceasefire, need to be complemented by commitments to establish a humanitarian truce, to enable life-saving deliveries of aid; to allow for safe passage for civilians from areas of hostilities and to protect humanitarian supplies from looting,” he said.

Despite intense diplomatic efforts, notably by the African Union, Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Arab League and UN, the leaders of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) “have not agreed to discuss ending their hostilities”.

“I take this opportunity to urge all States with influence in the region to encourage, by all possible means, the resolution of this crisis,” said Turk.

READ: EU launches humanitarian air bridge to provide essential supplies to Sudan

The Human Rights chief also stressed the military and RSF’s duty to protect the rights of civilians and comply with international humanitarian and human rights law.

He added: “I condemn the use of violence by individuals who have no regard for the lives and fundamental rights of millions of their own compatriots.”

Conflict plunges already-troubled nation into catastrophe

On the progress achieved after popular protests in April 2019, which ended “decades of tyranny and human rights violations” by toppling former President Omar Al-Bashir, Turk said this conflict was the second bump on the road to full civilian rule and democracy after a military coup in 2021.

When fighting exploded last month between the two forces, it plunged “this much-suffering country into catastrophe,” he said.

“Since 15 April, at least 487 civilians have been killed, notably in Khartoum, El Geneina, Nyala and El Obeid; the real figure is much higher. More than 154,000 people have fled the country, and an estimated 700,000 more have been displaced inside the borders of Sudan,” he said. “Those who remain in areas affected by the conflict are at continued, severe risk.”

He drew attention to the clashes in Khartoum, saying they have been taking place in heavily populated residential areas, and millions of people are now struggling to access food, fuel and currency.

In parts of Darfur, as well as the Blue Nile and Kordofan regions, violence between the sides has triggered inter-ethnic clashes, he added.

Turk also mentioned that Sudan’s health system was “severely damaged” due to tens of attacks on health facilities, while several others are occupied by military forces, he continued.

“If there is one lesson to be drawn from this tragic crisis, it is the pressing need for all transitional arrangements to build on bedrock commitments to accountability, non-discrimination and participation — so that peace can be sustainable and stable, because it is just,” he said.

Turk also paid tribute to UN staff affected by the fighting and shortages in the country.

Since the fighting in Sudan erupted, more than 600 people have been killed and thousands injured, according to data from the World Health Organisation.

A disagreement had been fomenting in recent months between the Army and RSF over the latter’s integration into the armed forces, a key condition of Sudan’s transition agreement with political groups.

READ: WFP plans to ‘immediately’ reach 380,000 vulnerable people in Sudan