Nothing can justify the heinous crime committed by the Rapid Support Forces in Sudan’s Wad Al-Noura in Al-Jazira State. The killing or wounding of more than 200 people in the village on 5 June has to be added to the other crimes committed by the militia since the outbreak of the dirty war in April 2023.

The people of Sudan seem fated for June to be associated in their collective conscience with bloodshed. Aside from the latest massacre, hundreds of protesters were killed on 3 June 2019 when their peaceful sit-in was dispersed in front of the headquarters of the Sudanese Army General Command. Moreover, the period 13-21 June last year witnessed the killing of thousands of residents in the city of El Geneina, the capital of Western Darfur, by the RSF. This month there is the possibility of an invasion of the city of El Fasher, the largest city in Darfur, and the imminent attack could lead to a massacre on a scale similar to what happened in El Geneina. However, it is a fact that every month of the year is soaked with the blood of the Sudanese people, not just June, and the RSF militia is not the sole perpetrator.

What is happening in Sudan, especially since the people succeeded in overthrowing the head of the revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation (RCCNS) regime in 2019, is far removed from the commonly-held understanding of politics. It is closer to being a politicised version of organised crime and gang warfare.

The people of Sudan seem fated for June to be associated in their collective conscience with bloodshed.

The war that has been going on in Sudan for more than a year between the Sudanese Army and the Rapid Support Forces is a brutal conflict that has led to mass killings, sexual violence and hundreds of thousands of citizens displaced, with many seeking refuge in neighboring countries. In the midst of the largest internal displacement crisis in the world, another 2.5 million people in Sudan are at risk of starving to death.

It is clear that neither of the warring parties seems interested in ending the fighting; that many other countries are working to fuel it directly; and that the country’s civil society groups have so far been unable to play their role, and in the current situation cannot do much to protect the people of Sudan. Efforts undertaken by the international community have had zero success so far; they are uncoordinated and there is no indication that they are part of a larger strategy to achieve a permanent ceasefire. It also looks as if the sanctions imposed on leaders on both sides will not have the desired results. While the US may not have much influence over the warring parties, it appears to be unwilling to use its real influence over their foreign supporters, given that the direct support from such supporters is the main reason for the continuation of the war and the devastation affecting Sudanese civilians.

Some international human rights organizations believe that the El Geneina massacres referred to above are acts of genocide, but it is viewed as a regional crisis and not inevitable across the whole country. However, given the extent of the massacres in the country, and based on the legal documents of the UN Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, there are many warning signs about genocide in Sudan, as well as many opportunities to act to prevent it.

Warning signs identified by the UN include serious and widespread violations of human rights, particularly if they establish persistent and repetitive patterns of behaviour, and potential motives or incentives that could be used to justify the use of violence and the infliction of serious physical or mental harm against certain groups of the population, and the subjugation of these groups and others, deliberately, to living conditions intended to cause their physical destruction, in whole or in part.

There are many warning signs about genocide in Sudan, as well as many opportunities to act to prevent it.

We are also seeing the failure of state structures that are meant to work to protect the civilian population, along with other signs. However, despite the atrocities in El Geneina against the Masalit group, many parties in the international community are still arguing about whether these atrocities meet the definition of genocide. Even if their arguments make sense, the international community should not be engaged in a legal debate over whether this atrocity meets the definition of genocide if we are serious about preventing or stopping genocide in the future. By the time we verify that a particular atrocity meets the definition, it may be too late to act, and we must recognize the signs of approaching or potential genocide, so that we can act in time to avoid it, as former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan rightly noted.

This requires the international community to assume its responsibilities in protecting Sudanese civilians, starting with using the powers stipulated in Article 7 of the UN Charter, to impose a ceasefire and deliver humanitarian aid to the population, especially the displaced and refugees. The world must also work to ban the entry of weapons into Sudan, impose strict international sanctions on countries that support the continuation of the war in the country and enable these crimes and violations to continue to occur in flagrant violation of international resolutions, most notably UN Security Council Resolution 1591. This is in addition to expanding the scope of work and mandate of the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) and obliging the warring parties to accept them and allow them unconditional access to all areas of Sudan to investigate the violations committed during this war.

There is still time to act effectively. There is still time to save the people of Sudan.

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