War in Sudan: “It is time for the international community to take responsibility”

The stakes of the humanitarian conference on Sudan which will be held on Monday April 15 in Paris, exactly one year after the start of the conflict, are immense: the future of the third largest country in Africa is compromised; the survival of millions of children, women and men is at stake as possible famine and the lean season loom; the stability of an entire region, which already hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees, is threatened

War in Sudan: “It is time for the international community to take responsibility”

The stakes of the humanitarian conference on Sudan which will be held on Monday April 15 in Paris, exactly one year after the start of the conflict, are immense: the future of the third largest country in Africa is compromised; the survival of millions of children, women and men is at stake as possible famine and the lean season loom; the stability of an entire region, which already hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees, is threatened. And what about the moral integrity of the entire world being called into question here, against the backdrop of the atrocities we failed to stop two decades ago in Darfur?

As I said three months after the outbreak of the current conflict in Sudan, the international community cannot ignore this painful echo of history. But that's exactly what happened. Somehow we forgot the unforgettable. And the consequences of this oversight are unforgivable. Let us be clear, our inattention has emboldened the parties to the conflict to flout the basic rules of war. We saw people being shot while trying to flee. Children killed. Women raped. Hospitals targeted.

Two generals sparked a conflict that forced more than 8 million people, mostly women and children, from their homes, right before our eyes. This same conflict has fueled ethnic violence and disease, destroying lives and livelihoods. It has destroyed the pillars of society – health care, education, agriculture – and half the population, some 25 million people, now need humanitarian aid. Such is the toll of a year of war. Sudan must not suffer another one. We must therefore seize this moment for what it is: a reckoning and a chance to redouble our efforts to achieve three key goals.

Let me start with a goal that is within our reach, collectively:

By hosting the international humanitarian conference for Sudan and its neighbors, France, Germany and the European Union (EU) offer us a platform for action and there is no time to lose. Our humanitarian appeal for this year is funded at 6%. Of the $2.7 billion [€2.5 billion] we need to help 15 million of the most vulnerable people, we have $155 million. The international community can prevent famine from taking hold in Sudan, but only by acting immediately. I invite countries to commit generously and keep their promises.

The second objective is, it is true, much more difficult to achieve:

Ramadan passed without a cessation of fighting, despite numerous calls by the United Nations Secretary-General, the Security Council and countless other leaders and bodies for a truce during the holy month. It is clear that we need renewed diplomacy to achieve a ceasefire and, without delay, a negotiated political solution to the conflict.

We know that this will not happen overnight. In the meantime, those who have influence over the parties to the conflict must force them to respect the declaration of commitments they signed eleven months ago in Jeddah. The Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) were committed to protecting civilians and facilitating the delivery of aid, but they largely failed in their mission.

Which brings me to a third and final goal, one that we shouldn't have to beg for:

Over the past year, more than 20 aid workers have been killed in Sudan and tens of thousands of tons of supplies have been looted. The humanitarian community – with local organizations and their courageous volunteers on the front line – is maintaining aid operations, ceasefire or not. But we could do much more if the parties engaged in humanitarian dialogue to unblock access and delivery of aid.

What we need, plain and simple, is to be able to reach people who need help, wherever they are, by any route possible, whether across borders or lines of conflict . The vast majority of the estimated 5 million people at risk of famine in the coming months live in the parts of Sudan most difficult for us to reach: Darfur, Kordofan, Khartoum and Gezira. Preventing aid from reaching them would condemn them to starvation.

Their future depends on all of us being able to ensure that these three priorities are respected. By falling back into passivity, into oblivion, we would send the message that we do not care about what is happening in Sudan. For the international community, it is time to take responsibility. The Paris conference must translate into tangible results: more access for humanitarians, more funding for the response and more diplomacy to end this war.

As for the parties to the conflict and those who support them, it is time to face reality. You are making Sudan unlivable. Your quest for power and resources fuels hunger, displacement and disease. Silencing the guns now! After a year of war, there must be a light at the end of this tunnel of darkness and death. Millions of people in Sudan have already lost their homes, livelihoods and loved ones. We cannot let them lose hope.