Sudan’s impunity and intransigence have taken a sharp turn for the worse. That’s a pretty high bar considering the country’s track record since the genocide in Darfur started more than a decade ago. But even measured against a long history of abuse, Sudan’s recent actions led by President Omar al-Bashir are a particularly harsh slap in the face for the international community.
In recent weeks, the Government of Sudan has newly bombed civilians in Darfur and the Nuba Mountains, blocked the investigation of a reported mass rape of over 200 Darfuri women, and, in the midst of the sharpest increase in violence and displacement in years, called for the removal of UN peacekeepers.
These new bold actions must be met with equally bold measures by the United States and the rest of the international community.
The facts are astounding. More than 430,000 people newly displaced in Darfur in 2014, the highest number since the height of the genocide. Over 2,000 bombs dropped in South Kordofan and Blue Nile since fighting began there in 2012. And new bombings in Darfur are in clear violation of UN Security Council Resolutions.
“Increased criminality” and “prevailing insecurity” cited in the latest report of the UN Secretary General on Darfur including fifty-five cases of violence, nearly half by government forces, in recorded by UN peacekeepers in the last 90 days. Serious allegations of mass rape that the UN Secretary General and highest UN peacekeeping officials have insisted must be investigated.
Yet, the Sudanese government is blatant in its denial. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, wanted on charges of genocide by the International Criminal Court, accused the UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) of being a “security burden” and blamed foreigners for fabricating rape allegations to “confuse the improvement of the situation in Darfur”.
To make matters worse, this is not just an escalation of the kind of posturing the Sudanese regime has practiced in the past. Bashir is also getting new support from Russia. In a recent visit, the Russian Foreign Minister announced plans for increased military support for the Sudanese regime and the Sudanese government said that Russia supports its position on removal of UNAMID.
The irony is that as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia is among those responsible for failing to support UNAMID.
On paper, the Council has given UNAMID a strong mandate, backed by the strongest authorizations under Chapter VII of the UN Charter including the use of force to protect civilians. But in reality, Sudan has been allowed to intimidate UNAMID and there has been little accountability from the international community when the mission fails to report or act to protect civilians.
The way to address these problems is not play into the hands of the perpetrators and to remove the imperfect last line of defense for many civilians, but rather to reinforce the peacekeeping mission so that it can carry out the mission that has been set out for it.
The UN Security Council, including Russia, must live up to its own commitments in terms of justice and accountability. The year 2014 will close with the latest briefing of the UN Security Council on Darfur by the Chief Prosecutor to the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda. Amazingly, this is the 20th such briefing since the Council referred the case of Darfur to the ICC.
In her last such briefing, Bensouda admonished the Security Council for its failure to take action in the face of “total impunity” in Darfur and called for “a dramatic shift in this Council’s approach to arresting Darfur suspects”. Six months later little has been done to support the court.
Sadly, the only dramatic shift has come on the part of the Government of Sudan whose latest intransigence is mind-bogglingly being met with more welcome than condemnation. For the sake of past victims of genocide and those now in the cross-hairs of the sharpest uptick in violence in nearly a decade, the Security Council must respond.