Repetition of History in Sudan
by Colonel (Retired) Wes Martin
January 8, 2024

After seventeen years of conflict and three years of an often government violated peace treaty, genocide and crimes against humanity are once again flaring in the western Sudan region of Darfur.

Both Amnesty International and the International Crisis Group commenced reporting the atrocities as early as 2003. President George W. Bush testified about the situation before the United Nations (UN) in 2004. As soon as he took office in 2005, UN High Commissioner of Refugees Antonio Guterres started addressing the inhumanity of what the people of this east African nation were suffering. Now, as UN Secretary General, he is dealing with it again.

In 2020 a peace treaty between Darfur’s Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudanese government was signed in Juba, South Sudan. Either by corrupt intent, or by incompetence, the Sudanese government created the Rapid Support Forces, a militia to back up its military in future operations. What Sudanese leaders thought was going to be part of its aggressive solution, has transformed itself into a serious problem for both the government and the citizens of Darfur.

As reported in Foreign Policy, “Sudan erupted into chaos this April [2023] after rival factions of a military junta – the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) – broke apart and began fighting for control of the country. More than 10,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the ensuing conflict since then, and at least 6.7 million people have been displaced.”

On December 4th, the US Legislative Branch sent a wake-up call to the sleeping Executive Branch. United States Members of Congress wrote a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing their justifiable displeasure. Spearheaded by Representatives Sara Jacobs and Ilhan Omar, eight additional representatives signed the letter. Statements included:

  • “We are particularly disturbed by significant and growing allegations of mass atrocities committed by the so-called Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Darfur. Although credible reports have implicated both the RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in war crimes and instances of severe civilian harm, it also seems clear that the RSF has borne responsibility for the majority of the atrocities committed since the outbreak of fighting in April.”
  • “Members of Congress have been clear that we support accountability for atrocity crimes committed in Sudan and elsewhere, and we stand prepared to take legislative action as necessary to ensure a civilian-led transition in Sudan includes significant mechanisms for justice for the victims of atrocities dating back decades,” adding “The dream of civilian-led Sudanese government cannot be achieved without such measures.”
  • “The conflict in Sudan that began in [last] April has gotten steadily more brutal over recent weeks, with international experts ringing the alarm about a possible recurrence of genocide in Darfur.”

To start answering Congress, State Department needs to examine history and be open-minded to reality. While Europe was struggling through the Dark and Middle Ages, the more advanced Arab Empire was conquering the Middle East, parts of Europe, and northern Africa. Sudan was on the southeastern region of the African expanse. Arabs pushed the native Africans further inland. Subsequent events, including further Arab encroachment, European colonization, and military conflicts resulted in Darfur becoming the western region of Sudan.

In present day Sudan, rather than being accepted as citizens, black Africans continue to be denied employment opportunities, access to basic life support, and participation in government. While he served as Secretary of State, Colin Powell specifically stated citizens of Darfur were enduring both apartheid and genocide.

When the 2003 conflict commenced, corrupt and incompetent Sudanese government forces were overwhelmingly defeated by the JEM and Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM). The government solution was to commission semi-nomadic Janjaweed militias to attack non-Arab communities in Darfur and break the resistance.

This included turning villages to rubble, butchering men and boys, raping women and children. Sudan President Omar al-Bashir was subsequently indicted before the International Criminal Court for war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.

The UN and the African Union sent in troops to help stop the genocide, which only provided temporary measures. The US implemented sanctions against Sudan. Al-Bashir successfully turned to China and Russia for weapons sales, which continue to this day.

Following the 2020 treaty, al-Bashir created the RSF. Now the RSF is attempting to overthrow the government while continuing its atrocities against Darfur. As is always the case, innocent people are suffering the most. Non-Arab refugee camps in neighboring Chad have been attacked by the RSF. In a firefight, ten Chadian soldiers and 70 RSF militia members were killed.

This national conflict has the potential to become a regional war. Egypt is behind the Sudanese government forces. Rather than exercising leadership and diplomacy, the US appears to be avoiding upsetting countries supporting opposing factions. The United Arab Emirates supports the RSF.

A long-term solution is necessary. Hopefully, the Congressional letter to Secretary Blinken will help prompt US involvement and leadership within the UN to achieve a permanent solution.

©2024 Wes Martin