Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 16, 2023
Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Assistant Secretary-General Pobee, for your briefing and for your leadership in the face of this dire crisis.
The United States strongly supports the efforts of the UN mission. And we call on all Council members to continue to stand behind UNITAMS, as it works to support an end to the conflict, to protect human rights, to promote unhindered humanitarian assistance, and to facilitate the resumption of a process that can move Sudan toward a democratic political settlement. I’ll also note that we look forward to the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s strategic review of UNITAMS.
Colleagues, 19 years ago in a different role, I visited a refugee camp in Adré, Chad. It was overflowing with refugees fleeing a horrific civil war in Sudan. I met families who had left everything behind to find safety. And I saw babies who were severely malnourished. Their parents, forced to choose between feeding themselves and feeding their children.
When the most recent Juba Peace Agreement was signed, there was a newfound hope for sustained peace. But today, that hope has faded and another war has turned Sudan into a living hell. This conflict has gone on for more than six months. And in that time, the warring parties – the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces – have engaged in a brutal struggle for power, with total disregard for the lives of the Sudanese people. More than 5,000 people have been killed, more than 5.7 million people have had to flee their homes, Khartoum has been devastated, and Darfur is also bearing the brunt of this conflict.
The RSF and allied militias have carried out massacres and other horrific abuses across West Darfur. And just this week, eyewitnesses reported further human rights abuses in West Darfur, the ethnic targeting of the ethnic-African Masalit community, and the arbitrary detention of civilians including local leaders, human rights defenders, and activists.
According to doctors and the UN, more than 800 people and counting were killed in a multiday attack in Ardamata in what may amount to the single largest mass killing since the war erupted in April.
We are deeply alarmed by reports that the RSF used heavy weapons to attack El Fasher and by credible reports that both the RSF and the SAF have failed to take sufficient measures to prevent civilian casualties in the city’s residential neighborhoods.
We call on all Member States to uphold the UN arms embargo on Darfur. We call on the warring parties to immediately cease further attacks in and around El Fasher, and to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law concerning civilians as reaffirmed in the May 11 Jeddah Declaration of Commitment to Protect the Civilians in Sudan.
We also know that conflict-related sexual violence – including rape – has been rampant. According to the OHCHR, women and girls are being abducted, chained, and held against their will in RSF-controlled areas in Darfur. Let me repeat that: Women and girls are being abducted, chained, and held against their will.
This is all happening on our watch. And it is a stain on our collective humanity. We said, “Never again.” But so far, these have proven to be empty words. We have failed to hold perpetrators of these evils to account. And that needs to change immediately.
For our part, the United States is committed to securing justice for the people of Darfur. This past September, while in Chad, I announced sanctions and visa restrictions on key RSF leaders. And the United States welcomes the establishment of the independent international fact-finding mission for Sudan. We must keep at this. There must be accountability.
Colleagues, this conflict is nothing more than two generals fighting for power in a selfish, callous, and senseless way.
This conflict has caused the largest displacement crisis in the world, with nearly 6 million civilians fleeing their homes for a semblance of safety. A staggering 19 million children in Sudan are unable to return to classrooms, creating one of the worst education crises in the world. And more than 24 million Sudanese people are in urgent need of lifesaving humanitarian assistance.
The United States has stepped up as the world’s leading humanitarian donor to the Sudanese response effort. But only a fraction of the UN’s appeal has been funded. Today, we call on all Member States to do more and to give more.
Still, we know that sustained peace is the only way to save lives and end this humanitarian crisis. And that is why the United States, with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Intergovernmental Authority for Development, reconvened ceasefire talks between the parties.
Following the first round of reconvened negotiations, the RSF and SAF committed to participating in a joint, OCHA-led humanitarian forum to resolve impediments to humanitarian access and deliveries of assistance. The two parties also agreed to identify points of contact to assist with movements of humanitarian personnel and assistance. And they resolved to implement confidence-building measures, including establishing communication between SAF and RSF leaders, arresting prison escapees and fugitives, and reducing hostile rhetoric.
The world is now watching closely the parties’ next steps to see whether they live up to these commitments or break yet another set of promises to the Sudanese people. Let’s be clear: There is no military solution to this conflict and external actors that provide arms or support to the warring parties are only throwing fuel on the fire. The immediate focus must be on protecting civilians, providing humanitarian assistance to those in dire need, and negotiating an end to the conflict.
This September, nearly two decades after I visited that refugee camp in Adré, I returned. Once again, Adré was sheltering thousands of people who had fled fighting in Sudan. It was like I was stepping back in time, and reliving the horrors of the past. I once again saw children who were in critical condition. Whose ankles were swollen, bodies were blistered, from malnutrition. I once again saw the parents, desperate to help their children. How can we let this happen again? How can we allow children to suffer like this?
Colleagues, there is no shortage of crises before us – in Gaza, Ukraine, Syria, and Yemen, and elsewhere. But we must continue to address the dire needs of the Sudanese people, and to push for peace.
It is far past time for the parties to put down their weapons and resume civilian governance. Let us all do everything possible to help the Sudanese people secure the freedom, the peace, and justice they deserve.
Thank you, Mr. President.