Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 9, 2023
So good afternoon, and let me thank all of you for being here. I would like to make a statement in my national capacity.
Today, the Security Council met to discuss a pressing matter of international peace and security: the ongoing conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces. I would like to thank Ms. Wosornu and Assistant Secretary-General Pobee for their sobering briefings this morning.
But as I told the Council just now, while we were grateful for the ASG’s participation, we had expected that SRSG Perthes was going to brief the Council. We now know that the Sudanese government threatened to end the UN Mission in Sudan if the SRSG participated in this briefing. And that was really outrageous, and I did make that point in the Council. No country should be able to bully a briefer into silence, let alone the United Nations.
A conflict that has gone on for over 100 days – and has turned large swaths of Sudan into a living hell. The stories and the images coming out of Sudan, especially out of Darfur, are bone-chilling.
There are credible reports that the Rapid Support Forces and allied militias have carried out continued atrocities in West Darfur. Killings based on ethnicity. Widespread sexual violence against women. The burning and looting of homes and villages. Women who have been brutally – brutally – raped. Children who have been orphaned, forcibly recruited, subjected to violence.
And I think about children like Essam Muhammad, an 11-year-old who fled Sudan and found his way to a refugee camp in Chad. And according to a Washington Post article, Essam’s mother, Fatima, lost her parents in the 2003 genocide. And 20 years later, Essam’s mother was killed by a sniper in western Darfur. Now, Essam is left to care for his 13-month-old sister.
One of the worst chapters of recent history is repeating itself. And it’s beyond horrifying. The Security Council, and the entire international community, has a responsibility to demand the parties comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law regarding the protection of civilians. We have a responsibility to ensure humanitarian assistance can reach people in dire need. And we have a responsibility to urge the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces to immediately put down their weapons.
At this perilous moment, the Security Council and all Member States must stand on the side of peace, and on the right side of history. Let us do everything in our power to end the bloodshed. Sudan’s political future belongs to the Sudanese people – not to the men with guns who are prolonging human suffering.
And I do call upon all of you to continue to report on this dire situation. One of the briefers said that she was struck by the lack of reporting on what is happening in Sudan. And she commented that not knowing what was happening was very, very worrisome. And that’s why I appreciated the UK calling for this meeting today because it gave us an opportunity to once again bring this situation to the forefront of the news.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: You mentioned specifically what’s happening in Darfur when it comes to ethnic and sexual violence, and that the RSF and the allied militias are to blame. What about in the rest of the country? We heard from the UN that it’s, you know, it’s on a sickening scale. Who’s to blame for all that?
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It’s all over the country. We have seen this kind of violence being perpetrated by both sides. So, there are no innocents here.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Madam Ambassador. First, just to clarify what you said about Volker Perthes. The ambassador seemed to push back on what you had said. Did the United States receive some kind of a written communication from the foreign ministry and – about this threat –
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: No, this is not the United States –
QUESTION: – I mean the United Nations.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: – this is the United Nations. We were told yesterday that Volker would be briefing the Council. And this morning his name was pulled. And we understand that that happened because the Sudanese government threatened to pull UNITAMS out of Sudan if he briefed the Council. And I spoke directly to him on that. And he told me he was under instructions.
QUESTION: But my – but that wasn’t my – that was a clarification. My question was you said the Security Council has to do something. Is the United States or is somebody going to put forward a resolution, a presidential statement, something –
AMBASSDOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: No, yeah, I didn’t say we needed to do something on this. What I said is that we were appalled by it, it was outrageous, it was unacceptable. And it is. And we did push back. We got a really excellent briefing from the Assistant Secretary-General, but I do think it’s not appropriate for any Member State to block, or to threaten a briefer.
QUESTION: I wasn’t talking about a briefer, I was talking about the whole, the broad situation of what’s going on in Sudan.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah, I do think we absolutely need to be doing something. This is one step in that process – calling this open meeting. And there were objections to us having an open meeting on this. But we were able to have an open meeting, and we will look at what other actions and efforts we might take.