Mohaned Belal Agence France-Presse Chad welcomed 400,000 Sudanese in one of the “zones the poorest” in the country.
“The level of suffering is extremely high” in Sudan, warns the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), deploring that the conflict has lost all media and political attention despite the intensification of fighting.
“What little attention there was is gone”, says to DevoirMamadou Dian Balde, UNHCR regional director for East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region. “It was overshadowed by Ukraine. […] Now it’s Gaza that eclipses everything.” “These are very very serious, very difficult situations that are happening” there, he specifies, “but there are very serious situations happening in Sudan, and that does not get the attention that it requires.”
On Thursday, the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, was alarmed by a potential “imminent and large-scale attack by the Sudan Rapid Support Forces [SRF] in El-Facher, in North Darfur, which would expose civilians, including hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons […], to extreme danger.”
“You see the anxiety, you see the economic impact, and most importantly, the fear. You see the fear because they don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” says Mr. Dian Balde, describing what he saw during his last stay in Sudan two months ago. “There’s a whole part where I can’t go, because there’s war there. […] It's even worse. »
Since April 15, fighting between the army, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, and the FSR paramilitaries of General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, has left more than 9,000 dead, according to the NGO ACLED, of which 4,000 in Darfur specify UN figures. Nearly 6,000 people were also forcibly displaced.
Rape, mutilation of children, and ethnically motivated executions are among the “grave human rights violations” described in a UNHCR report. A war crimes investigation was opened last July by the International Criminal Court.
Talks resumed last Thursday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to negotiate a ceasefire. But “they have to do it quickly… they have to do it quickly,” maintains Mr. Dian Balde. “The level of suffering is extremely high. We must put an end to this conflict. »
Visiting the federal capital this week, Mamadou Dian Balde said he met with Global Affairs Canada to inform them of the situation on the ground. According to him, Ottawa has a role to play to “put an end to hostilities” and “alleviate the suffering of refugees.”
“Crisis upon crisis”
The populations who welcome the refugees must also be supported, defends Mr. Dian Balde, especially since neighboring countries are already “vulnerable”.
Every day, several thousand people cross the border with South Sudan, he says. In the west, Chad welcomed 400,000 people into one of the country’s “poorest areas.” “Can you imagine, 400,000 people in an area that has almost nothing? »
More than 400,000 Sudanese had already found refuge in Chad in 2003, during the Darfur war. “It’s crises upon crises, crises upon crises, and very few solutions. »
“If you do not support local populations, you create tensions, and these tensions create a whole zone of instability, of fragility which leaves Sudan, which goes to Chad, which goes to the Republic Central African Republic, and we don't need that. The world is already on fire. »
Taking inspiration from Burundi
Mamadou Dian Balde did not come to Ottawa “only to talk about Sudan and problems […], but also to say that there are other, more positive situations” in East Africa.
Since 2020 – the date of the first democratic election – thousands of Burundians, who fled the country during the 2015 crisis, have made the opposite journey. “Since the start of the year, we have helped around 19,000 [refugees] to return to Burundi. There are 24,000 in Tanzania, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who say “we want to go back home” and are not able to find the financial means, deplores Mr. Dian Balde. “[We] need to invest in this return of people. »
According to him, the more “positive” humanitarian situation in Burundi could serve as an example in Sudan. “We learn from each other,” he said, comparing today’s Sudan to Burundi in 2015, even if the “violations” there did not reach such significant proportions.
< i>This report is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, funded by the Government of Canada.