West News Wire: Following months of fighting with Sudan’s army, the United States on Wednesday imposed penalties on Sudanese paramilitary commander Abdelrahim Hamdan Dagalo for acts of violence and violations of human rights.
Abdelrahim is a senior military commander and the brother of Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, the head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. The U.S. Treasury announced in a lengthy statement that it had sanctioned Abdelrahim, charging him with leading a group of soldiers responsible for “the massacre of civilians, ethnic killings, and use of sexual violence.”
When long-simmering tensions between the military, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, and the RSF erupted into open battle, Sudan descended into anarchy over five months ago.
According to Wednesday’s statement, the sanctions will block all U.S. property and entities owned by Abdelrahim. They are the first sanctions targeting an individual and made public by the U.S. since the conflict broke out.
In a parallel statement, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that the U.S. was also imposing visa restrictions on fellow RSF commander, Abdul Rahman Juma, barring him from entering the country.
In June, the former governor of the West Darfur province, Khamis Abbakar, and his brother were kidnapped and killed by soldiers led by Juma, according to Blinken. In a telephone conversation with the Saudi-owned television station Al-Hadath, Khamis accused the paramilitary and its allies of attacking local populations throughout the main city of West Darfur, Genena, hours before his death.
The U.S. levied sanctions in June against four significant businesses that were either affiliated with or owned by the army and the RSF. Additionally, it imposed visa restrictions on representatives of both Sudanese sides as well as the former administration of ousted President Omar al-Bashir. Which people were impacted was not made clear.
There was no immediate comment from the RSF. A spokesman for the paramilitary force, when contacted by the Associated Press, said they would send a written statement later.
More than 5 million people have been displaced by the fighting in Sudan, the United Nations’ migration agency said Wednesday as clashes showed no sign of easing.
According to the International Organization for Migration, over 4 million people have been internally displaced since the conflict erupted in mid-April while another 1.1 million have fled to neighboring countries. More than 750,000 have traveled to either Egypt or Chad, the agency said.
On Wednesday, the United States also disclosed that it would contribute $163 million to address the humanitarian situation brought on by the violence. With this sum, according to a statement from the State Department, the nation will have pledged $710 million to aid individuals affected by the violence, including refugees in nearby nations.
Up to now, international attempts to arbitrate between the parties have been unsuccessful. Since the outbreak, there have been at least nine cease-fire agreements, all of which have failed.
Some observers supported Washington’s penalties and urged other nations to do the same.
Sanctions are a means to gain power on the combatants, according to John Prendergast, co-founder of The Sentry, an organisation that monitors corruption and human rights violations.
“Quick follow-up is required, sanctioning broader networks on both sides who stand to profit from the conflict and who are responsible for massive human rights abuses,” he said.
Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, has been turned to an urban battleground as a result of the fighting, and neither side has been able to take control of the city. RSF soldiers have taken control of private residences throughout the city and transformed them into operating bases. Residential areas were bombed in response, according to rights organisations and activists.
Late in June, formal peace negotiations brokered by the US and Saudi Arabia in the seaside city of Jeddah were suspended when both mediators publicly criticised the RSF and the army for repeatedly breaking truces they had committed to.
The battle has turned into ethnic violence in western Darfur, the scene of a genocidal campaign in the early 2000s, with the RSF and associated Arab militias attacking ethnic African communities, according to reports.
Last month, Amnesty International said both sides have committed extensive war crimes in the ongoing conflict.
Also Wednesday, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, the U.N. special adviser on the prevention of genocide, expressed concern at ongoing “identity-based attacks” across the country.
“Innocent civilians are being targeted on the basis of race” in Darfur, Nderitu said in a statement. These attacks could amount to war crimes, she added.
In July, Karim Khan, the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor, said he was investigating alleged new war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.