US accuses fighters of sexual violence in Sudan

Local group Hadhreen said it documented 10 cases of rape by the Rapid Support Forces

Displaced Sudanese women in Darfur in February 2021. AFP
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The US has accused fighters of sexual violence in Sudan, where the war between the army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces has entered its second month.

"We have seen horrific reports of sexual violence at the hands of armed actors across Sudan. The United States is firm in its condemnation of conflict-related sexual violence," US ambassador to Khartoum John Godfrey said in a tweet on Tuesday.

"We continue to monitor these reports and commend local and international organisations who are providing services to survivors and taking steps to help break the cycle of impunity."

Some Sudanese were asking the ambassador to name the alleged offenders.

"You either name and shame those who do it or stay quiet, no difference between the latter and your tweet if you ask me," wrote one user.

Several people started posting the hashtag: "Rapid Support Crimes".

Local activist group Hadhreen said it has confirmed at least 10 cases of sexual violence against civilians purportedly committed by the RSF.

Most recently, it was investigating five cases of which three were confirmed, head of Hadhreen Nazim Sirag said.

"Testimonies from three survivors confirmed that they were raped by members of the Rapid Support militia. The recommended medical and legal procedures were followed, including issuing of a medical examination form and an accompanying police report," Mr Sirag said in a statement.

"This brings the number of confirmed cases known to Hadhreen to 10 cases."

More reports keep coming, he said.

"Without further pressure and condemnation leading to exposure of such barbaric violations and outright war crimes, the members of this unbridled militia will continue to commit similar atrocities."

The claims could not be independently verified and the RSF has not commented on the allegations.

Sudan's Emergency Lawyers Group said on Sunday that an "armed group" in an RSF-controlled area committed acts of sexual violence against two women in the female dorms of Al Ahfad University in Omdurman.

"They broke into the building and destroyed furniture. They found two women hiding in the bathroom. They managed to bring them out and rape them inside the building.

"One victim, 25, was raped by two members of the group. The second, 22, was raped by five individuals," the group said.

"Two cases were hospitalised and under treatment and recovery."

On Tuesday, it was reported that four women and a girl were raped in the capital Khartoum by the RSF and unidentified armed men.

“I believe that the cases are way more than that, but because of what has been going on, not all the victims can reach us and get the support needed,” Suliema Ishaq, director of the combating violence against women unit at Sudan’s Ministry of Social Affairs, told The Guardian newspaper.

A report published by the UN Population Fund last week said that resources in clinical management of rape are "severely curtailed" in Khartoum and Darfur.

People on social media are sharing emergency numbers for local groups helping victims of sexual violence.

Sudanese obstetrician and gynaecologist Iman Abugarga on a Facebook group created to document crimes committed by the warring parties wrote:

"I received a call yesterday to urgently identify where post exposure prophylaxis and emergency contraception can be found in Omdurman following two cases of women [being] raped."

Dr Abugarga said the offenders had not been identified.

Reports and stories of rapes were common during the 2019 protests, which led to the removal of long-time dictator Omar Al Bashir from power.

During the demonstrations, the RSF and the army cracked down on civilians.

Although difficult to verify, cases of rape and sexual violence committed by armed men were reported every day.

Updated: May 17, 2023, 8:40 AM