Sudan's warring sides 'must de-escalate', says Britain's David Cameron

Villages around El Fasher have been burnt down and hospitals destroyed, leaving 'hundreds' dead in the violence

A temporary camp in Adre, Chad. More than 600,000 Sudanese refugees have crossed into Chad from Darfur since March 2023. Getty Images
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Violence in the Darfur region of Sudan is “appalling” and “both sides must de-escalate immediately”, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has said.

In a statement published on the government’s website, Lord Cameron said villages around El Fasher, the capital of the North Darfur region, have been burnt down and hospitals destroyed, leaving “hundreds” dead in the violence.

More than 800,000 civilians “have no means of escape”, he said.

Some of the violence could be ethnically motivated and “may amount to crimes against humanity”, he added.

“Attacks against Masalit, Fur, Zaghawa and other non-Arab communities by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied militias are already taking place around El Fasher,” he said.

“I also condemn the indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombing in densely populated areas by the Sudanese Armed Forces, which has led to catastrophic losses of civilian life.”

Lord Cameron said it was within the power of the two warring parties to stop it.

“The RSF must halt its siege of El Fasher and both sides must de-escalate immediately,” he said, adding that both sides must fully honour the commitments made in the Jeddah Declaration, including allowing unhindered and safe humanitarian access, in addition to complying with their obligations under international law.

“We must hold accountable those responsible for violence against civilians. Thanks to open-source reporting, including that funded by the UK, we have detail about who on the ground is responsible.

“And we will continue to explore all levers to disrupt the funding of those perpetrating the violence.”

The war has devastated the already impoverished country, killed thousands, displaced millions and sparked warnings of famine.

Fighting broke out in mid-April last year after weeks of growing tension over the terms of Sudan's transition to democratic rule and plans proposed by politicians to integrate the RSF into the armed forces.

Sudan hosted the second-highest number of internally displaced people recorded in one country last year at six million, after 16.9 million were forced from their homes in Ukraine by the Russian invasion.

There were about 76 million people forcibly displaced across 116 countries as of the end of last year due to conflict and disasters, a record figure fuelled by war in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, according to a report by the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.

Updated: May 20, 2024, 8:09 AM