The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Mr Andrew Mitchell)
I would like to update the House on the situation in Sudan since the outbreak of conflict on 15 April this year between the Sudanese armed forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), and the UK’s efforts in support of the Sudanese people.
Violence continues across the country. The lack of humanitarian access and a disregard for civilian life is resulting in terrible suffering. The conflict has caused destruction on a massive scale as a result of the indiscriminate use of force by both sides, including shelling and airstrikes in urban areas. Since 15 April, more than 6.3 million people have been displaced, including over 1.3 million people who have fled to neighbouring countries, seeking safety, protection and assistance. Twenty-five million people are in urgent need but constraints on humanitarian access mean insufficient aid is reaching them.
There is mounting evidence of abhorrent atrocities against civilians, in particular in Darfur. Women and girls are subject to rape and sexual violence. Houses are being burnt to the ground. People’s livelihoods are being destroyed. These attacks have all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing and may amount to crimes against humanity.
Following the conclusion of the first round of Jeddah talks that resumed on 26 October, the UK is continuing to support the mediation efforts of the US, Saudi Arabia, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the African Union. I urge both warring parties to engage constructively with these talks to secure short-term ceasefires and improvements in humanitarian access.
But in the meantime, the suffering of the Sudanese people continues. There have been increasing reports from El Geneina and Ardamata in West Darfur of potentially ethnically-targeted violence against men and boys and alleged executions, including the murder of Masalit community leader, Al-Farsha Muhamed Arbab. These atrocities must end immediately, and those responsible must be held to account.
We are supporting the Centre for Information Resilience (CIR). CIR works to monitor atrocities in Sudan using satellite imagery to investigate attacks against civilians and infrastructure, and also to monitor hate speech and incitement of violence. This financial year, the UK has provided £600,000 to CIR for this project. Our partnership on this innovative work is vital in documenting the ongoing atrocities, and preserving and sharing evidence, so that those committing these heinous crimes can be brought to justice.
In July, I announced a package of sanctions, freezing the assets of three commercial entities linked to both SAF and RSF. We stand ready to take additional measures.
In the UN Security Council (UNSC), UN General Assembly and at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), we have consistently condemned the violence across Sudan. On 11 October, the HRC adopted the UK-led “Sudan Core Group” (US, Germany, Norway, UK) resolution, which creates an independent and international fact-finding mission to investigate atrocities in Sudan and support future accountability efforts.
As part of our commitment to humanitarian assistance, I announced £21.7 million in humanitarian funding in May for those in need in Sudan, in addition to £5 million to help meet the urgent needs of refugees and returnees in South Sudan and Chad. UK Aid is providing nutrition, safe drinking water, medical care and shelter, as well as supporting protection services including for those affected by gender-based violence. In November, the UK confirmed a further £14.3 million in humanitarian aid, bringing the total to £36 million for 2023-24.
The UK, alongside Norway, jointly funded the Sudan humanitarian conference that took place in Cairo on 18 to 20 November; an event that brought together Sudanese grassroots organisations, NGOs and the international humanitarian system to develop co-ordination mechanisms to give a greater voice to Sudanese organisations in the humanitarian response.
We have also established a new British Office Sudan in Addis Ababa, until a British embassy can be re-established in Sudan. This makes us the first western nation to set up an operational office for Sudan in the region. The staff of the British Office Sudan in Ethiopia will continue to work to support our diplomatic and humanitarian aims to bring peace and stability to the people of Sudan, as well as continuing to assist in providing limited remote consular support to British nationals in Sudan. I would like to put on record my thanks to the Government of Ethiopia for enabling the setting up of this office.
The UK remains committed to supporting Sudanese civilians to chart their own future for their country. Neither of the warring parties should have any future role in power in a future democratic Sudan. I therefore warmly welcome the gathering of Sudanese civilian actors and stakeholders in Addis Ababa on 23 October as an important step towards the formation of an inclusive and representative pro-democracy civilian front.
The UK will continue to advocate for a ceasefire, safe and unfettered humanitarian access, an end to atrocities and a return to a civilian-led Government that can deliver the peace and stability the Sudanese people deserve.