On September 21, 2017, speaking to a crowd in Gereida in South Darfur, President Omar al-Bashir said the Sudanese government will work to rebuild all that the war destroyed in the Darfur states. Fourteen years after the eruption of the Darfur crisis, IDPs are still in camps complaining that their villages are not safe.
International law does not provide a legal definition of who constitutes an “internally displaced person” (IDP). The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, published by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), defines internally displaced persons (IDPs) as “persons or group of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situation of generalized violence, violation of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed internationally recognized state border.” IDPs remain citizens or habitual residents of their country and are entitled to protection and assistance on that basis alone. The conflict in Sudan has a long and sordid history. When Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir came to power in the coup of 1989, Sudan was in the midst of a 21-year civil war between the north and south. That conflict ended in 2005. At the same time conflict began in western region of Darfur, Sudan. In 2009, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague issued an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, and in 2010, the ICC issued a second arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir on charges of genocide.
According to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Article 11, which Sudan ratified in 1986, states have an obligation to afford people a right to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family. The Sudanese government has failed to provide security to its citizens so that they may return to their homes without fear. As of 2016, there are 3,300,000 IDPs in Sudan due to conflict and violence. As of June 2017, there are 18,000 new displacements due to conflict and violence in Sudan and an additional 9,000 new displacements due to disasters. Sudan’s citizens are reluctant to return to their homes due to harassment by bandits and armed government militias, lack of security in their villages, and lack of access to land and sustainable resources.
Sudanese IDPs have the right to disagree with their government. It is their civil responsibility to hold the government of Sudan accountable. On September 22, 2017, Sudanese security forces opened fire on protesters in Camp Kalma, killing at least five and wounding more than 20. Camp Kalma IDPs were protesting a presidential visit. According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Sudan ratified in 1986, Article 19(2) ensures, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” The Sudanese government’s use of force in response to the recent protests in Camp Kalma was a violation of Sudanese citizen’s rights freedom of expression. In response to the protests on September 22, 2017, the Sudanese government deployed large military reinforcements, including tanks and armored vehicles, to prevent protesters from Camp Kalma from reaching the site of President Omar al-Bashir’s reception ceremony. Rejecting President Omar al-Bashir is an opinion protected by international law that the Sudanese government has ratified.
As set out in the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement Principle 3, national authorities have the primary duty and responsibility to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to IDPs. The Government of Sudan must comply with its international obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Government of Sudan needs to provide better coordination in the delivery of humanitarian aid. They need to cooperate with the UNAMID mandate and other parties to the conflict to encourage voluntary, informed and safe return of internally displaced persons. The Government of Sudan must support and engage in mediation efforts to deescalate conflict, build trust among parties to the conflict, and resolve intercommunal conflicts, rather than responding with aggression. The international community has long been aware of the conflict in Darfur and larger Sudan. The situation has not much changed in many respects and the plight of Sudan’s displaced people is continuously dire. The international community must not abandon but lean into this complicated situation so that Sudan may find a durable peace and the Sudanese people may finally go home.