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Faith Nyasuguta

The European Union (EU) plans to impose sanctions on six Sudanese military figures who are contributing to the conflict that has resulted in one of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises, according to European diplomats.

Later this month, EU foreign ministers are expected to approve these sanctions against six individuals from the rival forces fighting for control of Darfur, a vast and arid region in western and southwestern Sudan. This list includes three individuals from the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group and three from the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). 

These individuals will face asset freezes and travel bans, with EU officials having approved the names on Tuesday, although the final list may still change.

The conflict between the RSF and the Sudanese army, which began in April 2023, has forced over 9 million people to flee their homes, creating what the United Nations describes as the world’s largest “displacement crisis.” 

/The New Humanitarian/

The situation is particularly dire in El Fasher, North Darfur, where RSF forces have encircled the city, leading to heavy fighting. El Fasher, with a population of 1.5 million, includes 800,000 refugees who were displaced during the 2003-2005 Darfur war or in the past year.

UN agencies warned last week that the people of Sudan face an “imminent risk of famine,” with 18 million people acutely hungry, including 3.6 million children.

The EU’s move to sanction these six individuals follows January’s asset freezes against six companies, mostly military equipment firms, controlled by the RSF and SAF. The EU has faced criticism from human rights advocates for its slow response to the atrocities in Sudan. 

A recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report included harrowing accounts of RSF forces committing brutal acts, such as shooting children attempting to flee the West Darfur capital of Geneina in June last year.

HRW has called on Western countries to impose sanctions on commanders, officials, and militia leaders responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes in West Darfur. Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, a senior researcher at HRW, stated that his team found no one in the refugee camps who had not witnessed killings, survived attacks, or lost family members. 

He described the events in Geneina as a warning of what might occur in El Fasher, noting the high percentage of the population at risk and the deliberate destruction of residential areas.

Gallopin criticized the international community’s response as inadequate given the scale and severity of the crisis. Speaking before EU officials discussed the six individuals, he noted that the EU seemed to be targeting “mid-ranking individuals at best” and called for urgent sanctions on those responsible for war crimes and obstructing humanitarian aid. He also emphasized the need for a broader strategy to protect civilians.

Western countries have primarily focused on ceasing hostilities, which Gallopin argued allows the warring parties to avoid accountability for violations of international humanitarian law, such as obstructing aid, failing to protect civilians, and deliberately targeting them.

HRW is urging the UN and EU to establish a mission to protect civilians in Sudan. However, EU diplomats in Brussels indicated no plans beyond the sanctions expected to be finalized in June. 


One EU diplomat commented on the limited capacity of even large global actors to manage multiple crises simultaneously, saying, “We should just be realistic about the capabilities of even very large global actors to deal with many crises at the same time.”

The impending EU sanctions on the six Sudanese military figures represent a significant step in addressing the crisis but emphasize the need for continued international efforts to protect civilians and ensure accountability for atrocities. 

The situation in Sudan remains dire, and the global community must act decisively to prevent further humanitarian disaster and promote peace and stability in the region.


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Faith Nyasuguta

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