Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

How to Stop Darfur’s Descent Into Darkness

By Volker Perthes

30 Dec 2021 · 6 min read

Over the last two months, the world has seen many images from Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, of its Oct. 25 military coup, the return of Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on Nov. 21 under a fraught and tenuous agreement, and the hundreds of thousands of Sudanese people marching on its streets to demand democracy and full civilian rule. But there has been much less reporting of the situation in Sudan’s peripheries, outside of the capital and its surroundings. A staggering rise in violence illustrates the fragility of the transition underway in the country.

The people of Darfur, a region in Sudan’s west about the size of France, have already borne witness to so much violence over the past two decades: ethnic cleansing, rape and other gender-based crimes, child soldiers, and other exploitation of youth. Now, they are experiencing a resurgence in conflict. In Darfur alone, more than 400,000 people have been displaced this year, four times more than in 2020, making them vulnerable during the rise in intercommunal conflict and armed attacks. With a reduction in social and protective networks, an alarming and all-too predictable pattern of sexual violence has also emerged: Reports of some 200 cases this year alone points to a concerning trend. When women and girls are displaced and do not have a proper home to protect themselves, it is not uncommon to see a rise in sexual violence as they become more vulnerable under such precarious conditions.

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