Archive:  Sudan after 2011

The situation: refugees and internally displaced people | The ‘Lost Boys’ | The UN’s response | The ICC | Aid and advocacy | Continuing issues


The situation: refugees and internally displaced people

IDP and refugee camps in the Darfur region of Sudan in 2004

Continuing conflict in Sudan, and South Sudan, has led to a huge refugee crisis, which former UN Under Secretary General Egleland called ‘the world’s worst humanitarian disaster’ in 2004.  There are around 4 million are internally displaced in Sudan and South Sudan – this is the world’s largest internally displaced population.  Approximately 2 million have died from violence, famine, and disease in the past 20 years, and 600,000 have been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring states.

When South Sudan became independent from Sudan in July 2011, many people living in Sudan who were from South Sudan lost their Sudanese nationality, and vice versa.   500,000 South Sudanese were given until May 2012 to return to South Sudan. Due to poor transport links, this return was difficult for many people, and conditions in the transit camps were extremely poor. Agencies struggled to provide for the influx of refugees; a source from Oxfam was quoted as saying “It’s all terribly hit-or-miss”

The ‘Lost Boys’

During the Second Sudanese Civil War at least 20,000 boys aged 7-17 were separated from their families or orphaned in the south of Sudan (now South Sudan). They walked huge distances to refugee camps in neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya, many of them dying en-route from dehydration and starvation. Some of these boys such as Emmanuel Jal  were recruited by the SPLA (Sudanese People’s Liberation Army) and made to fight in the Second Sudanese Civil War.

The UN’s response

So far total expenditure by the UN in Sudan and South Sudan exedes $5.76 billion. At any one time there have been up to 10,519 total uniformed personnel including 9,304 troops, 513 military observers, 702 police officers provided by the UN.

At the start of the Darfur crisis UN ‘ Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine was gaining prominence, and Darfur was seen as the first test case. In July 2004 the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on all non-governmental entities, along with a travel ban and assets freeze on two rebel leaders, a former Sudanese air force chief and a Janjaweed leader.

The Darfur Peace Agreement, also known as the Abuja Agreement, was signed on May 5th 2006 under the African Union, the UN and other partners. According to Munzoul Assal, University of Khartoum, the Abuja Agreement “has not brought positive change…fell short of addressing the root causes…did not satisfy aspirations of internally displaced persons and refugees…led to further divisions with one rebel faction signing and others staying out”

In 2007 the aid effort by the UN and its partners in Darfur, the Central African Republic, and refugee camps in Chad was the largest in the world.

The United Nation Mission in Sudan (UNMIS)’s four main targets as established by the resolution 1996  (2011) are:

  • Good offices and political support for the peace process
  • Security
  • Governance
  • Humanitarian and development assistance

Following issues arising in local markets from free food aid, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has implemented a principle entitled “no-more-for-free” stating that each beneficiary of seeds must produce their own and enough for one more family in the following year.


The ICC has issued arrest warrants for:

  • Omar al Bashir
  • Ahmad Harun (Minister for Humanitarian Affairs)
  • Ali Kushayb (Alleged leader of the Janjaweed)
  • Bahar Idriss Abu Garda (Chairman of Military Operations of the United Front) – charges not confirmed
  • Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus (former Chief of Staff of SLA Unity and currently integrated into JEM)

After the ICC issued al-Bashir’s arrest warrant, the Government of Sudan expelled 13 international humanitarian organisations and shut down three national aid organisations, affecting 50% of aid delivery

As it stands all of these warrants remain outstanding.

Aid and Advocacy


The three main donors  of aid to Sudan are the United States, the European Commission, and CHF International . CHF allocates according to democratic processes, the European Commission as criteria and rankings of relative needs levels, and the US Office for the Distribution of Aid has a competitive model based on judgement and negotiation.

Around 80% of US government aid to Sudan is in the form of humanitarian aid through agencies such as Food for Peace, while aid to South Sudan is becoming increasingly developmental. However, the Guardian maintains that the change is not enough: “When South Sudan became independent last July, the needs of its population began to change. The aid community’s response should have changed as well.”

Delivery of aid to the region is difficult, not least because of the fact that the Sudanese government is both the state structure to be supported and developed and also the ‘enemy’. Aid agencies and their staff also face danger working in Sudan and South Sudan. By July 30th 2007 100 aid workers had been temporarily abducted, 81 vehicles hijacked, 55 convoys attacked or looted, and 22 cases of forced relocation from violence against aid workers reported.

In November 2004, the Sudanese government declared aid agencies the ‘real enemies’ of Sudan after increased lobbying for additional manpower to the AMIS peacekeeping mission (AFP, 29/11/2004)

UNICEF and the International Rescue Committee have hosted high profile visits to Sudan by actors like George Clooney with the US based Save Darfur campaign. Critics say this has oversimplified the conflict, highlighting the dangers of ‘deadline diplomacy’.  George Clooney was arrested at a protest in early 2012.

Continuing issues

International donors created multi-trust donor fund for South Sudan but have not agreed how to spend it in a nation with no state structures.

The violence continues to make operation of aid agencies difficult; MSF suspended activity when its facilities were looted during violence in Jonglei over cattle rustling

Eric Reeves has accused the government of Sudan of using the border issues with South Sudan to distract international actors away from the situation in Darfur “The thinking of the regime seems to be that as long as there are outstanding issues between Khartoum and Juba—Abyei most conspicuously and dangerously, but citizenship, oil revenue-sharing, other border disputes, division of external debt, and a military stand-down—Darfur will not command sufficient international attention to reverse the present decline in humanitarian capacity and human security.”

Sources and further reading

South Sudan Aid to Refugees – Race Against Time

UN Fact Sheet –Sudan

Darfur Humanitarian Overview – The Consequences of International Silence

OCHA Darfur Final Report

Global Humanitarian Assistance – Sudan Briefing Paper

Humanitarian advocacy in Darfur: the challenge of neutrality

Humanitarian Trends and Dilemmas – Tony Vaux

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute – Development in Practice

Locating responsibilities: national and international responses to the crisis in Darfur- Munzoul A. M. Assal, University of Khartoum

Emmanuel Jal’s TED Talk