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  • Najlaa Ahmed and Hannah Klifa

20 years since the Darfur Genocide: Will Sudan’s Framework Agreement provide Justice for survivors?

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

26 February 2023

On the 20th anniversary of the Darfur genocide, the new "Framework Agreement" signed in December 2022 is the subject of continuing uncertainty for victims of the conflict in Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan. Without a comprehensive plan and timetable that addresses mass atrocity crimes, it is hard to envisage victims ever obtaining justice and reparation.

In December 2022, political parties in Sudan signed a ‘Framework Agreement’ as a way out of the political crisis that followed the 25 October 2021 coup. The coup brutally interrupted a fragile transition to civilian rule and brought back the repression of the former military regime accused of the genocide in Darfur twenty years ago.

Daily protests and violent crackdowns have plagued the country since the coup, with an increase in mass atrocities in the Darfur region as well as others. The Framework Agreement, signed by the Freedom and Change Central Council and the Military Junta in December 2022, is widely welcomed by the international community, with the hope that it will pave the way back towards a new civilian-led government to bring about durable peace and justice.

While the Framework Agreement has significant flaws when it comes to delivering peace and justice, it may well be the only realistic way to restore a civilian government given the divisions between the political parties. However, pro-democracy protesters, resistance committees and political parties continue to protest against it. They do not trust the military regime will go, and point to a lack of transparency in drafting the Framework Agreement. They have adopted a slogan of ‘No Negotiation, No Power Sharing, and No Agreement with the Military’. [1]

Putting political divisions aside, even if one is optimistic about the Agreement, it is hard to see how the solutions proposed in the Framework will be achieved in the 24-month transition period provided, considering that the previous Transitional Government was unable to establish fundamental transitional institutions in the previous time-frame. There are many complex bodies that remain to be established in law and in flesh, including the Constitutional Court and Transitional Justice Commission, in addition to a barrage of problematic domestic laws that need to be reformed in accordance with international standards.

Will there be Justice and Accountability for Victims of Atrocities in Sudan?

Since the military coup in October 2021, systematic human rights violations including further mass atrocities in Darfur have been reported - all committed with total impunity. These come on top of brutal crackdowns against pro-democracy protesters culminating in the massacre and mass rapes of 3 June 2019 as well as the crimes against humanity, genocide and violent

abuses under former President Omar Al-Bahsir and the National Congress party (former ruling party). None of these have ever been addressed.

The main concerns with the Framework Agreement are:

  • Concern at the number of issues not included in the Framework and ‘deferred’ for further discussion;

  • Lack of a time frame for the Final Agreement that is supposed to contain detailed provisions on the military, the security sector, judiciary as well as law reform;

  • Concerns that the ambitious list of reforms is unrealistic for the 2 year transition period provided for;

  • Lack of guarantees that the Final Agreement will build on previous agreements regarding transitional justice, accountability and reparation for those who suffered gross human rights violations, such as torture, conflict-related sexual violence and mass atrocity crimes;

  • Concern that the Final Agreement will not honour the implementation of the Law establishing the Transitional Justice Commission that was adopted by the Transitional Government in June 2021;

  • Concerns that conflict related sexual violence is not mentioned - there is only mention of violence against women, and fears that CRSV may be reduced to private, non-CRSV.

This last point is important in a context where CRSV has been denied with sexual violence portrayed as a 'private' matter, denying that official responsibility could exist for such acts as war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.

On a more positive note, the Political Parties and the Forces for Freedom and Change (the wide political coalition of civilian and rebel coalitions opposing military rule) concluded three workshops on the ‘deferred issues’ in January and February 2023 in Khartoum.

In addition to the Khartoum workshops, the signatories to the Framework Agreement are said to have discussed conducting consultation workshops in seven regions with the Transitional Justice Coalition (more than 30 local NGOs working on transitional Justice) to come up with the recommendations from victims of human rights violations, in preparation for a national conference on Transitional Justice. The Transitional Justice Coalition should enable sensitive participation of CRSV survivors to ensure this category of victims is not excluded.

Will the military regime let go?

The protesters may have good reason to believe that the military will not let go, and will not do justice to the Framework Agreement. Military leaders have not pulled back from politics and allowed political groups to form a transitional government, as promised on State television back in August 2022.

The military head, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, announced that the army would withdraw from the political scene and would not participate in talks on the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement, however, the military is still in charge and only last week signed the Juba peace Agreement Implementation Matrix on behalf of the Sudanese Government (20 February 2023).

Even Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (aka ‘Hemidti’), leader of the Rapid Support Forces admitted on 19 February that the coup was a ‘mistake’, and had ‘become a gateway for the return of the old regime.’

Considering the power still wielded by the military and the leader of the Rapid Support forces (formerly the Janjaweed militia) directly implicated in the Darfur genocide, perhaps a justice and reconciliation process along the lines of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) in Colombia could be a solution. The JEP is a transitional justice mechanism whereby those who have participated in the Colombian armed conflict are investigated and put on trial in a manner that puts victims at the centre of the process. If those responsible for crimes undergo full truth-telling, acknowledge responsibility, and contribute to the prevention of future violence as well as reparation for victims, they can receive a lesser sentence or pardon.

Recommendations for survivor participation in future discussions:

  • The Transitional Justice Coalition should enable sensitive participation of CRSV survivors in regional workshops to ensure this category of victims is not excluded from the transitional justice discussions;

  • The political parties, mediators and other signatories should ensure participation of victims of human rights violations and their families, as well as pro-democracy activists, including women;

  • The Law Reform Commission and Constitutional Court should be established without delay to ensure reform of the justice sector and oversee the appointment of newly qualified judges to improve access to justice.

[1] Groups that have rejected the Agreement include the Freedom of Change Democratic Block (which includes ‘JEM’, the Justice & Equality Armed Movement') and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM Minni Minnawi Faction), both signatories to the Juba Peace Agreement, signed by the Transitional Government and armed groups in October 2020. The Framework Agreement was also rejected by the Democratic Unionist Party, Islamist groups and affiliates to the former ruling National Congress Party.

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