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World’s worst famine in 40 years: why is Sudan being ignored, Archbishop Welby asks

17 June 2024


A child being treated at an MSF clinic in Metche Camp, Chad, near the Sudanese bordee, earlier this year

A child being treated at an MSF clinic in Metche Camp, Chad, near the Sudanese bordee, earlier this year

THE immense suffering of the people of Sudan, where a civil war is intensifying, is being ignored by the rest of the world, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said. He called on countries supplying arms to the warring sides to stop, and support peace.

The Sudanese Army has been fighting the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) for more than a year, in a conflict which has forced up to 11 million people from their homes, and killed at least 14,000, the UN estimates.

The humanitarian crisis in the country is acute, it says, with 756,000 people now facing “catastrophic food shortages”. Entire villages have been burned to the ground. The United States has warned that Sudan is facing a famine worse than any the world has seen since Ethiopia, 40 years ago.

Archbishop Welby said: “It is unconscionable that such immense suffering is allowed to continue, forgotten by most of the world.

“As the violence intensifies with the siege and battery of El Fasher by the Rapid Support Forces, I call on the countries supporting this destruction through weapons and financing to stop and channel their resources instead towards negotiations for peace. An honouring of the Jeddah commitments and UN Security Council’s call for a ceasefire is now of paramount importance. All those engaging in violence must cease.”

Both Iran and the United Arab Emirates have been accused of breaking a UN arms embargo by supplying drones to the warring sides.

On Thursday, the UN Security Council demanded an immediate end to the eight-week siege of the city of el-Fasher by the RSF. El-Fasher is the last major urban centre in Darfur which remains in the hands of Sudan’s army. The Security Council warned that the Darfur region is facing a growing risk of genocide. It called on member states to “refrain from external interference”, and to comply with an arms embargo on the country.

A UN humanitarian appeal for Sudan has so far received just 16 per cent of the funds needed.

Sudan has links to the diocese of Salisbury and the diocese of Leeds. The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, who has recently returned from a visit to Sudan, told his diocesan synod this weekend: “If noticed by Western media at all, Sudan’s conflict is normally presented as a fight between two power-crazed generals. The reality is that the Rapid Support Forces, stacked with mercenaries and soldiers from surrounding countries, and funded and armed by countries such as the United Arab Emirates, is indiscriminately murdering and destroying anything that comes across their path in an attempt to take over the country.

“This is not a conflict of equals in any sense.”

He continued: “The Episcopal Church of Sudan seeks to be faithful to the call of God to serve people and communities — whoever they are. . . Easy for me to say, but hard to understand when listening to a pastor who, having been beaten up by soldiers several times, was then asked how he wanted to die.

“In conversations with Archbishop Ezekiel, who now runs the whole Province from a small desk in the corner of his bare bedroom in Port Sudan, we pledged our continuing support — our love and commitment to him and his people. But, sitting with and listening to the stories of displaced people — including the Archbishop and his family — it is painfully clear just how fragile life and civilised society is.”

In his Thought for the Day on Radio 4 on Wednesday, he said: “It’s one thing to watch or listen to something on the news, but something else entirely to see it with your own eyes. . . We visited camps for displaced people and refugees, listening to stories of loss at every level: family, land, home, possessions, jobs, hopes. . .

“We also listened to stories of terrible violence. . .

“Tomorrow is World Refugee Day. . . It has a different resonance when you have been sitting in a tent and listening to real stories of real people. People we met had no choice but to flee — and it wasn’t an economic choice.

“The economic choices lie in the hands of those countries which arm mercenary militias and fund the indiscriminate violence inflicted on innocent people. Everyone knows that stopping the violence is the precursor to any restoration of hope and security for these people.”


The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas Greenfield, told reporters at the weekend that she had seen mortality projections for Sudan “in excess of 2.5 million people, about 15 per cent of the population in Darfur and Kordofan” by September.

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