UAE accused of fueling war in Sudan

Khartoum

Smoke rises above buildings in Khartoum following aerial clashes between the Sudan army and RSF on May 1, 2023.

Photo credit: Reuters

What you need to know:

  • The revelations emerged in a findings published by the Yale Humanitarian Research Lab.
  • It is not the first time Abu Dhabi has been accused of violating an arms embargo on Darfur.

The United Arab Emirates is facing new accusations of illegally delivering weapons to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), prolonging the war that the UN Security Council, which Abdu Dhabi is current member, wants to stop.

The revelations emerged in a findings published by the Yale Humanitarian Research Lab (HRL) on Wednesday which identified UAE planes flying over RSF-controlled territory in Darfur.

The findings could add proof that the UAE is providing arms and munitions to the RSF to use in the deadly battle for El-Fasher, which on Thursday become a subject of debate at the UN Security Council.

HRL said it had “identified an Ilyushin (IL-76) [aircraft] flying within approximately 1.7 kilometers of Sudan's El-Fasher region over Rapid Support Forces’ (RSF) territory in satellite imagery on the morning of 11 June 2024.

“The aircraft was visible in sequential satellite imagery taken within approximately one minute of each other on 11 June. The IL-76, captured in satellite imagery, is assessed to have flown approximately 12 kilometers to the northeast of its location in the previous image taken approximately one minute before.”

The report is based on satellite tracking information on the movement of aircraft across the Horn of Africa from the UAE. But it is not the first time Abu Dhabi has been accused of violating an arms embargo on Darfur.

In January, the UN Panel of Experts on Sudan had indicated that UAE aircraft flew into RSF territories “several times per week, weapons and ammunition shipments were unloaded from cargo planes arriving at Amdjarass airport, then loaded on trucks.” 

“By engaging in these arms transfers, the UAE violated a UN Security Council arms embargo that was imposed nearly two decades ago, in 2004,” the five-member panel said then.

But they had fingered Sudan’s neighbours including Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda of allowing the flights to deliver supplies from their territories.

However, the Panel could not identify the exact cargo transported from these countries at the time.

The UAE has often refuted the claims and says it supports a non-military solution to the conflict. 

Lana Zac Nusseibeh, the UAE’s Permanent Representative to the UN said her country “unequivocally rejects the baseless allegations” about illegal arms supplies, she said in an earlier statement to the UN Security Council.

According to her, the allegations are “nothing more than an attempt to divert attention from the conflict and the dire humanitarian situation caused by the ongoing fighting.”

This month, the UAE is the rotating President of the UN Security Council. On Thursday, it led to a resolution calling for an end of siege on el-Fasher in Darfur, where the RSF has been accused of raining terror on civilians deemed opposed to the paramilitary group. 14 of the 15 members of the Council voted for the resolution drafted by the UK as Russia abstained.

It demanded “that the RSF end the siege of El Fasher and calling for an immediate cessation of fighting and de-escalation in and around El Fasher.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Ambassador said outside interference was hurting the peace bid in Sudan.

“We came together to demand that civilians are protected, and humanitarian aid is allowed to flow freely, into Darfur and across Sudan across borders and conflict lines in accordance with international law,” she said after the vote on Thursday.

“We came together to call on all Member States to refrain from external interference in this conflict, which, if it continues, will only foment further instability. And we came together to call for an immediate cessation of hostilities leading to a sustainable resolution to this conflict.”

She had earlier directly criticised the UAE for interfering.

The Yale report had indicated that the RSF were this week targeting fleeing civilians, keeping them locked in perpetual misery.

The city of El Fasher has been witnessing violent fighting that began about a month ago between the RSF and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), backed by allied movements, amid a large wave of displacement

Both sides used heavy weapons, drones, and intensive bombing operations that caused great destruction to hospitals, public facilities, and residential neighborhoods, while both sides exchanged responsibility for the dangerous escalation.

The SAF had been accused of importing weapons from Iran, which could form a violation on their part.

Abdirahman Ali, CARE Sudan Country Director the resolution offered hope for the people but said it must be followed by immediate implementation.

“This demand for an end to the conflict must be immediately met by those perpetuating the violence. Levels of suffering for the Sudanese people are unimaginable – millions of people are starving, and millions more have been forced to flee their homes in fear,” he said on Friday.

“We also call on the international community to move with speed to fully fund the humanitarian response – this is now a life-and-death necessity for the 5 million Sudanese men, women, and children who are facing famine.”

El Fasher has been the only capital of Darfur’s five states not controlled by the RSF, and has long been relatively untouched by the fighting, until violence erupted last month.

Medical charity group, MSF, said this week at least 192 people have been killed and more than 1,230 injured since May 10 in El Fasher. 

The Sudan war began in April last year but parties have continually disregarded calls for ceasefire. In March, the Security Council called for an “immediate” ceasefire in Sudan within the holy month of Ramadhan, a resolution that was disobeyed. 

The new draft resolution also called on the parties to agree on an immediate ceasefire and the removal of obstacles to humanitarian access at a time when famine threatens millions of Sudanese. In particular, it calls for the reopening of the Adri border crossing between Chad and Sudan.

It also urges all member states to "refrain from any external interference aimed at fuelling conflict and instability" and demands respect for the arms embargo, without naming any state.