The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Forum for Women’s Empowerment for Peace and Security Conference, held in the southern Kenyan town of Machakos last week, declared its solidarity with the women of Sudan, expressing ‘concern and alarm’ at the escalating violence against women and girls.
Participants expressed concern and alarm at the devastating development of the conflict in Sudan. They drew attention to the “mass displacement, escalating violence against women and girls, loss of life, gross violations of human rights, the use of children in war, the destruction of infrastructure, and its consequences on the political, economic, and political aspects, and the social fabric of the country”.
Its final statement includes several women leaders in the Horn of Africa region, in addition to the presence of prominent leaders of the IGAD organization, most notably the Executive Secretary of IGAD Workneh Gebeyehu, the Djiboutian Councillor Othman Jama Osman, and the participating groups. In the statement, forum members expressed their alarm at the painful reports of sexual violence against women and girls in Khartoum, the Darfur region, and other states in Sudan, highlighting their long-term impact amid increasing protection risks and limited access to services. Additionally, members decried the lack of security, and the lack of basic needs and services in Sudan, and called on the parties to urgently address the dire humanitarian conditions.
The forum indicated its awareness of the continual efforts made by member states of IGAD to maintain stability in the region, commending their cooperative actions taken in the face of the interrelated challenges of peace and security.
The participating group urged the warring parties to call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, to open communication channels to enable dialogue and safe passage of humanitarian aid, and work to resolve conflicts and prioritize peace and prosperity for the Sudanese people. They called on IGAD, the African Union, the United Nations, and other actors “to redouble their efforts in providing life-saving services to the Sudanese people, especially women and children suffering in Khartoum, the Darfur region, and other states”.
The participating parties appealed to neighboring countries to provide unfettered support and facilitate the safety of passage for people fleeing the conflict, facilitate visa requirements, and acknowledge the mediation efforts of IGAD, the African Union, and other actors working to end the conflict.
Violence against women
IGAD’s forum follows a women’s vigil held in North Darfur on Thursday, which similarly decried the violence and the resultant collapse in women’s healthcare. As well as criticizing the absence of “even the simplest equipment to provide treatment in the fields of obstetrics and gynecology.”, protestors also criticized the murders, rapes, and kidnappings occurring in El Fasher.
The forum also follows the cancellation of a women’s seminar entitled Land of Weapons last Saturday in the El Gezira state capital of Wad Madani, which was. Tahani Abbas, a leading member of the No To Women’s Oppression Initiative, told Radio Dabanga that she expected attacks against the Initiative’s activities; subsequently, a security force arrived at Lawyers House in three vehicles and ordered the seminar to be canceled shortly before it took place.
Progressive legal organizations criticized the seminar’s cancellation. The Emergency Lawyers condemned the security authorities’ decision to ban the seminar in Wad Madani. The Darfur Bar Association (DBA) also declared its solidarity with the No to Women’s Oppression Initiative.