Monitor June 2024

Atrocities Watch Africa (AWA) is a non-partisan civil society organisation that provides continental leadership in matters pertaining to the prevention of mass atrocities within Africa. Our strategies and approaches are grounded in the realisation that atrocities can be prevented through various interventions, including, but not limited to, early warning mechanisms, diplomatic efforts, use of social media and new technologies, litigation, and advocacy campaigns.

This newsletter builds on our team’s continuous monitoring of the region to identify deteriorating situations where atrocities may be committed and track ongoing situations of atrocities to detect increasing tendencies or opportunities for improvement.

This month’s newsletter covers:

  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Ethiopia
  • Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

In May, clashes between the Congolese armed forces, its allied local militias known as the Wazalendo and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) troops against the March 23 Movement (M23) continued to intensify. Fighting was reported in Masisi, Rutshuru, and Sake and approached the town of Kanyabayonga, situated on the route to Goma. Kanyabayonga had become a refuge for displaced people, but M23’s advance led nearly the whole population to flee. 

Some, like Nicaise Kibel Bel, a military analyst based in the provincial capital, argue that these developments show that M23 intends to take over Goma. In this view, M23’s escalation strategy serves two purposes: on the one hand it exerts pressure on Kinshasa-who so far has consistently rejected dialogue-to initiate negotiations, and on the other on South Africa’s Ramaphosa to withdraw his troops under the SADC coalition (SAMIDRC). By 30 May, five South African soldiers had been killed in the fighting. Others, however, argue that it may be that the pressure on the city allows M23 more space to operate in rural areas as it distracts the government and its allies without the risk that an all out assault would present. 

M23 gained control over the town of Rubaya located approximately halfway between Massisi and Sake. Rubaya holds deposits of tantalum, extracted from coltan, which is a key component in the production of smartphones. The capture of the town represents a significant development in the conflict as it could enable M23 and its allies to access and exploit these resources. 

The city of Goma and its surrounding areas, with a resident population of about two million, now host between 600,000 and 1,000,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). The concentration of security forces near displacement camps expose IDPs to ongoing fighting. On 3 May, two IDP camps in Lac-Vert and Mugunga were bombed, killing at least 35 people, the Congolese government attributed responsibility for the attack to Rwanda and the M23 and characterised it as a significant violation of international humanitarian law. Shellings were also reported in Sake at the end of May at the hands of both M23 and the Rwandan army.

Persistent large-scale attacks against civilians by both armed groups and the Congolese armed forces have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis. The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office documented 2,110 human rights violations and abuses throughout the DRC between 1 October 2023 and 15 March 2024. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence, according to Save the Children, these attacks tend to occur as survivors flee the intensifying clashes between the DRC army, the M23, and various other armed groups. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) recorded 1,700 cases of sexual violence in April, 70% of which were perpetrated by armed men. Sexual violence is also occurring in IDP camps. In May, clashes resumed in Kibirizi, a hub for displaced persons situated at the intersection of key routes in North Kivu, and MSF reported five times more sexual violence cases than the previous month. 

Tensions between the DRC and Rwanda continue to increase alongside the fighting. The DRC, in a letter to the UN Security Council (UNSC) in response to the shelling of the Mugunga and Lac Vert displacement camps urged the Council to suspend Rwanda from participating in UN peacekeeping operations until it ceases to support M23. Rwanda rejected the accusations and accused Burundian and DRC troops of the attack. Kinshasa intensified efforts to persuade UNSC members to sanction Rwanda, citing concerns that the seizure of mining sites could escalate the conflict due to illicit resource exploitation.

In Rwanda, an ad hoc house committee set up to investigate the role of “colonial legacy in conflicts in the Great Lakes Region and its impact on DR Congo-Rwanda relations” accused Kinshasa of failing to disarm the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and using it to fight M23. The committee argued that  for lasting peace “the genocidal FDLR and its splinter groups must be uprooted.” 

While attention is placed on M23, other armed groups continue to terrorise the region. Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militants killed at least 72 people in Beni, North Kivu, during the first week of June, the first attack of this scale in recent months. Both the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) and the Congolese army have been combatting ADF through Operation Shuja, recent developments indicate the militants have been forced to migrate to the Mangina region. 

The UN Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) collaborated with the Congolese army in joint operations against the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO), freeing some areas in Djugu territory, Ituri province. The peacekeepers set up blocking positions, conducted thorough patrols and offered medical services to the local population. 

International response:

The UN and its partners warned that the escalating conflict is fuelling “unprecedented civilian suffering” and called for the international community to mobilise resources for the humanitarian response.

The UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region briefed the Security Council on the deteriorating security situation in the eastern DRC and called for increased efforts of de-escalation highlighting the importance of both the Luanda and Nairobi peace processes. Council members called for increased participation of women in peacebuilding processes and Vaweka Pétronille, Coordinator of Women Engaged for Peace in Africa called for the creation of an international monitoring mechanism with the aim of guaranteeing the continuation of peace processes in the region. 

In June, the UN Security Council will vote on extending the mandate of the sanctions regime outlined in resolution 1533 set to expire on 1 July, as well as the Group of Experts tasked with supporting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee, whose mandate also concludes on 1 August.

UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk visited the DRC in April. He called for an end to foreign support for armed groups and expressed concern over potential civilian repercussions of MONUSCO’s departure. Türk urged SAMIDRC to establish and enforce a strong framework for human rights and humanitarian law compliance to safeguard civilians and maintain public trust.

The African Union Peace and Security Council (AU-PSC) requested the AU Commission to consider practical means for the AU to support the SADC’s deployment and requested the Commission provide regular briefings to the Council on the activities of SAMIDRC. 

The US government accused the Rwandan army and the M23 of responsibility for the attacks on the IDP camps in early May and called for an evaluation of Rwanda’s role as a major UN troop-contributing country. Rwanda strongly rejected the accusations. During a press conference held jointly with Tshisekedi in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron urged Rwanda to cease its backing of M23.


A major escalation of hostilities was recorded in April when clashes took place between Amhara and Tigrayan forces in disputed territories of Southern Tigray that are currently under Amhara control. Fighting began on 13 April and ceased two days later when federal forces intervened. Over 50,000 people were displaced. This is the third time this year that violence has erupted between Tigrayan and Amhara forces, clashes were recorded in February 2024 for the first time since the signing of the Pretoria agreement in November 2022 and continued in March. The cause for the latest round of fighting remains unclear and each side blames the other.

Territorial disputes between Tigrayan and Amhara forces are not new and shed light on a complex history of shifting regional boundaries and competing ethnic claims in Ethiopia. Territories that were under the control of Tigray under the current ethnic federal system were occupied by Amhara during the two-year-long war in northern Ethiopia. This remains a central provision of the Pretoria agreement, which authorised the signatories to resolve the issues of contested areas in accordance with the 1995 constitution, implicitly considering the federal government a legitimate representative of armed groups that fought alongside them. If the issue of the contested areas is resolved by applying the 1995 Constitution, this could be perceived as undermining the interests of the Amhara ethnic group who insist the territories are rightfully theirs. Tensions between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) increased when the TPLF was accused of violating the Pretoria agreement and invading contested areas which Tigray’s Interim Regional Administration denied. The government had said the local population would vote in a referendum to decide on the status of the disputed territories, however, the Tigrayan administration did not agreed to this and asked the federal government to reconsider, whether or not this will take place remains unclear. The issue of the contested territories remains unresolved and the exclusion of other armed groups from the 2022 peace process inevitably impacted the prospect of a durable resolution of the conflict. Should the territorial dispute remain unresolved it risks becoming a breaking point for the resumption of hostilities. Tigray’s interim President, Getachew Reda, announced on 24 May that Tigray’s forces would withdraw from two villages near Alamata town in Southern Tigray, in an attempt to reduce tensions. In the contested territory of Western Tigray fighting between the Ethiopian military and Amhara militants was recorded

The AU monitoring team visited Gulemekeda district and Zalambessa for the second time since the signing of the Pretoria agreement and confirmed the continued presence of Eritrean forces in Eastern Tigray. Zalambessa authorities estimated that approximately 75% of the town is currently under the control of Eritrean forces and despite more than a year having gone by since the agreement was signed, by February 2024 the town was still lacking essential public services such as electricity, water, healthcare, and education and accessing humanitarian aid remains challenging. Eritrea’s presence is a clear violation of the Pretoria Agreement and further hinders the disarmament of the Tigrayan Defence forces (TDF), putting at risk the fragile peace and diminishing the chances of restoring stability in Northern Ethiopia. Chances of open conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia cannot be discarded, with Abiy’s ongoing efforts to regain access to the Red Sea. If tensions continue to escalate, continued Eritrean presence in Tigray could be a catalyst for broader conflict due to underlying tensions. 

The lack of implementation of the Pretoria Agreement presents a challenge to securing lasting peace. Key unimplemented provisions up to February 2024 include the reinstatement of Tigray’s jurisdiction over contested areas; facilitating the safe return of internally displaced persons (IDPs); the disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration TDF combatants; initiatives aimed at transitional justice; the urgent scaling up of humanitarian aid operations; and proactive endeavours towards post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction. The return of Tigray to its pre-war administrative boundary as well as the withdrawal of Eritrean forces would simultaneously allow for the return of IDPs to their places of origin and set the conditions for the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of the TDF as well as be steps towards post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction. What currently stands is a pledge to cease active hostilities, accompanied by a vague framework to be used for addressing political differences and moving the country forward, however the agreement holds the potential to perpetuate the war’s aims through alternative means, said Mulugeta Gebrehiwot Berhe of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University.

Tensions surged across the border when the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces (RSF) accused the TPLF of establishing a partnership with the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and engaging on their side in the ongoing Sudan war. The interim administration of Tigray responded by accusing the RSF of “internationalising the tragic civil war.” The RSF and TPLF have a longstanding relationship of mistrust. 

In the Amhara region, tensions between the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and Fano Amhara militias are ongoing, and clashes continue. The situation presents a significant threat to civilians, particularly concerning potential reprisals from the parties involved, in February, in response to heightened confrontations with Fano militia, the ENDF carried out house-to-house searches in Merawi which resulted in the deaths of at least 50 civilians, including a 6-year-old child. 

In Oromia, ENDF conducted operations against the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), clashes among both parties had escalated in March and the ENDF had killed at least 16 Amharas during search operations. Bate Urgessa, a political officer with the OLA, was killed on 9 April, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) began an investigation into his murder but was forced to quit after finding evidence that implicated government security forces.

In Gambella, at least 138 people were killed between May 2023 and January 2024 due to ongoing intercommunal clashes and attacks on refugee camps in the region, according to a recent report by the EHRC. These attacks included violence perpetrated by and against South Sudanese refugees in the region. The initial conflict erupted when a resident of Itang district disappeared, sparking deadly clashes; subsequent revenge attacks and cattle raids only intensified the cycle of violence. 

The increased tensions on the ground are accompanied by ongoing online hate speech and disinformation. A recent report by the Ethiopian Media Authority shed light on the increasing prevalence of hate speech centred around political viewpoints, ethnic affiliations and religious beliefs that is present across Ethiopia on online platforms. The escalating conflicts on the ground are directly related to a surge in online hate speech and government officials play a key role in disseminating misinformation according to Befekadu Hailu, co-founder of the Center for Advancement of Rights and Democracy (CARD).

The situation of IDPs and refugees in the country is extremely worrisome, further compounded by the ongoing conflict in neighbouring Sudan. The lack of resources are forcing civilians to endure dire living conditions. 

International response: 

The reignited hostilities in Tigray led for open condemnation from the international community who expressed solidarity with the Ethiopian people and called on all parties involved to halt hostilities, stressing the importance of the implementation of the Pretoria Cessation of Hostilities agreement, including the AU, EU, as well as the G7, comprised of Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States and the High Representative of the European Union. 

In April 2024, the Ethiopian government, the UN and UK convened in Geneva to garner international support for the country’s aid plan for 2024, which was still under 5% funded at that point.


Sudan’s war entered a new phase on 14 April when the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) conquered Mellit, effectively gaining control of all areas north of El Fasher as well as access to the Northern state currently under control of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). Its capture sparked intense violence, SAF responded by conducting three raids on Mellit, however SAF’s repeated targeting of civilians in RSF controlled areas may be perceived as a form of collective punishment. 

Mellit is a key town located only 60 km from El Fasher, Darfur’s capital and home to up to two-million people, who are currently trapped in the city. Mellit acted as a vital checkpoint for aid deliveries to Darfur and connected North Darfur to Libya, the capture of Mellit has given the RSF control over transport of goods, supplies and aid to the entire Darfur region. Currently El Fasher is under attack, the city remains the SAF’s last grip in the western region that has yet to be taken over by the RSF, however by blocking the entry of aid, fuel and other commodities, RSF can limit El Fasher’s ability to resist. 

In order to seize control of the capital, RSF will have to not only defeat the SAF but also various rebel groups whose fighters are mostly non-Arab Zaghawa, one of the main population groups in El Fasher. The recent RSF advances led to a division within the Darfur Joint Protection Forces (JPF), an organisation of former Darfur rebel groups, with certain members opting for neutrality, while others aligned themselves with either warring party. Among those that sided with SAF, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) faction and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) are actively fighting RSF, which led to retaliation. ACLED reported an increase in violence near El Fasher with incidents taking place in 13 villages, in which ethnic Zaghawa civilians were disproportionately targeted, showing organisational tactics similar to those used during the counterinsurgency campaign in 2003. As the fighting intensifies there are serious concerns it may lead to mass targeting along ethnic lines such as what already took place in El Geneina in West Darfur, where there were systematic campaigns of ethnic cleansing, potentially constituting genocide. 

The humanitarian situation in El Fasher is extremely worrying. The city is home to thousands who had fled violence elsewhere in Darfur and escaping El Fasher currently requires passing through the RSF checkpoints that surround the city. Youth groups and emergency response rooms (ERRs)  are the primary source of assistance on the ground, with international aid limited. The situation is extremely critical in Abu Shouk -a displacement camp that houses victims of the Darfur conflict of the early 2000s- where in late May RSF shells landed on civilian houses, RSF also entered the camp and allegedly beat, tortured and extrajudicially detained civilians, 60% of its 100,000 residents were forced to flee. Attacks continued into June. 

RSF’s control over neighbouring areas has diminished civilian’s access to basic supplies and should the city remain under siege, the residents of El Fasher will increasingly suffer from malnutrition and a lack of medical resources, resulting in avoidable fatalities. It was estimated that El Fasher South Hospital — the only functioning hospital in that state — only had 10 days of supplies left by 24 May and over a dozen trucks of international aid were unable to reach the city. 

The ongoing fighting for control over El Fasher persists, however Sudan Transparency shed light on RSF’s plans, should the warring party gain control of the entirety of Darfur there is a strong possibility they will aim to create “a unified administration for all territories under their [RSF] control in western and central Sudan”, such a development could lead to the fragmentation of Sudan, with the emergence of two competing administrations. El Fasher was previously at risk of descending into an all-encompassing war in early November 2023, but local mediation efforts accompanied by international pressure played a key role in mitigating the violence that time around.

SAF with assistance of their allied JPF achieved some advances in Khartoum state, as they continued to approach the RSF-controlled al-Gaili Petroleum Refinery which has been under RSF control since April 2023. This would allow SAF to cut off the supply routes to RSF’s key bases in Khartoum. There are ongoing reports of attacks on civilians and shelling throughout the city and surrounding areas. Raids were carried out in Al Gezira and White Nile states. 

In an attempt to expand his coalition’s reach, Abdallah Hamdok, the head of Taqaddum met with former Prime Minister; Abdel Aziz al-Hilu of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement–North (SPLM-N), and Abdel Wahid Mohamed Nur from the Sudan Liberation Movement and signed the Nairobi Declaration on 18 May, proposing that Sudan should become a secular and decentralised state, and these principles should be included in the country’s new constitution. Hamdok signed the declaration in his personal capacity. However, the SPLM-N and the Sudan Liberation Movement are significant players in Sudan’s political landscape, maintaining control over certain territories in the country and possessing military capabilities, though to a limited extent. Their inclusion in Taqaddum would undoubtedly bolster the coalition’s strength and credibility. SPLM-N later participated in Tagaddum’s gathering in Addis Ababa at the end of May, where about 600 Sudanese civilians attended this gathering to discuss ways to end the ongoing conflict in Sudan. Despite having participated in the meeting SPLM-N did not officially join the coalition. Civilian sentiments regarding the coalition are varied as many of its leaders were previously associated with the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC). While some are optimistic with these more recent developments, seeing it as a revitalization of Taqaddum with the potential for broader representation, others perceive it as “just a show”, merely an attempt by Hamdok to diversify the coalition’s composition without substantial change.

International response: 

High-level UN officials including Secretary General Antonio Guterres and UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk have been sounding the alarm on the risk of coordinated attacks on El Fasher and warned the security council of the ongoing risks civilians are facing and called for de-escalation.  On 24 May the UN Security Council (UNSC) held a private meeting on the situation where the United States (US) committed to continue to push the Council and the broader international community for a stronger response to the Crisis. This came days after the US imposed sanctions against two RSF commanders for their role in operations in Darfur. 

The UN special adviser on the prevention of genocide, Alice Nderitu, said thatthe risk of genocide exists in Sudan. It is real and it is growing, every single day” and shed light on the ongoing ethnic targeting of communities and the ongoing hate speech and direct incitement to violence.

The AU Peace and Security Council expressed concern over the developing situation in Sudan and requested the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to investigate the human rights situation in El Fasher and other areas in Darfur. The Council also requested the AU High Level Panel to work alongside Special Envoy for the Prevention of Genocide on how to address the situation and prevent further escalation, including measures for protection of civilians.

South Sudan will engage in peace negotiations with the warring factions in neighbouring Sudan in order to resolve the conflict and facilitate the repair of a crucial oil pipeline

The Elders expressed concern over the increasing risk of atrocity crimes.