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Sudan: From Darfur and chemical attacks to European partnership and U.S collaboration

MagkaSama Team - April 10, 2017
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RSF troops in their armed vehicles Jebel Marra, January 2, 2015.

Photo: Sudan Armed Forces

In September 2016, Amnesty International published an alarming report: Chemical weapons have been used by Sudan against civilians in Darfur conflict; between 200 and 250 people may have died as a result of exposure to the chemical weapons agents. Here is our post about it.

A month later, petitions, letters were being sent demanding the UNHRC, OPCW to open an investigation. Since then, the only statement made by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is the following one:

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has examined the relevant parts of the Amnesty International report regarding allegations of the use of chemical weapons in the Darfur region of Sudan. The OPCW has also noted the response of the Government of Sudan to the allegations. Without further information and evidence being made available, it is not possible at this stage to draw any conclusions based on the content of the report.

Needless to say we were baffled by the decision of the OPCW to take no further action on Sudan; we thought the use of chemical weapons on civilians was a red line that couldn’t be crossed and that there would be consequences. But apparently, some interests are more important than others.

Last week, Enough Project published a report by Suliman Baldo: Border Control from Hell: How the EU’s migration partnership legitimizes Sudan’s ‘militia state’. You can read the full report here.

Some extracts from the executive summary:

Large-scale migration to Europe has precipitated a paradigm shift in relations between the European Union (EU) and the government of Sudan, and closer ties between both entities. This new partnership has resulted in the EU disbursing millions of euros to the Sudanese government for technical equipment and training efforts geared toward stopping the flow to Europe of migrants from Sudan and those from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa who come through Sudan.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, is scheduled to visit Ethiopia this week and meet with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and other government officials. No doubt they will discuss this agreement with Europe…

The EU’s action plan will involve building the capacities of Sudan’s security and law enforcement agencies, including a paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which has been branded as Sudan’s primary “border force.” The EU will assist the RSF and other relevant agencies with the construction of two camps with detention facilities for migrants. The EU will also equip these Sudanese border forces with cameras, scanners, and electronic servers for registering refugees.

Europe will ‘assist’ the RSF which is well-known for their brutality. In a recent news regarding the torture of two journalists abducted en route to Jebel Marra, Amnesty International declared:

While in Darfur, the two filmmakers were abducted by members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), who are part of the military and a central element in the Sudanese government efforts to stem the flow of refugees to Europe under the EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative, also known as the Khartoum Process. Amnesty International has expressed concern that EU funds to Sudan under the Khartoum Process maybe inadvertently financing the RSF, a group accused of egregious human rights violations.

Enough’s report also underlines the inconsistency (to say the least) of working with a militia group responsible for the genocide in Darfur:

Sudan’s strategy for stopping migrant flows on behalf of Europe involves a ruthless crackdown by the RSF on migrants within Sudan. Dogged by persistent armed uprisings led by opponents protesting chronic inequalities in the distribution of national wealth and political power in its periphery regions, the Sudanese government has always relied on a plethora of militia groups to counter insurgencies. The RSF is one of these militia groups. It evolved from the disparate Janjaweed militias that carried out the genocidal counterinsurgency policy of the Sudanese regime in Darfur that began in 2003. However, in its functions and evolution, the RSF differs significantly from other militia groups employed by the government.

Suliman Baldo also details the crackdown on protesters in September, 2013. We covered the events and you can read our posts about #SudanRevolts on this page.

The RSF first evolved from a strike force deployed against insurgents in Darfur into a national counterinsurgency force under the operational command of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) that was tasked with fighting the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N) in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Then, in September 2013, the RSF was deployed against peaceful demonstrators who were protesting the Sudanese government’s removal of subsidies on basic commodities. More than 170 people were killed in September 2013, in incidents that unmasked the Sudanese regime’s dependence on the militia to quell political dissent and marked a new evolution in the role of the RSF.

In a testimony before Congress a few days before this report was published, the Enough Project’s Omer Ismail called for renewed U.S. sanctions and anti-money laundering measures targeting Sudan’s corrupt elite. Ismail said that the Obama administration’s easing of sanctions in January this year undermines U.S. foreign policy objectives, giving away the sole point of U.S. leverage on Sudan in exchange for uncertain short-term counterterrorism gains.

You can read what Sudan researcher and analyst Eric Reeves wrote on that topic in this very well  documented post here:

President Barack Obama provisionally lifted U.S. economic sanctions on the Khartoum regime by Executive Order on January 13, 2017; Obama cited “positive actions” and his UN Ambassador Samantha Power went so far as to declare that there had been a “sea change” of improvement in humanitarian access in Sudan

In this article published by Sudan Tribune, we better understand what lies behind the lifting of U.S sanctions on Sudan, counterterrorism gains may in fact be hidden in plain sight:

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) office in Khartoum is the largest one in the Middle East, said the Sudanese intelligence General Hanafi Abdallah, to give an idea about the importance of of intelligence cooperation between the two countries. “There is communication between the two bodies and regular meetings. The CIA office in Khartoum is the largest office in the Middle East. Because the United States is aware of the Sudan strategic importance in the region, it has established one of the largest diplomatic missions in the region, even they had to expand their buildings”

There is no doubt the ‘collaboration’ between the U.S and Khartoum, and the ‘partnership’ with Europe will unlikely push for any further actions against the Sudanese regime, and will on the contrary legitimize the ongoing repression on Sudanese people.

Last year, Maddy Crowther from U.K based organization Waging Peace argued that the sudden push for deals to halt migration with African autocracies such as Sudan will stain Britain’s reputation and do little to slow the flow of refugees. Her post (on this page) makes a clear point and is still very up to date.

A stain joining many others, as pointed out with a statement by The MagkaSama Project’s founder Max Dana published in a post by Esther Sprague on the Huffington Post last December, before the easing of sanctions had been decided by Barack Obama…

When President Obama called the genocide in Darfur ‘a stain on our souls’, we all thought: at least a committed leader who understands the urgency of the situation, eventually. Two years later when President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, he declared: ‘I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments but rather an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.’ Even if no action whatsoever had been taken since his first statement in 2007, many thought the Nobel Peace Prize would be an incentive for Barack Obama to take his responsibilities and move up Darfur and Sudan on the agenda of world leaders. Once again, nothing happened. The lack of political leadership to resolve the problem is a real shame, on Obama but also on the world leaders and the international community. Now is the last chance for President Obama to do something before it is too late, for History to remember he is a man of his words. He won’t remove the indelible stain on our souls, but he can leave with a clear conscience and do something for the innocent men, women and children being killed everyday in complete impunity and total indifference.


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