By Simon Talbot, Blog Writer
In January 2018, Sudan hosted a peak of significant yet peaceful protests against rising food prices and a considerable fuel crisis, responded to by the enduring al-Bashir government with arbitrary detention of opposition activists. With the end of decades of economic sanctions on Sudan, the burden of these punitive measures has been mostly felt by the Sudanese population, and less so by the Sudanese government itself. The removal of the U.S-lead economic sanctions occurred amid recent parallel efforts by members of the European Union to stem migration flows from within ‘sending’ countries, such as Sudan and Libya.
Cooperative initiatives such as the European Union’s “Khartoum Process” have indirectly transferred as much as 183 million euros into Sudan, via independent partner charities and aid agencies. Attempts by the European Union to address migration flows from ‘source’ countries appear to be converging into very visible trends: from the tokenization of EU-membership for a gravely-deteriorating Turkish democracy, in exchange for a Turkish agreement to take back all new migrants, to cooperative efforts by the Italian government to delegate immigration detention to Libyan militias renowned for basic human rights violations as well as being major actors in the Libyan human smuggling trade.
The similarity of events in Libya with present events in Sudan is striking: the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces, a “security apparatus whose leaders have been accused by the United Nations of committing war crimes in Darfur”, are being employed by the Sudanese government to act as border agents – with the support of the European Union, through indirectly channeled funds or resources such as training and surveillance equipment. It is the same RSF militia that was accused by Amnesty International, with credible evidence in hand, of using chemical weapons in Darfur. There is a stark contrast between the extent of international coverage and condemnation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria with that of Darfur. Divulging classified documents in May 2016, the German Der Spiegel and TV station ARD exposed the overlaying doubt permeating prospects of serious attempts by Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir to take on migrant smugglers, as well as emphasizing the absence of any oversight and transparency mechanism.
The precedent being set by cooperating and supplying a blatantly human rights-violating government is non-negligible: the European Union’s legitimization of a Sudanese government still presided by Omar al-Bashir, for which the International Criminal Court has issued two arrest warrants, seems to spell out a bleak European strategy to appease migration and the European populism that accompanies it. The deteriorating state of Sudanese civil freedoms only further illustrates the inconsistency of the EU in its tolerance of state-implemented human rights violations.