Are the Sudanese human rights activists being controlled by all the warring parties? | | Stories About Stories

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In the war in Sudan, even making food for the poor is dangerous.

On March 23, Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) arrested human rights activists from the Sharq al-Nile region in the military capital, Khartoum, while they were guarding a soup kitchen that feeds thousands of hungry people every day.

The recent arrests in Khartoum are just one part of a wider strategy by the RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) – who are fighting for power in the country – to reduce their workforce by arresting volunteers, reducing access to aid and obstruction. the arrival of aid, according to local volunteers and support groups.

“More incarceration would affect many poor people who depend on them [soup kitchens] to survive,” Musab Mahjoub, a human rights monitor in Sharq al-Nile, told Al Jazeera as a consultant. there is famine throughout the land.

The reason for his arrest in March is unknown.

“We tried to contact RSF to ask…

Community service groups have stepped up they asked western organizations to help and protect them from militant groups who believe they are benefiting from the control of humanitarian aid.

According to the activists, the response of the activists has been to arrest, rob, rape and even kill the aid workers in the area to force them to carry out the aid work.

With the soup kitchen now in the compound, this violation is adding to the food crisis in Sudan, where more than 18 million people are facing hunger and starvation. five million are suffering from “disastrous” hunger.

People drive out of Khartoum on June 19, 2023, ahead of an international conference to raise money for humanitarian aid. [AP Photo]

Setting goals

When the civil war in Sudan started on April 15 last year, members of the opposition committees – the neighboring democratic groups that helped to topple then-President Omar al-Bashir – set up “emergency relief rooms” (ERRs).

Mistakes began as local experiments the task of transporting vulnerable people from conflict zones and providing first aid to the injured.

Over time, the ERRs grew apart from the opposition committees and began asking for donations from abroad to feed the hungry. But now they are facing similar threats to other human rights activists in Sudan.

ERR volunteers who work in RSF-controlled areas report that total lawlessness leaves them in constant fear of arrest, beatings or rape.

ERR fighters, who operate in SAF-controlled areas, are said to be controlled by military and security intelligence groups linked to “Kizan” – the popular name for members of the Sudanese Islamist group that ruled alongside al-Bashir for decades. three.

Large numbers of Kizan have come out of the shadows to support the military since the war, with activists saying they want revenge on the organizations that defeated them in 2019.

Last month, ERR Spokesperson in Khartoum Hajooj Kuka said the activists were targeted after the army recaptured areas surrounding the RSF in Omdurman, one of the capital’s three cities.

“Two young people were killed by the army… in the kitchen of a Sufi group, called Wad Elamin. But now the army is fine with the sheikh and he is working to open another kitchen,” Kuka told Al Jazeera.

“We also have members who escaped because one of the terrorists fighting the army – known as al-Baraa bin Malak – started looking for people who were in the army. [pro-democracy] protests.”

Al Jazeera contacted SAF spokesman Nabil Abdallah to inquire about the army’s plans to target the activists, but he did not respond.

Stopping food aid

A few weeks after the start of the war, the United Nations and international aid groups moved to Khartoum. they finally set up offices in Port Sudan on the Red Sea – the SAF’s command center now – which helped the military improve its humanitarian response, aid groups told Al Jazeera.

Since then, the army has strictly prohibited UN agencies and aid groups from providing aid to areas controlled by the RSF, according to these aid groups.

“I am concerned that there are some principles that are very important [from the army] to starve some parts of the country for direct or indirect reasons and to transfer aid to other parts,” said the head of an international aid organization in the country, who asked not to be named for fear of losing more opportunities to provide aid.

Supporters of the Sudanese army, which supports the army, ride in vehicles in Gedaref in eastern Sudan.
Supporters of the Sudanese armed forces, who support the army, in Gadarif, eastern Sudan, on March 3, 2024. [AFP]

In the past month, no aid has reached RSF-controlled areas from Port Sudan, according to a UN spokesman, who asked not to be named for fear of disrupting the current aid negotiations.

The spokesman told Al Jazeera that even if the UN gets “permissions” to withdraw aid from Port Sudan, they will not be given a guarantee of safety from RSF fighters.

“RSF is asking for payment to get security guarantees,” he said. “But it’s the same thing [we] I will not do it, and I cannot do it.

Al Jazeera sent questions to RSF Spokesman Abdulrahman al-Jaali, accusing the militia of trying to make a profit from aid groups, but he did not respond.

Social needs?

A Western aid worker in Sudan, who was not allowed to speak because of the sensitivity of the matter, told Al Jazeera that the UN and other international organizations should prioritize their “charity” in respecting the authority of the Sudanese military. .

For several months, international aid agencies and UN agencies have been asking for help from the country’s two borders through South Sudan and Chad. But in March, Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which cooperated with the military, withdrew the permission of the World Food Program (WFP) to provide food to West and Central Darfur from the town of Adre in Chad.

The ministry cited security reasons, saying the border was used to send weapons to the RSF.

Three days later, the SAF agreed to send WFP food through Tina, Chad, a border region that borders North Darfur, where the army and the RSF are stationed. However, thousands of people in West and Central Darfur are still hungry.

“There is a global problem that international governance is seen as a global trend in our humanitarian needs. Sudan is one of the many areas where we have the opportunity to be independent in providing aid to people in danger,” said a Western aid worker. .

Al Jazeera contacted Leni Kenzli, a WFP spokesperson, to ask whether the organization could override the Sudanese military’s permission to deliver aid to West and Central Darfur from Adre, especially if thousands of people start to die of starvation.

Kenzli declined to comment on the sensitivity of the matter.

Meanwhile, a Western aid worker said that many of his colleagues were disappointed that international aid organizations do not show “courage” to find food for hungry people, leaving the work to medical workers who have no money and no protection despite their high risk. .

“We have this idea that permission [of the army] in Port Sudan it is more difficult than the people who are suffering from hunger [West Darfur]”he told Al Jazeera.

“[The UN] opportunity legal opinion [of sovereignty] on another legal principle, that people have the right to survive.”

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