What is Europe’s stake in Sudan’s revolution?
The increasing migration to Europe from African countries – especially the Horn of Africa – is a key issue in Europe's current crisis and looms large in the European elections on 23-26 May.
The revolution in Sudan is about egalité, liberté et fraternité. Ideas that have been at heart of European politics for centuries.
In recent times, such lofty ideals have had to compete with the revival of nationalism and a bidding war by rival political parties to have the toughest policies on migration into ‘Fortress Europe’, particularly from Africa and the Middle East.
That’s what brought the European Union (EU) into negotiations with the National Congress Party regime under President Omar al-Bashir in Sudan. The aim was to induce Bashir to cooperate on restricting migration to Europe from Sudan and other countries in the region and to disrupt the criminal networks involved in people smuggling.
In exchange, the EU would offer Bashir’s regime a kind of respectability and pay it hundreds of millions of euros, purporting to be development aid, to police migration in the region. Don’t forget this is a regime whose leading figures have been the subject of the harshest reports by international agencies such as the United Nations (UN) and Amnesty International on human rights and mass killings.
Indeed, Bashir has been charged with crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for ordering the mass slaughter of people in Darfur, western Sudan.
The EU called its migration deal with Bashir the Khartoum Process. It launched it in October 2014 with a serious title: ‘A Cooperative Approach to Dealing with Human Trafficking and Smuggling of People’. It cut similar deals – trading cash for development in exchange for local policing of migration – with Morocco and governments in the Sahel.
After a meeting in Khartoum, the EU organised a meeting in November 2014 to sign the ‘Rome Declaration’, announcing that it would help countries affected by human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants between the Horn of Africa and Europe in a spirit of partnership, cooperation and shared responsibility. However, the real goal was to remove the burden of refugees from Europe’s shoulders.
The EU did not stop there. It helped create jobs, training programmes and small business – all to strengthen the Khartoum regime that drove refugees to seek shelter.
This meant the EU would provide some money – through the EU Emergency Fund for Africa – but turn a blind eye to the repression of the Bashir regime against its citizens. That regime has received more than a quarter of a billion dollars from this fund alone, as well as security training and monitoring equipment from EU member states.
Yet the EU paid little attention to how Bashir’s regime was going to carry out the duty of protecting borders. In fact, it entrusted this role to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which is a restructured version of the Janjawid militias that led the regime’s military operations in Darfur over the previous decade.
The command and leadership of the RSF has been transferred and exchanged between the police and the security apparatus, the National Intelligence & Security Services (NISS), which was under the overall command of Bashir.
Follow the money
European taxpayers should know that their money finances the RSF, which have been the perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and who have arrested and sometimes killed refugees.
The UN has referred to the RSF many times as a major factor of instability in Darfur and in the region. Despite its criminal reputation, Bashir formally assigned the RSF, led by Mohamed Hamdan (also known as Hemeti), to the Sudan-Libya border for the protection of Europe. Hemedi is now the deputy chairman of the post-Bashir Transitional Military Council. Hemeti has since said that if his troops are not provided with surveillance equipment and drones, he will open the borders for asylum seekers.
The EU has denied all indirect violations and direct accusations of funding to the RSF. On the contrary, it has recognised Sudan’s efforts to combat illegal migration. It has also remained silent about the actions carried out by the RSF. EU officials must be aware that what happens at Sudan’s borders involves criminal militias violating the rights of refugees and protection seekers.
The demands of justice
RSF officers should face prosecution by the ICC along with the ousted head of the regime, Bashir – whom they protect.
The EU has set the trap for itself. Bashir’s regime was desperate to prove its legitimacy to the world after its much-criticised election of 2015. Yet the regime was able to get the EU to ignore the crimes of the RSF by giving it the mandate on migration control.
European taxpayers, of course, don’t accept that their money should be spent on proxy wars to kill civilians and protect genocidal criminals. They are mostly unaware that Sudan’s RSF detains and forcibly deports refugees, asylum seekers and their children.
Other people’s problems
EU officials, faced with growing numbers of refugees, seem to believe that transferring problems to other people’s borders is the solution. They should deal with the factors driving migration and search for political solutions at the roots.
The Sudan regime is the cause of these problems and cannot be part of the solution. The departure of those associated with the Bashir regime is the most effective solution; the protection of civilians and violation of human rights are the appropriate perspectives from which to approach this problem.
There is no better solution than to help the people of these regions to create a political environment that guarantees democracy, human rights and the rule of law in their countries, just like in the states to which they flee.