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EU plans for Sudan: Pact with the devils

Members of the Sudanese mounted militia RSF were involved in war crimes in Darfur. Nevertheless, the UN and EU wanted to build the force into a partner in migration policy. Human rights activists are appalled.

They have murdered and burned, they have raped women and burned villages: The Janjaweed, an equestrian militia from Sudan, is estimated by experts to have killed up to 400,000 people in the Darfur region between 2003 and 2012 and to have driven 2.5 million people to flee their homes.

Sudan’s ex-dictator Umar al-Bashir, who once created the Janjaweed, was driven out of office last year. He is now in prison and is to be extradited to the International Court of Justice in The Hague for crimes against humanity The Janjaweed are more powerful than everThe Janjaweed (German: “Teufel auf Pferden”) but are more powerful than ever. The Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the most powerful paramilitary unit in Sudan, is recruited from former Janjaweed militias. RSF Chief Mohammad Hamadan Dagalo, better known as Hemeti, was involved in the war crimes in Darfur. Today, as Vice President of the transitional government, he is the most influential man in Sudan. Most importantly, the EU was about to upgrade the RSF to a legitimate partner in the fight against migration.

The SPIEGEL and the ARD magazine “Report Mainz” had already revealed in 2016 that Brussels would provide the Sudanese authorities with training and equipment – also in order to prevent these migrants from travelling on to Europe. This cooperation was financed by a fund to combat the causes of flight.

Following criticism of the plans, the EU had to remove several items from the programme, including the construction of detention camps for fugitives. At the same time, Brussels officials launched a PR campaign, published a flyer entitled “Disenchantment of myths: What the EU is really doing in Sudan”. The flyer emphasised that under no circumstances would they work with the RSF – not now and not in the future.

Now, however, research by SPIEGEL, “Report Mainz” and Lighthouse Reports has shown that the EU was not too keen on this promise: international diplomats were already rehearsing in February what cooperation with the RSF might look like. At that time, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) together with the UN Peace Mission in Sudan (UNAMID) organized a conference in a luxury hotel in the capital Khartoum, to which high-ranking RSF officials, including RSF Chief Hemeti, were invited. The motto of the event was emblazoned on a banner in the conference room: “Training Human Rights and International Law for the Rapid Support Forces”.

War criminals as legitimate partnersIf the organizers had had their way, the conference would only have been the prelude to comprehensive training for the RSF. “We would like to further prioritize this field of work,” said UN Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif in July, and the UN had even already found a sponsor for the planned training of the Rapid Support Forces: the European Union. This is proven by statements of high-ranking UN employees and internal documents available to SPIEGEL. As in 2016, the money was to come from the EU fund for combating the causes of flight.10 million euros have been approved by Brussels for the OHCHR to train Sudanese security authorities, especially in human rights issues. The RSF should also benefit from these EU funds, as several persons in charge of the operations confirm. Experts criticize the planned participation of the RSF in these training sessions – it would make war criminals appear to be legitimate partners.

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