-- update 22. 07. 2019: Now finally stopped - see below!

- report targets EU funding in Sudan

Under a partnership program, the European Union disburses millions of Euros to the Khartoum government for technical equipment and training efforts geared towards stopping the flow to Europe of migrants from Sudan as well as from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa who come through Sudan. DW spoke to the author of a new report  entitled "Border Control from Hell," Dr. Suliman Baldo, Senior Advisor to the Enough Project, based in Washington D.C.

According to a new report published by the US-based Enough Project, Sudan’s infamous Janjaweed militia force is now being used to control Sudan's borders, with financial support from an EU migration management program.

By Isaac Mugabi - DW - 06. April 2019

DW:  Dr. Baldo, please tell us about the contents of your report and your findings.

Dr. Suliman Baldo: The report focuses on a partnership that the European Union established with the government of Sudan in the course of 2014 to date with regard to the prevention or containment of migration from Sudan and from neighboring countries in the Horn of Africa towards Europe.  Sudan is a country of origin for many of these migrants but it is also a country of transit for migrants coming from Eritrea in particular, Ethiopia, Somalia and beyond in sub-Saharan Africa.  

With reference to that program,  I am questioning the fact that the European Union is legitimizing an abusive government which is on record for attacking its own populations in conflict areas and is relying on abusive militias, paramilitary forces, that are under the command of its security forces and the national army to enforce the border controls under the European Union partnership. In particular we are concerned about the designation by Sudan of Rapid Support Forces, which is a particularly vicious militia, for the control of its borders under this program.

Have you been able to raise your concerns to the EU to make it aware that Sudanese authorities are using its funds to finance the Janjaweed's militia actions along Sudan's porous borders?

The EU is on notice because the moment this program became known, the media, other advocacy groups and local populations brought this to the attention of the EU and the EU parliament, and therefore the EU has been really reminded that it needs to exercise great diligence in dealing with the government of Sudan because of its history of massive human rights violations and because of its reliance on these militias to enforce the partnership of the EU.

But the government of Sudan itself has brought this to the attention of the EU by using these militias in really harsh crackdowns on migrants. We have seen them beating migrants in Khartoum in incidents that are detailed in the report and evicting them back to their countries without proper guarantees for their rights or protection once they have returned, which is contrary to human rights practice for the rights of refugees, migrants and displaced persons.

A group of white-robed men, refugees who fled the Janjaweed

These people fled their homes in 2004 following a campaign of violence by the Janjaweed

What are your recommendations and are you optimistic that the EU will do something about this situation? 

Our recommendation is to call on the EU to exercise utmost  diligence in dealing with the government of Sudan, and therefore not to allow any of their funds earmarked for this program to directly or indirectly benefit the Rapid Support Forces with this Janjaweed militia which is now enforcing the border controls. We are also calling on the EU to define very a high human rights benchmark for the government of Sudan because before it could benefit from normalization and partnerships like the ones that are now underway between Sudan and either the EU as an entity or with leading member states such as Italy and Germany. The United Kingdom, of course, has exited the EU but has very much invested into this program and is developing its own bilateral normalization tag with the government of Sudan. 

(*) Dr. Suliman Baldo is Senior Advisor to the Enough Project and author of the report "Border Control from Hell.”

Interviewer: Isaac Mugabi



DW Exclusive

EU suspends migration control projects in Sudan amid repression fears

The EU has suspended projects targeting illegal migration in Sudan. The move comes amid fears they might have aided security forces responsible for violently repressing peaceful protests in the country, DW has learned.

By Tom Wills - DW - 22.07.2019

Police in Khartoum (Getty Images/AFP/A. Shazly)


An EU spokesperson has confirmed to DW that a German-led project that organizes the provision of training and equipment to Sudanese border guards and police was "halted" in mid-March, while an EU-funded intelligence center in the capital, Khartoum, has been "on hold" since June. The EU made no public announcements at the time.

The initiatives were paid for from a €4.5 billion ($5 billion) EU fund for measures in Africa to control migration and address its root causes, to which Germany has contributed over €160 million. Sudan is commonly part of migration routes for people aiming to reach Europe from across Africa.

Critics had raised concerns that working with the Sudanese government on border management could embolden repressive state forces, not least the notorious Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia, which is accused by Amnesty International of war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region. An EU summary of the project noted that there was a risk that resources could be "diverted for repressive aims."

Members of the RSF (Getty Images/AFP/Y. Chiba)

The RSF has been accused of many atrocities

Support for police

A wave of protest swept the country in December, with demonstrators calling for the ouster of autocratic President Omar al-Bashir. Once Bashir was deposed in April, a transitional military council, which includes the commander of the RSF as deputy leader, sought to restore order. Among various incidents of repression, the militia was blamed for a massacre on June 3 in which 128 protesters were reportedly killed.

While the EU maintains it has provided neither funding nor equipment to the RSF, there is no dispute that Sudanese police, who also stand accused of brutally repressing the protests, received training under the programs.

Dr. Lutz Oette, a human rights expert at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), told DW: "The suspension is the logical outcome of the change in circumstances but it exposes the flawed assumptions of the process as far as working with Sudan is concerned."

Oette said continuing to work with the Sudanese government would have been incompatible with the European Union's positions on human rights, and counterproductive to the goal of tackling the root causes of migration.

Read more: 'Border Control from Hell' report targets EU funding in Sudan

Officers in Sudanese police uniform receive certificates from Italian officials

Sudanese police officers have received EU-funded training

Coordination center

The intelligence center, known as the Regional Operational Center in Khartoum (ROCK), was to allow the security forces of nine countries in the Horn of Africa to share intelligence about human trafficking and people smuggling networks.

A spokesperson for the European Commission told DW the coordination center had been suspended since June "until the political/security situation is cleared," with some of its staff temporarily relocated to Nairobi, Kenya. Training and some other activities under the Better Migration Management (BMM) program were suspended in mid-March "because they require the involvement of government counterparts to be carried out." The EU declined to say whether the risk of support being provided to repressive forces had contributed to the decision.

The spokesperson said other EU activities that provide help to vulnerable people in the country were continuing.

An official EU document dated December 2015 noted the risk that the provision of equipment and training to security services and border guards could be "diverted for repressive aims" or subject to "criticism by NGOs and civil society for engaging with repressive governments on migration (particularly in Eritrea and Sudan)."

Read more: Is the EU putting African migrants at risk?

African migrants on a Spanish patrol vessel (Imago)

Sudanese make up a large proportion of would-be migrants to Europe from Africa

'Regular monitoring'

The BMM program is being carried out by a coalition of EU states — France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom — and aid agencies led by the German development agency GIZ. It includes projects in 11 African countries under the auspices of the "Khartoum process," an international cooperation initiative targeting illegal migration.

The ROCK intelligence center, which an EU document shows was planned to be situated within a Sudanese police training facility, was being run by the French state-owned security company Civipol.

The EU spokesperson said, "Sudan does not benefit from any direct EU financial support. No EU funding is decentralized or channeled through the Sudanese government."

"All EU-funded activities in Sudan are implemented by EU member states development agencies, the UN, international organizations and NGOs, who are closely scrutinized through strict and regular monitoring during projects' implementation," the spokesperson added.

A spokesperson for GIZ said: "The participant lists of BMM's training courses are closely coordinated with the [Sudanese government] National Committee for Combating Human Trafficking (NCCHT) to prevent RSF militiamen taking part in training activities."

The GIZ spokesperson gave a different explanation for the suspension to that of the EU, saying the program had been stopped "in order not to jeopardize the safety of [GIZ] employees in the country." The spokesperson added: "Activities in the field of policy harmonization and capacity building have slowly restarted."

Every day, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. Sign up for the newsletter here.


DW recommends


WWW links

Audios and videos on the topic