The Dutch peace organization PAX is calling on the EU to rethink its current policies toward Sudan. Strengthening the position of the regime in an attempt to reduce refugees will likely lead to more humanitarian crises, and yet more refugees. At the same time, new aid proposed for the region undermines the international isolation of indicted war criminal President Omar al-Bashir.
'Sudan bombards their own people, they create refugees. They are the problem, not the solution,' says Nico Plooijer of PAX.
New aid package
The European Union is in the process of approving a new aid package to Sudan as part of ongoing efforts to curb the flow of refugees coming into Europe. Germany is reportedly playing a leading role in getting the aid approved. The aid is being extended to eight countries in the Horn of Africa region, including that of Sudan's al-Bashir. EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica announced aid totaling €155 million.
Sudan reaping the benefits
Sudan appears ready to reap the benefits from this new policy of cooperation, after a period of isolation and economic decline. Al-Bashir's regime is now able to present itself as part of the solution to Europe´s refugee problem. Concerns about failed states in the Horn of Africa and growing radical extremism in the region are also providing opportunities for al-Bashir. Any attempts in the EU of coming up with a comprehensive regional approach aimed at conflict resolution have now given way to strengthening African states' abilities to reduce migration.
However, PAX is concerned that the new EU aid-package will improve the capacities of an abusive regime, even if the aid will not be transferred directly to the government in Khartoum. The EU is not adequately addressing the urgent need to resolve the conflicts in Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Eastern Sudan. EU efforts are therefore likely to be counterproductive. Among the possible effects will be an increase in the numbers of refugees from Sudan in the medium to long term.
Al-Bashir is the first head of state to be indicted by the International Criminal Court, which has issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. As recently as March 2016, brutal counter-insurgency attacks by Sudanese government forces displaced nearly 130,000 people in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur. Sudanese forces working at the border controls have been implicated in cases involving human trafficking.
Don't do it
PAX urges the EU to step back from the new policy of reconciliation with the government of Omar al-Bashir and pursue policies that will lead to sustainable, long-term solutions to conflicts in the region and to the forced movement of people.