In the early days of the Sudan Uprising, a gentleman set up a library in the middle of the protest blocks. With the ousting of President Omar al-Bashir, the people of Sudan were finally free to read books that had previously been banned or otherwise “not allowed.” The librarian noted that beyond history and politics, the books most in demand were those detailing the genocide in Darfur. People wanted to know what had really happened. They wanted to know the truth.
As the Uprising continued, a contingent of Dafuris showed up to the frontlines in a caravan of buses. They came to protest, to show their support, but also to teach about the atrocities they had endured. Further, a makeshift museum was set up in Khartoum for people to walk through and learn about the atrocities committed in Darfur. The Darfuris wanted their fellow citizens to know, to understand, and to make sure the violence doesn’t continue, as it has in the west since the genocide began in 2003. They wanted their story and their voices heard, as a part of the transition into a new Sudan.
The Transitional Military Council (TMC), which took over after the arrest of Bashir, has not rid itself of those closest to Bashir. Of greatest concern is Deputy Chair Lt. General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, known by most as “Hemeti.” He currently leads the Rapid Security Forces (RSF). Previously, Hemeti was the “chief of the Janjaweed.” He made them more than a militia, brought them into the fold of Bashir’s military, and gave them a new name—yes, the RSF. It is disturbing that he and others like him, who were a part of Bashir’s cruel reign, now have a role in creating a new Sudan.
At the same time as the Uprising, UNAMID has been steadily withdrawing from the Darfur region, with plans for complete withdrawal by June 2020. Civilians in Darfur would argue their presence is still needed, as it is still not safe there. But UNAMID has been flawed from its inception, and so it is no surprise it is flawed in its exit. The agreement with the government of Sudan, however, was that all UNAMID facilities would be handed over to civilian control. Thus far, all but one has been handed over to the RSF. This has allowed the regime to reignite violence in Darfur, and raise concerns of Hemeti’s plans to continue to commit atrocities against the Darfuri people.
Reports are that the violence is already escalating in Darfur, thanks to the RSF. Hemeti’s “new Janjaweed” are wreaking havoc, with reports of pillaging, rapes, and other acts of violence. This sadly comes as no surprise, and is exactly why it is important for members of the Darfuri community to have a voice in the creation of Sudan’s new government. Darfuris always seem to be forgotten, left to suffer on the far western side of the country. But their ability to survive and thrive is just as crucial an aspect in these talks as bringing stability to the capital of Khartoum.
In a devastating turn of events, early Monday morning, June 2, Hemeti’s RSF launched an attack on the protesters in Khartoum. It was unexpected, and bloody. The death toll currently sits at 100, though it’s likely there are more. Internet and cellular networks are down in the capital, minimizing the flow of information. There have also been reports of members of the RSF raping female protesters. Though we don’t have confirmation on that yet, it would not be out of character for these troops.
The TMC is not living up to its promise of a peaceful transition. With men like Hemeti at the helm, it’s hard to see how that could ever be possible. Today they have killed children, young professionals, beat the elderly, and violently cracked down on what has been a peaceful protest. If the RSF is doing this in the capital city in front of global news media, imagine what might really be going on in Darfur right now…