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Investigation: Criticism on EU and OHCHR training of Sudanese RSF

November 20 - 2020 BRUSSELS / GENEVA
Rapid Support Forces officers in training (file photo)
Rapid Support Forces officers in training (file photo)

Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are receiving training from the United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), paid for by the European Union (EU) despite the latter repeatedly claiming to refuse to offer material and financial support to the RSF.

An investigative article by Klaas van Dijken and Nouska du Saar recently published in German newspapers Der Spiegel and ARD Tagesschau and Dutch newspaper Trouw, sheds light on the fact that the RSF receive training from the OHCHR, paid for by the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.

In the past years, the EU and some of its member states have repeatedly promised that they will not financially or materially support the RSF because of its alleged involvement in war crimes in Darfur.

The EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa is supposed to stifle migration into Europe and, according to internal correspondence documents, has funded 5 million Euros to the OHCHR programme that aims to improve Sudan’s security sector and that includes the training of the RSF.

The militias will receive training in human rights, recognising and identifying refugees and victims of human trafficking, and the use of firearms.

The RSF has, for years, demanded recognition and money from the EU to control the borders of Sudan, something the EU has until now refused to give.

The findings from the article about the OHCHR training and EU funding were received with surprise and criticism. Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, calls the training of the RSF “short-sighted and morally wrong” when it is not combined with the conviction of RSF leaders.

The RSF has been accused of human trafficking across the borders they claim to protect and of receiving smuggling profits.

According to the authors, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the RSF receives support in the form of human rights education, not training. The EU stated that the RSF is not receiving any support and that the training is not part of the OHCHR programme for the next two years.

The OHCHR and RSF have not reacted to the journalists’ investigation.


The RSF militia, Sudan's largest paramilitary force set up by the ousted Al Bashir regime in 2013, was officially integrated into the Sudan Armed Forces in August last year. Nevertheless, the militia stays a force unto itself under the command of ‘Hemeti’, who also is Deputy President of Sudan's Sovereign Council.

The RSF, which grew out of the Janjaweed militiamen who fought for the Sudanese government in Darfur since the war broke out 2003, is widely believed to be responsible for atrocities in Sudan in the past six-seven years. The RSF are also held accountable by many for the violent break-up of the Khartoum sit-in on June 3 last year.

A report by Nouska du Saar, published by Radio Dabanga on June 26, shows that the RSF “carried out nearly 100 attacks against towns, farms, and civilians in North Darfur and Jebel Marra since 2016”.

Radio Dabanga’s editorial independence means that we can continue to provide factual updates about political developments to Sudanese and international actors, educate people about how to avoid outbreaks of infectious diseases, and provide a window to the world for those in all corners of Sudan. Support Radio Dabanga for as little as €2.50, the equivalent of a cup of coffee.

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