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Sudanese activists: Racism and hate speech must be criminalised

November 23 - 2022 KHARTOUM
Black Lives Matter sign is held up during protests in Khartoum state on June 30, 2020, calling for rapid reform and larger civilian leadership in Sudan (File photo: Social media)
Black Lives Matter sign is held up during protests in Khartoum state on June 30, 2020, calling for rapid reform and larger civilian leadership in Sudan (File photo: Social media)

A group of activists, human rights defenders, and media professionals spoke to Radio Dabanga about the danger of hate speech and racism in Sudanese society, following a seminar this weekend. 

The Seminar for Promoting Public Campaigns to Combat Racism and Hate Speech, which was organised by the Regional Centre for Training and Civil Society Development in Khartoum on November 19 and 20, focused on the outcomes of racism and hate speech in the country. 

In an interview with Radio Dabanga yesterday, the activists focused on Sudan’s decline as a result of bloody clashes caused by tribalism and racism in various parts of the country. 

They stressed the need to criminalise dangerous racist acts and hate speech and called for the establishment of a broad coalition to combat the phenomenon. 

Yousef Malouk, a lawyer and civil rights activist lauded the seminar. “We all benefited immensely,” he told Radio Dabanga, as it “gave us the opportunity to meet each other, exchange views, brainstorm, and come up with possible solutions.” 

Malouk called for “better use of existing laws and enacting new ones that keep pace with the changes that have taken place since 2019, in order for all Sudanese to have equal citizenship rights”. 

Rufeida Khalafallah, member of the We Are All People initiative in the Blue Nile region, told Radio Dabanga that they have set up an anti-hate speech campaign, and are touring the area showing anti-racism films. She explained that the recent inter-communal violence was “the result of rampant hate speech being uttered without any intervention from the authorities”.  

Journalist Ayman Sanjerab spoke about the urgent need for serious work to promote peace and mend the social fabric, as Sudan has regressed a lot in peaceful coexistence.  

Sanjerab called on the Sudanese to stand strong in order to achieve fairness, justice, and social peace, and get rid of “stinking diseases such as racism and tribalism”. 

Arts and media

Regarding the role of theatre in combating hate speech and racism, dramatist Rabee Youssef told Radio Dabanga that arts and drama can promote peaceful coexistence. “Drama is one of the most important opportunities for the advancement of the peoples of developing nations if it is employed correctly,” he said. 

Poet and dramatist, and composer Abdallah Abu Alag said that he is already working against hate speech and promoting peaceful coexistence in his productions. He is now preparing a new anti-hate speech clip together with rapper Mustafa Abdelsalam.

In April, two defence lawyers were caught on a hot mic making racist comments against the recently dismissed Director-General of the Public Authority for Radio and Television, Luqman Ahmed, during a live broadcast of his trial by the official Sudan News Agency.  

At the time, a group of 20 Sudanese and international human rights and civil society NGOs addressed an urgent appeal to the international community “to draw attention to the growing threats of racism, hate speech, and intolerance in Sudan”.

Regional violence 

“Sudan’s long years of internal wars in South Sudan, Nuba Mountains, and the ongoing fighting in Darfur are graphic manifestations of the country’s social ills and the proliferation of racism and intolerance,” according to the statement. 

Sudan is a diverse society made up of over 19 major ethnic groups and over 500 different languages, along with a number of different cultures and religions. The country has historically been dominated by a light-skinned, Arabic-speaking elite, while black Africans in the south and west of the country have faced discrimination and marginalisation. 

Racism is the primary cause of the atrocities committed in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, and other areas of Sudan, according to prominent political analyst and journalist El Haj Warrag. 

Young activists and Native Administration leaders in South Kordofan attribute the continuing tribal conflicts in the state mainly to armed herders and to the presence of militias formed by the regime of ousted President Omar Al Bashir. 

In November 2020, youth leader Ali El Ameen told Radio Dabanga that the Al Bashir regime has used discrimination and racism in order to retain power since the 1989 military coup. He considers arming herders, who show little respect for agricultural lands when migrating with their cattle, the main cause for the instability in the country. 

Reconciliation attempts 

On Sunday, leaders of the Misseriya and Awlad Rashid clans of the Rizeigat tribe signed a reconciliation agreement under the auspices of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Central Darfur following in Wadi Salih and Bindisi during the past weeks. 

Earlier in June, the Rizeigat and Misseriya tribes also signed a reconciliation document during a wave of reconciliation agreements in Darfur. These agreements brokered by coup leader, Deputy-Chairman of the Sovereignty Council, and Commander-in-Chief of the infamous RSF Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’ Dagalo, have been criticised as being ‘superficial’. 

In August, Blue Nile Governor Gen Ahmed El Omda Badi received a UN delegation working on reducing hate speech and hostilities in the region. The Forces for Freedom and Change-Central Council (FFC-CC) hold the ‘coup authorities’ responsible for the violent clashes which killed at least 70 people in July. 

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