Is Sudan’s civil society facing attacks from both warring factions? | In-depth Analysis

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Even in Sudan’s war, simply providing food for the poor has become perilous. On March 23, activists in the Sharq al-Nile neighborhood of Khartoum were arrested by Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) while overseeing soup kitchens that fed thousands of hungry people daily.

These arrests are part of a wider crackdown by the RSF and Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) as they vie for power in the country. Civil society actors are being targeted, with volunteers being detained, aid access limited, and relief efforts obstructed, according to local volunteers and aid groups.

The reasons for the arrests in March remain unknown, and attempts to reach the RSF for clarification have been unsuccessful. Local relief organizations have urged Western donors to protect them from the warring parties who are exploiting control over humanitarian aid for their own gain.

As civilians continue to suffer from acute hunger in Sudan, relief workers are facing arrests, kidnappings, and violence to thwart aid operations. With soup kitchens now under threat, the food crisis in Sudan is worsening, affecting over 18 million hungry individuals, with five million facing “catastrophic” levels of hunger.

The situation is compounded by the lawlessness that puts Emergency Response Rooms (ERRs) volunteers at risk of arbitrary arrest, violence, and rape in both RSF and SAF-controlled areas. Aid delivery has also been hampered, with UN agencies and aid groups facing obstacles from the army, which is restricting access to certain regions.

Despite lobbying efforts for aid delivery access, Sudan’s government has revoked permission for aid supplies, citing security concerns. This has led to a dire situation where hundreds of thousands of people in West and Central Darfur are facing starvation.

As global relief agencies grapple with the challenges of delivering aid in such a complex conflict, local relief workers continue to risk their lives to bring food to vulnerable populations. The focus on state sovereignty over humanitarian need has left many questioning the prioritization of legal concepts over the right of people to survive.

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