Consultation Meeting with Sudanese Exiled HRDs by
DefendDefenders and Framework Mechanism at
Mestil Hotels and Residences, Kampala, Uganda
- From 10 to 11 August 2023, DefendDefenders and the Framework Mechanism convened a two-day consultation meeting for exiled Sudanese human rights defenders (HRDs) in Kampala, Uganda, to among other things, identify gaps and challenges in relation to the protection of HRDs, explore potential interventions, and recommend new strategies to enhance the protection of HRDs exiled in Uganda.
- The consultation brought together 40 (16 female and 24 male) Sudanese HRDs in Uganda, representing organizations, groups, and individuals from all the parts of Sudan, and working on different thematic human rights issues.
- In his opening remarks, Mr. Hassan Shire, the Chairperson, AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network) and Executive Director, DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), appreciated the participation of HRDs in the meeting, noting that they are some of the of the civil society groups targeted by the Sudan conflict. He pointed out that since the Sudan Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces turned guns on each other plunging Sudan into the current conflict four months ago, more than 2.8 million people are displaced, including over 2.2 million inside the country and nearly 615,000 across the border in neighboring countries. He pointed out that DefendDefenders has been engaged in Sudan since its founding in 2005 and remains committed to plugging the capacity and protection gaps of Sudanese HRDs during this crisis, including offering emergency protection support to Sudanese HRDs endangered by the conflict.
- Following the opening ceremony, a panel discussion comprising DR. Ayak Alak, Program Adviser at Inclusive Peace, Mohamed Ahmed from Adeela for Art and Culture, and Salih Mahmoud, human rights lawyer and President of Darfur Bar Association was convened to deliberate on the situation in Sudan since the conflict broke out, including the humanitarian situation, the status of HRDs, and the role of civil society and other stakeholders in the peace initiatives. The discussion was moderated by Majid Maali, the Coordinator for Sudan at DefendDefenders:
- Ayak Alak highlighted the numerous local and international efforts to avert the effects of the crisis, the challenges faced by humanitarian aid workers, and the role of the CSOs in supporting these efforts.
- Mohamed Ahmed underscored the situation of HRDs in armed conflicts and the violations against them, including killings, detention, rape and sexual violence, and displacement. He also discussed the situation of the exiled HRDs who fled Sudan to the neighboring countries.
- Salih Mahmoud spoke on the ongoing peace initiatives supported and facilitated by regional and international community, the opportunities and challenges, and the role of CSOs in the peace process, including justice and accountability for the victims of human rights violations.
- Following the panel discussion, Asma Haroun, Sudan Program Officer at DefendDefenders facilitated a group discussion to further analyse the gaps, challenges, and opportunities in the protection of both in-country and exiled HRDs, which emerged with concrete recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the protection support.
- Ayak Alak opened the second day of the consultation meeting with an overview of options and considerations during peace negotiations, including the participation of women and other civil society groups as being critical to the success or failure of such peace processes.
- Following Dr. Ayak’s presentation, Ms. Tabitha Netuwa, Senior Manager, Protection and Security Management at DefendDefenders presented on the available protection mechanisms for HRDs at international, regional, and national levels. She also explained the nature of DefendDefenders’ emergency protection support, priorities for most at risk HRDs, resource constraints, and best practices.
- On his part, Mr. Joseph Bikanda, the Coordinator, AfricanDefenders, encouraged Sudanese HRDs to engage with international and regional protection mechanisms and to prioritise networking among themselves.
- Bikanda was followed by Ms. Achieng Akena, Executive Director of the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) who presented on the AU and the IGAD peace initiatives and spoke on the importance of advocacy by CSOs as critical to civilians’ involvement in the peace process, which is in turn essential to the success of the peace talks.
- The closing session focused on the way forward. Participants provided their recommendations to DefendDefenders and other protection service providers to enhance safety and protection of in-country and exiled HRDs during this crisis.
- In his closing remarks, Mr. Shire thanked the convenors for the fruitful three-day deliberations. He reiterated DefendDefenders’ commitment to fully support Sudanese HRDs striving to return normalcy to their country and proceeded to officially close the meeting.