Forced Recruitment and the Use of Hunger as a Weapon in Sudan’s Al Jazira State

In a harrowing escalation of its military campaign, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have launched a sinister operation in Sudan’s Al Jazira state, exploiting the basic human need for food to coerce citizens into their ranks. Amidst the ongoing civil strife that has ensnared Sudan since April of the previous year, the RSF’s actions in the nation’s agricultural epicenter have not only intensified the conflict but also threatened the very sustenance of the region, known as the breadbasket of Sudan.

A Coercive Campaign in the Heartland

Since mid-December, the RSF, a formidable paramilitary entity, has executed a chilling ultimatum across Al Jazira state: enlist or face death. This directive has led to the forced recruitment of nearly 700 men and 65 children over a mere three-month period, as uncovered by a recent CNN investigation. The investigation reveals the depths of desperation to which the RSF has stooped, withholding essential food supplies from the hungry, aiming to pressurize individuals, predominantly young men and boys, into joining their forces.

Dire Tactics Amidst a Cultivation Crisis

The timing of the RSF’s recruitment drive couldn’t be more catastrophic, coinciding with the peak periods of cultivation and harvest within the region. The resultant food insecurity exacerbates an already dire situation, pushing the country closer to the brink of famine. Witnesses recount a litany of coercive tactics employed by the RSF, ranging from intimidation and torture to summary executions and the deprivation of essential medical aid.

Eyewitness Accounts of Ruthlessness

The brutality of the RSF’s operations is further highlighted by firsthand accounts and video evidence obtained by CNN. These accounts describe indiscriminate attacks on villages, summary executions of those who refuse to comply, and the deliberate destruction and looting of homes, supermarkets, and food warehouses. The aim is clear: to break the will of the people and bolster the militia’s ranks through fear and starvation.

A Country on the Edge

Sudan, embroiled in conflict between the RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), finds its civilian population caught in the crossfire. Previous reports have already exposed the RSF’s engagement in heinous acts, including enslavement and atrocities in the Darfur region, marking a continuation of violence that has plagued the country for decades.

The Cost of Resistance

The testimonies of over three dozen witnesses from across Jazira sketch a grim picture of life under the shadow of the RSF. Refusal to comply with the militia’s demands brings severe repercussions: a loss of access to food, safety, and the destruction of property. The fear of reprisal has led many to remain anonymous, speaking out against the atrocities at great personal risk.

A Call for Attention

The international community must turn its focus to Sudan’s unfolding crisis, where the use of hunger as a weapon marks a grave violation of human rights. The RSF’s recruitment campaign in Al Jazira state not only undermines the stability of Sudan but poses a stark reminder of the profound human suffering that continues amidst the power struggles of military factions. The plight of those in Al Jazira state demands urgent attention, support, and action to restore peace and provide the necessary aid to those caught in the crossfire of this relentless conflict.

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