(MintPress) – At least two Sudanese nationals were arrested last Tuesday by German authorities while protesting among dozens of activists outside a Sudan economic forum at the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin.
Four additional activists were injured when German police used violence against the crowd. Civil society groups claim police violence was unjustified since the group had obtained a permit for the peaceful demonstration.
According to a female Sudanese activist’s account of the event: “One police officer beat one of the protester[s] on his face and broke his nose because the protester tried to pull back his friend from the police. Then, a lot of police officers came very close and began pulling and arresting other people.”
In testimony to the Sudanese nonviolent resistance movement, Girifna, the activist explained how German police did not allow enough time for protesters to translate police messages into French, English and Sudanese before intervening with violence.
“Then the police took the demonstration’s registration and destroyed it, and said to us that our demonstration wouldn’t be legal anymore,” she added.
The business conference, originally scheduled for October, was postponed until Jan. 29 after protesters stormed the German embassy in Khartoum last September in response to an American-produced YouTube film that mocked Islam.
Roughly 250 participants attended the economic conference, otherwise known as the German-Sudan-South Sudan business day, including 100 Sudanese officials, 17 South Sudanese officials and 49 German companies.
Lahmeyer International GmbH was reported as one of the main sponsors of the event despite Germany’s current investigation into the company’s involvement in the displacement of more than 4,700 residents as a result of its construction of the Merowe Dam in Northern Sudan.
International outrage at support of genocidal government
Prior to the conference, Act for Sudan, an alliance of American activists and Sudanese U.S. residents advocating an end to mass atrocities in Sudan, coordinated an open letter urging German officials to cancel the forum.
The letter, signed by 68 international organizations, 14 genocide scholars and other notable human rights advocates, called for the cancellation of the conference, saying it “places Germany squarely in the role of generating financial support for the genocidal Sudanese regime.”
According to the letter, “The National Congress Party (NCP) regime in Sudan, led by a president indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, is causing the death, starvation, displacement and destruction of livelihood of Sudanese civilians in Darfur, Nuba Mountains/South Kordofan and the Blue Nile state.”
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the conference, organized by the German-African Business Association and the Ghorfa Arab-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was aimed at supporting the peace process between Sudan and recently-independent South Sudan.
Sudan has been suffering from a severe economic crisis since the secession of oil-rich South Sudan in 2011. The two countries were engaged in an armed border conflict throughout 2012 over the oil-rich regions of South Sudan’s Unity and Sudan’s South Kordofan.
“There can be no security without economic development, and no economic development without security,” said Westerwelle. “Cooperation isn’t always easy, but it’s always more promising than confrontation,” he added, explaining that economic progress would play a vital role alongside political dialogue between the three countries.
Susan Morgan, Act for Sudan Co-Founder, told MintPress that economic development in Sudan is premature given the country’s existing genocidal activities and atrocious human rights violations.
“Investment in Sudan, where government-sponsored genocide is ongoing, will not help the average citizens of Sudan but will instead help the government pay for its campaign of violence against its own people,” said Morgan.
“We want Germany and all countries to hold off on investments in Sudan until the regime has stopped committing atrocities and other forms of repression. Such investments should not occur prior to a cessation of attacks on civilians, the granting of unhindered humanitarian access across Sudan, and a clear demonstration of progress on all remaining issues, including an inclusive constitutional review process followed by free and fair elections,” she said.
Further Praise for Rights-Abusing Sudan
One day prior to the economic conference in Germany, Sudan was elected to lead a top U.N. body that regulates human rights and development.
Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman will represent Sudan as the 2013 Vice President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), a top U.N. body that coordinates economic, social, and environmental-related work for 14 specialized agencies and five regional commissions on topics ranging from ending armed conflict, promoting gender equality and education, and other various human rights issues.
Morgan, Co-Founder of Act for Sudan, was outraged by the announcement, calling the election results “a complete travesty.”
“Sudan’s president needs to be arrested and tried in the Hague, not have his government honored by the United Nations,” said Morgan.
Mia Farrow, actress and human rights activist, said: “The election of Sudan as vice president of this influential U.N. council is incomprehensible and unacceptable. Last year, Farrow directed a protest campaign with dozens of human rights groups to pressure Sudan to withdraw its candidacy for the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch, which was among the 30 rights groups involved in last year’s protest campaign, said “Electing genocidal Sudan as leader of a global human rights body is like choosing Jack the ripper to guard a women’s shelter.”
Sudanese rights organizations unanimously agree that the election of Sudan as vice president of ECOSOC and the German investment forum for Sudanese development are the opposite approach from the pressure needed against the current Sudanese regime.
“The international community should be adding pressure instead of giving rewards to the Sudanese regime,” said Fabrice Musoni of the U.S. activist group, United to End Genocide. “More troubling is that these rewards were given while the crimes continue.”
Indiscriminate bombings of civilians in Sudan’s border regions have been ongoing for more than 18 months. More than 700,000 people, mainly women, children and the elderly, have been left with little or no access to food, water, sanitation or health care.
It is a common concern among groups like U.N. Watch, Act For Sudan and United To End Genocide that international recognition and rewards only will further embolden Bashir and the Sudanese government. As Musoni wrote for the United to End Genocide blog: “Ten years after the genocide in Darfur, the world has seemingly forgotten his past and current atrocities.”