Hunting Facts, Telling Truth

Social Media Empowers Sudanese in Documenting Violations by RSF Militia

Staff Writer

The war that broke out in Sudan on April 15 between the Sudanese National Army and the Rapid Support Forces militia has left hitherto thousands dead and injured, in addition to the destruction of buildings and infrastructure, with many fearing the whole country might be heading into a civil war. As the violations of the RSF militia rapidly escalated against civilians, those victims found Twitter the ideal platform that gives them a voice to share their stories with the outside world.

The Rapid Support Forces grew out primarily of the notorious Janjaweed militia, which the ousted regime had utilized in counterinsurgency operations in Darfur and South Kordofan. In 2017, the Sudanese parliament passed a law that formally organized the militia’s activities. The militia, now headed by Hamdan Dagalo,  committed several crimes such as burning villages, raping womenkilling peaceful protestors during the Khartoum process, detaining activists and civilians, and sending children to fight in Yemen.

During the ongoing conflict, Sudanese citizens have found Twitter to be a powerful tool to document the violations by the rapid support forces. Several hashtags have achieved particular prominence in this context, including  #الدعم_السريع_يستبيح_بيوتنا and its English version #rsf_loots_houses, as well as #جرائم_الدعم_السريع  (#RSF militia crimes). These have featured in tweets posted by the victims themselves, who are seizing the opportunity to share their stories directly with the broader public, as well as by eyewitnesses and trusted confidant. These hashtags have been shared and retweeted by thousands of accounts. Other active hashtags such as #KeepEyesOnSudan and #Sudan, which are not solely dedicated to documenting the violations, have also helped interested members of the public learn stay informed. See below for one such example.

These hashtags serve many purposes related to the violations, for instance, By exposing the crimes and horrors to the world, the hashtags put media pressure on the militia. Previously, the RSF had steadfastly denied having engaged in any such atrocities, but confronted by this new influx of public evidence, the group admitted its troops’ involvement and announced its decision to establish a field court to combat the crimes. But this isn’t cause for celebration, necessarily; in fact, it appears to be a PR step to absorb the people’s anger and shows that the violations are committed by the soldiers and in isolation of the militia leadership.

Furthermore, amid mounting challenges in accessing information, these hashtags have come to serve as something of a credible news source. Media outlets and news agencies now turn to Twitter hashtags for real-time updates from the field. Looking ahead, these hashtags could also play a pivotal role in substantiating efforts to hold the militia accountable and seek legal remedies. Some shared videos offer clear evidence of RSF soldiers engaging in looting at banks and homes. Furthermore, Sudanese Twitter users have transformed these hashtags into a dynamic space for debating political matters concerning the country’s future and the role of the RSF militia. However, the inherent openness of social media leaves room for potential abuse, with ill-intentioned actors attempting to disseminate fabricated news stories that undermine the credibility of these hashtags. Vigilance is key, and Twitter users are strongly encouraged to promptly report any such misleading content. Twitter’s facilitation of streamlined monitoring processes would greatly bolster these efforts.

In a nation where internet access is limited to just a quarter of the population, those following these hashtags must remain mindful that not all violations are documented online. Numerous crimes occur in areas without internet connectivity, highlighting the extent of the violations, which, in reality, is far more substantial than what is observable online.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy