19th Mar 2018

EU development aid to finance armies in Africa

  • Many people transit through Sudan to reach Libya in the hope of reaching Italy (Photo: United Nations Photo)

The EU commission wants to finance foreign armies as part of a larger effort to stop people from fleeing to Europe, including in countries with patchy human rights.

A commission draft proposal released on Tuesday (5 July) spells out reasons why it is "necessary to provide assistance to the militaries of partner countries".

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Some €100 million that were initially slated for development aid will be diverted to finance military-led border control exploits and other initiatives like mine-clearing.

The EU money can also be used to finance anything from troop transport vehicles to uniforms and surveillance equipment. Even furniture, stationary and "sport facilities" are covered.

The EU has already contracted out some €1 billion from 2001 to 2009 when it came to things like law enforcement and border management.

But this is the first time it will pump money directly into a foreign military structure.

"The direct financing of the military is not possible [at the moment]. Due to exceptional circumstances in some partner countries, it was important to close this gap," notes the document, a joint communication to the European Parliament and EU Council.

The document attempts to quell some concerns over how the money will be used.

It notes, for instance, that it won't fund "recurrent military expenditure", weapons and ammunition, and combat training.

But such limitations are unlikely to be taken seriously by critics.

"This proposal is nothing short of scandalous," said German Green deputy Reinhard Butikofer.

He said the fund is based on the development cooperation article of the EU treaty and should therefore not be used for security and military purposes.


Sudan's military may stand to benefit. The ministry of interior has asked the EU to help fund border infrastructure at 17 crossing points.

The Sudanese government militia, the Rapid Support Force (RSF), are tasked to prevent the border crossings.

RSF, which is a part of Sudan's national and intelligence security services, includes men who fought in Darfur with the Janjaweed, a militia of Sudanese Arab tribes that is now part of the RSF.

On Monday they arrested over 300 migrants heading to Libya across the remote desert of Sudan's Northern State.

RSF commander, general Mohamed Hamdan Hametti, who is a former Janjaweed militia leader, said they have deployed troops along the Libyan border .

Around 1,000 RSF troops have been sent to Al Dabbah in the north to help with the efforts.

An activist in Khartoum, who did not want to be identified, told EUobserver the RSF are well known for their human rights violations.

The contact said the EU development aid will not help to control migration.

"All it will do is make it harder for people inside Sudan to live and more difficult for them to leave the country," said the source.

People inside Sudan who oppose president Omar al-Bashir say the money empowers the regime and delays any change.

"It's not adding to the development in anyway, it's not going to change the economic situation because there is a high rate of corruption in the country," said the contact in Khartoum.

Sudan development aid

The EU development commissioner Neven Mimica, for his part, announced a separate €100 million aid package for the country in April following his visit to Khartoum.

"Development and security go hand in hand," said Mimica on Tuesday following the broader announcement to finance armies.

Sudan is led by a president accused of war crimes by the International Criminal Court. It also a major transit zone for people who want to take a boat from Libya to reach Europe.

Sudan's RSF border crack down started shortly after the EU had announced its big development package.

In May, its air force dropped barrel bombs on Heiban, a village in the south. Among the victims were six children from the same family.

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