The research team in consultation with Search for Common Ground (Search), the Sudanese National Commission on Counter-terroism (SNCCT), and the US Embassy identified three target areas for this research: South Darfur, Kassala, and Khartoum. These locations were selected based on the diversity of risk factors they represent, as outlined below, and the assumption that their varying contexts would provide unique insights into the different factors that influence recruitment in Sudan.
Connecting the Horn of Africa to North Africa and the Middle East, Sudan is a converging ground for a variety of extremist groups and an at-risk country for violent extremism (VE). Under President Omar al-Bashir, Sudan was known for providing a safe haven to groups promoting extremist and violent ideology, including Al Qaeda, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Al Shabaab, and Boko Haram. Long-standing violent conflict, displacement, human rights abuses, and a worsening economy act as risk factors for VE in the country, but were also the driving force behind the peaceful revolution that removed Bashir from power in April 2019. This revolution has resulted in a 39-month transitional period that may usher in a new future of civilian rule. While this is an unprecedented time in Sudan with significant opportunities for hope and change, it is also a time of immense uncertainty as the Transitional Government grapples with a myriad of challenges including a spiraling economy, spoilers within and outside the government, and violent conflict in Sudan’s peripheral states.
While terrorism and VE have been consistent concerns in Sudan since the late 1990s, there has yet to be an in-depth evidence base on the topic to inform programmatic responses. The sensitivity of discussing VE in Sudan as well as the extremely restrictive operating environment have limited opportunities for research and locally-led response. Recently, Sudan has eased restrictions to allow such research,6 and the transition provides another window of opportunity to continue to build understanding of VE in the country. The research and data collection which informs this report faced a myriad of challenges due to the shifting security situation during the 2019 revolution. The insecurity and changing context delayed the research and required the research team to frequently adapt their plans. However, this transition has also highlighted possible entry points that can inform civil society efforts to transform VE in Sudan as the country moves forward.