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Peacebuilding efforts are more likely to succeed when they are led by local groups based in affected communities. In the Horn of Africa, a region marked by persistent conflicts, a consortium between the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the All-Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), known as the Salama Hub, equips local peacebuilders with the tools needed to advocate for peace and non-violent responses to conflict.

In December 2023, FCNL partnered with AFSC and the Salama Hub to support a delegation of African peace activists visiting Washington, D.C. to advocate in Congress and the State Department. 

During this trip, FCNL’s peacebuilding team spoke with Enass Muzamel, a Sudanese pro-democracy activist and human rights defender coordinating efforts to support women and girls facing the ongoing conflict in Sudan.

Makings of an Activist

In April 2023, simmering instability in Sudan broke out into widespread violent conflict. Today, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continue to fight for control of the state and its resources. After being forced to flee her home near the start of the conflict, Enass became one of the 5.6 million people displaced as a result of the violence. More than 13,000 people have been killed since April.  

A development practitioner by training, Enass previously worked for the United Nations as a volunteer. During her time there, Enass started one of the first major women’s civil society organizations in Sudan. The organization mobilized women and fundraised for the 2019 pro-democracy movement that led to the ousting of former Sudanese head of state Omar al-Bashir. 

The only way to build a peaceful society is through the inclusion of women in its construction.

After the revolution, Enass co-founded Madaniya, an organization that coordinates civic engagement, grassroots advocacy, and crisis response efforts to support women and girls in Sudan. 

Despite the stigma women face for taking part in activism in Sudan, Enass will not let it hold her back from her work. One of her proudest accomplishments has been the growth of Madaniya and its success in connecting Sudanese women to each other and the international community. 

Female activists are “always a target by authorities, militias, and the system,” Enass said. But she emphasized that the only way to build a peaceful society is through the inclusion of women in its construction. Research has shown that the participation of civil society groups, including women’s organizations, make peace agreements more likely to succeed.

The Needs of Sudan Today

In June 2023, Enass spoke on behalf of Sudanese women at a special meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council. “The Sudanese people had nothing to do with this war, except to pay the price,” she told the council. More than nine months later, Enass told us that this price is still being paid by the survivors of the ongoing conflict.

As militias occupy houses and the hospital system continues to rapidly deteriorate, Sudan requires significant humanitarian aid. Little of this aid is provided effectively, especially in the most ravaged areas of the country, including the capital city Khartoum.  

Activists in Sudan cannot address the humanitarian needs or build peace alone. International support is needed. 

Activists in Sudan cannot address the humanitarian needs or build peace alone. International support is needed. 

During her trip to Washington, Enass encouraged U.S.-based advocates to use their voices in two important ways: to help bring Sudan back to the attention of the international community, and to urge U.S. officials to support international justice initiatives to hold war criminals accountable. 

The U.S. government recently took a positive step for accountability by issuing an official determination that atrocities have been committed by both of the warring parties. But our government can and must do more to stop the violence. Critically, the U.S. must put more pressure on the warring parties and the countries supporting them to reach a ceasefire and a sustainable peace agreement.

“Peace in Sudan would help to facilitate peace across the region,” Enass said, particularly if all civil society groups are represented at the negotiating table. 

It’s natural to focus more on the conflicts that fill the news. But as FCNL strives to “seek peace and pursue it,” we will not forget Sudan and those persevering for peace there. 

Lauren Evans

Lauren Evans

Program Assistant for Peacebuilding (2023-2024)

Lauren Evans is FCNL’s 2023-2024 program assistant for Peacebuilding, assisting the team in advocating for sustainable and nonviolent U.S. foreign policy.