Mustafa Adam Ahmed Hussain knows what it means to put his life on the line for what he believes in.
The Darfuri activist and academic has been detained by authorities in Khartoum on several occasions for trying to advance human rights in Sudan – most recently for a few days last year.
After time spent studying in India in the early 1990s, Hussain returned to a Sudan in the midst of increasing tensions.
During his time abroad, he saw how civil society could act as a powerful force for change and peaceful dialogue.
While living in exile in Asmara, the capital of neighboring Eritrea, he came into contact with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from around world.
This inspired him to found his own NGO upon his return to Sudan -the Zarga Organization for Rural Development.
Zarga was the name given to an old sultanate in the north of Sudan around 1500-1700, under which a mosaic of people lived in harmony, Hussain explained.
Zarga is involved in human rights, peacebuilding and education in Sudan, and provides humanitarian support in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. It also conducts research, organizes seminars and lectures, and holds workshops, including with young people and students.
The organization is an active member of different human rights networks regionally.
The search for peaceful solutions
Hussain first began working towards a peaceful resolution of the tribal conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims in Blue Nile state.
However, when the conflict spread to Darfur in 2003, Zarga began working there too.
Inspired by the Black Book—a prohibited text that describes imbalances of power and wealth between northern Sudan and the rest of the country—many Darfuris began to speak out about historic marginalization.
While many took up arms, Hussain looked for peaceful solutions to the problems that beset the region.
He helped facilitate dialogue between the government and rebels, which led to the signing of a peace agreement in Abuja, Nigeria.
Hussain also participated in the 2011 Darfur Peace Agreement talks in Doha, sent by the UN-AU peacekeeping mssion (UNAMID) to represent different viewpoints of peace and justice.
Presently, he is working increasingly on issues related to the ongoing conflict in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile state, advocating on behalf of prisoners.
Building support for the ICC in Sudan
With Sudanese authorities increasingly targeting activists, Zarga has also begun conducting workshops on digital security for human rights defenders.
As a member of the Coalition for the ICC, Zarga participates in a range of advocacy initiatives to end impunity and promote justice.
Hussain is currently strategizing on how to raise awareness of the Rome Statute in Sudan, where he says there is a lot of support for the Court.
He hopes to one day establish a Sudan Coalition for the ICC.