Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Hemedti’s game: Another Day in Sudan

On Monday, Sudan's warlord Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo issued a short statement in English on his official social media accounts, whether on his official Facebook or Twitter account, to the world, particularly the Western world. 

"The international community must take action now and intervene against the crimes of Sudanese General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, a radical Islamist who is bombing civilians from the air," he said, adding that Burhan's army, officially the "Sudanese Armed Forces," was "waging a brutal campaign against innocent people, bombing them with MiGs."

General Mohamed Dalago with his military ranks despite not 
graduating from any military academy

This is Dagalo's first statement since the start of the ongoing fight between his militia, officially named the "Rapid Support Forces" or "RSF," and the Sudanese Armed Forces led by his rival and Chairman of Sudan's Transitional Sovereignty Council, Lt. General Abdel Fattah El-Burhan. 

The ongoing fight has killed over 200 civilians in the first unofficial estimation. 

"We are fighting against radical Islamists who hope to keep Sudan isolated and in the dark, and far removed from democracy," said the statement on Facebook which is currently managed in the United Arab Emirates.

For some, it may be surprising that suddenly Dagalo, who is commonly known as Hemeti or Hemedti, discovered that Burhan is a radical Islamist on Saturday after becoming his deputy in the Military-led Sudanese Transitional Sovereignty Council in August 2019.

But those who are following closely the situation in Sudan will know that the clash was expected for a long time, but it is not because El-Burhan is a radical Islamist, but because that was the plan of Hemeti for a long time.

Those closely following the situation in Sudan know that the recent clash was expected for a long time. However, it's not because El-Burhan is a radical Islamist “he is still corrupted military with blood on his hands” but because it was Hemedti's plan for a long time. 

The Sudanese Transitional Council was supposed to be handed over to a civilian government in early April, but the agreement was postponed twice due to an alleged disagreement between Hemedti and Burhan.

Hemedti, who hails from the Arab Sudanese "Rizeigat" tribe in Darfur and began his career as a camel trader, ended up leading one of the Arab world's most feared militant militias. He had his sights set on becoming the leader of Sudan rather than the deputy of Sudan's de facto ruler.

It's not surprising that Hemedti brought up radical Islamism, as he reportedly has the backing of the United Arab Emirates, which doesn't hide its rejection of political pro-Muslim Brotherhood Islamist movements and figures in the Arab world. 

"The fight that we are waging now is the price of democracy," said Dagalo in the post that was published on his official Facebook page, which is being administered from the UAE, not Sudan.

The statement on Monday is in English and directed towards the West, not the Sudanese or Arab people. For the Sudanese or Arab people, Hemedti, who received no formal education except through militia warfare in Darfur, said that the RSF will present El-Burhan to justice like a dog in a famous statement on Al Jazeera on Saturday.

Unsurprisingly, two egoistic men like Hemedti and El-Burhan would refuse to hold a dialogue, especially when one calls the other "a dog." This statement caused dismay among many Arab people on Twitter, who saw it as a natural result of legitimizing a war criminal militia.

The only side that Arabs on Twitter have taken so far is that of the Sudanese civilians who are caught in the middle of this never-ending fight.

What happened on Saturday was no accident – it was in plain sight. When the RSF militias were mobilized in Khartoum early Thursday, the word "coup" immediately came to mind.

The Sudanese armed forces, led by military veteran El-Burhan, warned that the mobilization was illegal and that tensions were rising between the RSF and the Sudanese army.

Meanwhile, just 24 hours earlier, UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed met with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Cairo in a surprising, short visit. The true reason behind the visit is unclear, but many Egyptians believe it was related to the situation in Sudan.

There is a growing sentiment among many Egyptians that the UAE has its own agenda in the Middle East, which includes minimizing Egypt's leading role and replacing it. Many Egyptians also do not like Hemedti because he is a militia leader who meets frequently with Ethiopian officials.

While it's unclear what the officials in Cairo think about Hemedti, observers believe that El-Burhan was trusted more by Cairo because he completed his military education there, unlike Hemedti who did not receive any military education.

Abdel Fattah El-Burhan 

It's a mystery how a militia war leader involved in one of Africa's worst genocides became a general in the army. Omar El-Bashir gave him an official military rank, but Hemedti turned against him in April 2019.

Later, Hemedti and Burhan were responsible for another massacre against Sudanese protesters.

Now the RSF, formerly called Janjaweed, has been disbanded by Burhan in another bad belated decision.

It's puzzling how EU, UK, and US officials dealt with Hemedti, who was considered a war criminal and his name was featured as a main player in the Darfur genocide by International Criminal Court's prosecution application against Omar El-Bashir. Despite this, he had talks with high-level Western officials just last week.

According to the United Nations, the Darfur war, in which Janjaweed played a central role, resulted in 300,000 deaths and displaced over 2 million people. Janjaweed also committed atrocities such as rape and the recruitment of child soldiers.

Born in the early 1970s, Hemedti knew that power and wealth commanded respect. He climbed his way up through Janjaweed, which he did not establish starting to become a well-known name starting from 2003, but found his way to wealth in the gold mines of Darfur.

Global Witness investigative journalism website recently published a report about Hemedti and his gold empire, as well as his connections to the UAE.

Hemedti, who comes from a family of camel traders, funded his militia using profits from gold mining. Together with his brother and family, Dalago, he controls a significant portion of Sudan's gold.

They used front companies and banks in Sudan and the UAE to transfer the money, and this network was uncovered by a group of reporters, including the late Egyptian journalist Mohamed Abu El-Ghait.

Despite gold being Sudan's biggest export, accounting for 70% of the country's total exports in March 2023, the country is still facing significant economic challenges.

Despite Darfur is one of the worst displacement crises in modern history, it is ironic that the tribal leaders gained wealth and power by controlling the gold mines. 

Hemedti's RSF service was presented to those in need, such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia during the Yemen War.

The RSF proved to be useful for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, and the UAE considered Hemedti their ally.

Even though this choice may not align with a moral compass, it is a perfect fit for the UAE's unofficial choices. It is no surprise that the Russian Wagner group and RSF have a relationship as they search for training, gold, and mercenaries around the world.

Hemedti is gambling not only his political career but rather his life and personally I believe that he already lost the bet starting with the fact that his forces did the unforgivable and took a group of Egyptian military guests according to them, but it seems to be more of a hostage situation.

Cairo is in a critical position in a very hard time economically thanks to Hemedti. Saudi Arabia was planning to have an Arab summit that opens the doors for the return of Syria, but Hemedti comes and turns things upside down.

From a military perspective, Hemedti has the advantage of guerrilla warfare over Burhan's formal army, which is why the RSF militia is hiding in a city like Khartoum. Burhan, on the other hand, has control of the air forces. This could potentially result in a prolonged battle.

We do not know also whether the other militant factions in Sudan will join the fight or will be smarter and choose Sudan's true interest above all. 

The US and EU are not in the mood for another civil war in the Horn of Africa. More important, the Sudanese people are just tired and have enough economic woes to find themselves on the verge of possible civil wars. Hemedti can speak in English as he wants but the world is not deceived.

Yet no one knows who will win in the end, Hemedti or Burhan? One fact, Sudan will lose, in fact, it has lost and continues to lose because of them.

Sudan witnessed 35 attempts of coups including 7 successful attempts. We will see if they become 8 or not.

As I was working on this post, a heart-wrenching photo of a once-merry Sudanese toddler named Fatima Khaled appeared on my Twitter timeline. She is currently in Omdurman Hospital with a bullet lodged in the back of her head. Unfortunately, there is no surgeon or brain surgeon available to operate on her, and her family is desperately searching for one. 

This is not an isolated case, as similar calls for medical help have been spreading on social media since the start of the conflict in Sudan. I can only hope and pray to Allah (SWT) for a miracle that Fatima will pull through and survive. It is devastating to see another innocent child become a victim of the never-ending conflict in Sudan.

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