Sunday, April 23, 2023

Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces and Hemedti on social media: A Curious case study

Over the past 72 hours, Twitter has been in chaos due to Elon Musk's "4/20" deadline for verified accounts to renew their blue checkmark.

Millions of accounts, including prominent figures such as Pope Francis, lost their verification badge as they refused to pay the renewal fee. This has led to a Twitter verification fiasco, which can be exploited by anyone to spread lies and disinformation.

One such example is Sudan's warlord and commander of the Rapid Support Force (RSF), Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, also known as Hemedti, whose blue tick was removed.

Journalists have raised concerns that the loss of verification badges could create a fertile ground for disinformation and manipulation that can worsen the situation in Sudan.

In fact, it did not take long for disinformation to start spreading. A Twitter account claiming to be the official account of the RSF appeared with a blue checkmark, spreading rumours about the situation in Sudan.

However, Sudanese journalists discovered that the handle of the account was different from the official RSF account, with the fake account being "@RSFSudann" while the real one is "@RSDSudan."

Further investigation by Sudanese journalists found that the "@RSFSudann" account was allegedly an Egyptian account, as evidenced by its older timeline.

After being exposed, the account changed its handle to "@Shimaegy," with the only tweets on its timeline being pro-Muslim Brotherhood/Morsi from 2013, and among the few accounts it follows are famous pro-MB figures.

This incident underscores the risks of disinformation and manipulation that can arise from Twitter's verification fiasco.

In Sudan, where the situation is already volatile, the spread of false information can have devastating consequences.

Back to Hemedti, it didn't take long to discover that his official Twitter account has a grey verified checkmark, which is given free of charge to the government or multilateral organizations.

Daglo's verified account 

According to Twitter's new policies, individuals eligible for the grey tick include heads of state (presidents, monarchs, and prime ministers), deputy heads of state (vice presidents, deputy prime ministers), national-level cabinet members or their equivalent, the main official spokesperson for the executive branch or their equivalent, and individual members of all chambers of the supranational or national congress, parliament, or their equivalent.

Despite ongoing fighting in Sudan, Daglo's social media team managed to obtain a grey tick in a noticeably short time, which is linked to the Sudanese Presidency.

Earlier, it was discovered that Daglo's official Facebook page was administrated by the UAE, though its current location is hidden. I saw the location before hidding it. 

An old screenshot 

Therefore, it is safe to assume that the Twitter account is also managed by a team from the Emirates, given that both his Facebook page and Twitter account share the same content and are verified.

This social media team is officially highly trained and addresses the West in perfect English before addressing the Sudanese public in Arabic.

It is possible that it is managed not only by a social media management company but also by a PR company with political expertise. Sudanese activists have referred to old news from 2019 to support that assumption and it is an interesting one.

In May 2019, the Sudanese Transitional Council hired Montreal-based lobbying firm "Dickens & Madson Canada Inc." to represent them for USD 6 million, according to an agreement signed between General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo and the President of the lobbying company, Ari Ben-Menashe.

Ben-Menashe is an Israeli former Mossad officer who appears to have no qualms about representing questionable military leaders and warlords from third-world countries, such as the Myanmar junta.

Interestingly, he also represented Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, whose name will come up repeatedly in relation to the RSF, but we'll leave that aside for now.

Investigating Hemedti's official Twitter account is more than interesting, as it only follows one account: that of Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris.

Daglo follows Naguib Sawiris only 

What's particularly noteworthy is that Egypt's richest man has been strongly defending Daglo online as a defender of democracy, despite his bloody history in Darfur and with protesters, as well as the situation with the Egyptian military and the Sudanese people.

Sawiris, who openly rejects military rule “with the exception of infamous Chilean dictator Pinochet”, is defending Daglo saying the militia leader was defending democracy and civil state against Burhan and his supporters from the Muslim Brotherhood. 

However, it should be noted again and again that Daglo's militia, under his command, has been implicated in one of the worst war crimes witnessed in Africa this century.

There was a theory that Sawiris was defending the Sudanese warlord in order to free Egyptian soldiers captured at the Merowe airbase. This wouldn't be the first time the Egyptian billionaire played a role in freeing hostages; he did so previously when a group of Egyptian engineers working in Orascom Telecomm's Iraqi subsidiary were taken captive.

However, what has been officially announced shows that he had no involvement in the recent incident at Merowe Airbase. It was instead a coordination between Egypt, the UAE, and the international committee of the Red Cross.

There is another theory, as usual involving gold.

Naguib Sawiris is currently focused on investing in gold mining. In July 2021, he announced the establishment of a USD 1.4 billion fund called "La Mancha" to hold his golden investments. The fund is based in Luxembourg rather than Egypt, and Sawiris has been the chairman of La Mancha Resources since acquiring it in 2012.

La Mancha Resources used to co-own shares in Sudan's Ariab Mining company, which operates the Hassai gold mine in northeastern Sudan, the country's first gold mine. However, in April 2015, the Sudanese government acquired Sawiris' 44% stake in Ariab Mining for USD 100 million.

Although Sawiris was officially out of Sudan, on February 21, 2023, La Mancha executives reportedly met with the Sudanese Minister of Mining Resources in Khartoum to discuss the company's return to Sudan and investment in gold mining.

Some online accusations suggest that Sawiris supports Hemedti, who reportedly controls gold in Sudan along with his family, for the sake of gold mining.

Sudanese gold accounts for 70% of the country's total exports. Naguib Sawiris' lack of a meaningful justification for supporting Hemedti has strengthened the theory that his interest in gold is the driving force behind his actions. This belief is shared by many Egyptians and Sudanese online due to the value placed on the precious metal.

It is impossible to justify or whitewash the actions of a war criminal by using rhetoric about democracy or by invoking fear of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood cronies who flourished under Omar El-Bashir's rule have contributed to dragging Sudan into an abyss, and Hemedti's actions have taken the country to a new level of suffering in Darfur.

Now both Dalgo and Burhan are taking the whole country into an unknown level of hell. It is a fact.

1 comment:

  1. To the point ! Thank you for bringing this to the forefront.


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