The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

Fighting has been ongoing in Sudan between forces aligned with Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and his main opponent, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

Deadly fighting is continuing between the Rapid Support Forces, composed of the Janjaweed, and Sudan’s national army. The leader of the Rapid Support Forces, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also referred to as Hemetti, declared that he is on a mission to free the Sudanese people from the army and establish a democratic Sudan. Dagalo’s Rapid Support Forces have grown from a small militia group to a significant military force that has carefully built strong foreign ties and even meddled in other countries.

In Chad, Dagalo found fertile ground to recruit fighters, including child soldiers. According to some reports, the number who joined reached several thousand, most of them from rural areas and driven primarily to escape poverty.

In the Central African Republic, the Rapid Support Forces sold arms to rebels, escalating tensions in the country and threatening the peace process. Dagalo claimed in January that he helped disrupt a coup plot in the country that was being hatched in Sudan.

Since 2015, Dagalo’s forces have been fighting at the behest of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Yemen. This included sending child soldiers to fight on the front lines. The UAE is also believed to have funneled funds to Dagalo and supplied his forces with Toyota ‘technicals.’ This cooperation also extended to Libya, where Dagalo deployed his soldiers to protect oil facilities and fight alongside forces aligned with Khalifa Haftar.

Additionally, Dagalo has worked closely with Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group. It is believed that the Wagner Group funneled arms to Dagalo’s forces. Wagner Group fighters have been observed in eastern Sudan. Dagalo had visited Russia the day after its invasion of Ukraine.

Under the umbrella of fighting illegal immigration, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo extended his relations with the European Union and received logistics and funding in exchange for promises to help slow the number of migrants to Europe from Sudan. This agreement was subjected to scrutiny by the Italian parliament after a report exposed that an Italian delegation arrived in Khartoum to train Dagalo’s forces. In December 2021, Dagalo warned Europe and the United States that they would face an influx of refugees if they opted not to support him and his Rapid Support Forces.

Dagalo formed relations with Israeli security agencies, but given the sensitivity of this issue, the details were kept fairly quiet. In January 2022, a report exposed that an Israeli delegation visited Sudan and met with Dagalo in Khartoum. The UAE also arranged a secret meeting between Dagalo and the head of the Mossad.

Fortunately, some countries, at least for the moment, are not interested in supporting Dagalo. Egypt, for example, is allied with Dagalo’s main opponent, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. The United States is also suspicious of Dagalo and his ties to the Wagner Group. In July 2020, the U.S. imposed sanctions on the Wagner Group for its activities in Sudan.

Countries that are endorsing Dagalo and his militia, or tacitly approve of its activities, are legitimizing and sustaining it, but undoubtedly helping destabilize the whole country. This support threatens the Sudanese dream of a democratic country in the long run.

Indeed, the Sudanese people have spoken when they helped overthrow the regime of Omar al-Bashir and have continued to take to the streets in support of a democratic Sudan. It is time for Sudan’s neighbors and the international community to listen to these voices and choose to stand on the right side of history.

Mohamed Suliman is a senior researcher at Northeastern University and also holds a degree in Engineering form the University of Khartoum.