With the continuation of the war in Sudan for about a month, an AFP report showed that the high salaries resulting from gold money attract mercenaries from neighboring countries, while Libya constitutes a “rear base” for the Rapid Support Forces led by Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo.
On the battlefield in Sudan, the two warring generals are not satisfied with the forces affiliated with each other, but mercenaries, private guards, tribal fighters or foreign trainers, attracted by the great profit and gold, circle around them.
For decades, the use of militias in Sudan has been a lucrative business. Khartoum has resorted to them before, either to entrust them with the suppression of ethnic minorities and armed rebellion movements, or to send them to participate in wars abroad.
These militias fought at one time in Yemen for the benefit of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and also participated in the fighting in Libya for various camps, and fought on the coast.
Now that the war is on its land, the Rapid Support Forces, led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as “Hemedti”, publish on social networks videos of fighters in Chad or Niger announcing their support for them.
The army commander, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the archenemy of Dagalo, says that “mercenaries came from Chad, the Central African Republic and Niger” fighting with the Rapid Support Forces. The army finally confirmed that it had killed a “foreign sniper”.
The same was reported by the United Nations envoy to Sudan, Volker Peretz, who stated that “the number of mercenaries who came from Mali, Chad and Niger with the support of the Rapid Support Forces is significant.”
Witnesses in Khartoum confirmed to AFP that they heard RSF fighters speaking French, a language not spoken by Sudanese, indicating they may have been Chadians.
The Hamidti family runs a large part of the gold mines in Sudan, the third largest producer of the yellow metal in Africa, and therefore he “can pay salaries that many in sub-Saharan Africa cannot keep up with,” Andrea Craig of Kings College in London told AFP. .
“In recent years, Chadians have actually joined the Rapid Support Forces for the sake of salaries,” he added.
Chad, the country bordering the Darfur region in western Sudan, is a natural extension for Hamidti, who belongs to the Zureigat tribe in Darfur, where many herders and farmers threatened by drought do not care about the official borders.
Most of the leaders of the armed groups, including Hamidti, have Chadian origins, according to what was reported by “Agence France Presse”, and throughout the generations they recruited men and then their sons and gave them all “Sudanese passports and lands abandoned by their owners from non-Arab tribes who were forced to flee” because of the war in the region, according to him. This has been confirmed since 2017 by the Small Arms Survey.
According to the report of the French Agency, other mercenaries support the Rapid Support Forces, and they are the fighters of the Wagner Group.
Since Central Africa resorted to these Russian fighters in 2018 to suppress a rebellion, Western diplomats say they have been seeing convoys of Russian mercenaries at Khartoum airport and in the hotels of the Sudanese capital.
Sudan is a rear base, but also a source of funding for Wagner. The Hemedti family’s gold mines have signed contracts with companies that act as fronts for Wagner’s chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, according to the US Treasury Department.
“The Wagner Group is not fighting today in Sudan, but it has technical advisors,” US expert Cameron Hudson told AFP.
cross border company
And Hamidti’s rear base is actually located in Libya, according to AFP.
Craig asserts that the areas under the control of Major General Khalifa Haftar, the strong man in eastern Libya, constitute “a forum for the delivery of weapons to the Rapid Support Forces.”
And the expert continues, “The UAE sent Haftar in 2019 and 2021 tons of weapons that can now be given to the Rapid Support Forces without being detected.”
Other foreigners came to Sudan amid the chaos caused by the departure of diplomats, UN staff and other foreigners.
Hudson confirms that “several small private companies, mainly comprising retired British Special Forces, have evacuated people (from Sudan) for amounts sometimes ranging between 20 and 50 thousand dollars.”
“Money and fighting are interchangeable in the Sudanese political market,” said Alex Duvall, an expert on Sudanese affairs. And he adds in the “London Review of Books” publication, “Hemedti trades in both.”
He considers that “the Rapid Support Forces have now become a private cross-border mercenary company”, “a company for the extraction and sale of gold” and “the armed arm of Hemedti’s commercial empire”.