Foreign fighters unleash mayhem in Sudan as it turns into a blazing battleground!

Experts are warning of a perplexing and bursty conflict in Sudan as the country becomes a battleground for foreign fighters and shady military backers. While Sudan has a history of sending mercenaries abroad, armed “fortune seekers” are now pouring into the country from across Africa’s Sahel region, including Mali, Chad and Niger. UN special representative Volker Perthes has warned that their numbers are significant. Sudan’s army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has accused the rival Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of recruiting fighters from Chad, the Central African Republic and Niger. Witnesses have claimed to have heard some RSF paramilitaries speaking French, the language of neighboring Chad.

The conflict between de facto leader Burhan and his former deputy, RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, also known as Hemeti, has led to deadly fighting in Sudan over the past month. The RSF, which originated from notorious Janjaweed militia raiding villages in the Darfur region, has sent weapons-for-hire into the Yemen war to support Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Iran-backed Huthi rebels. They have also supported various camps in Libya, including General Khalifa Haftar.

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The RSF has been accused of having links to Russia’s Wagner mercenary group by Washington and Brussels. Wagner has been active in several African countries, including Libya where they supported Haftar. Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has recently denied having any presence in Sudan. But, Cameron Hudson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said that “the Wagner group is not fighting in Sudan, but they have technical advisers.”

Western diplomats report seeing groups of mercenaries frequently passing through Khartoum’s airport and hotels since the Central African Republic government called on Wagner in 2018 to help quell an insurgency. Hemeti’s family has long controlled gold mines in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan, Africa’s third-largest producer of the precious metal. The US Treasury has accused Prigozhin of running shadow companies in Sudan that were awarded gold mining concessions. Recent EU sanctions also targeted gold companies linked to Wagner in Sudan. Experts believe that gold has provided a revenue stream to pay RSF fighters.

Small Arms Survey found in 2017 that Sudanese militias have long filled their ranks by offering Chadian Arabs access to Sudanese citizenship and land abandoned by displaced non-Arabs. In its latest social media campaign, the RSF has published videos of fighters in Chad and Niger expressing their support for them. While the RSF may draw fighters from Chad and elsewhere, it is believed to be receiving weapons from Libya.

Sudan specialist Alex de Waal said money and fighters “are interchangeable currencies in Sudan’s political market, and Hemeti trades in both.” “The RSF is now a private transnational mercenary company,” de Waal wrote in a new analysis. If RSF wins, de Waal predicts that “the Sudanese state will become a subsidiary of this transnational corporation.”

The Sudan conflict has led to another line of business for professional soldiers who have offered desperate foreigners a chance to flee the country. For those who couldn’t get a seat on mass evacuation, “a number of small ’boutique’ private companies, mainly retired British special forces, evacuated people for a large fee, up to $20,000-$50,000.”

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