Long stories short
- A Canadian plane heard banging sounds in the search for the Titan (more below).
- UK inflation stayed at 8.7 per cent (more below).
- Lima’s “Central” was named the world’s best restaurant.
Last week the governor of West Darfur accused the Sudanese paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of genocide and called for international intervention. Hours later he was abducted and killed.
So what? Khamis Abakar’s death should be enough to send a shudder down the spine of anyone who paid attention to the first genocide of the 21st Century. Darfur is back on the road to hell, its fragile peace shattered as war envelops Sudan. Unaccompanied children are now walking into neighbouring Chad, telling tales of unknown gunmen attacking their villages and burning their homes.
Devils in Toyotas. Eight weeks after a conflict erupted between two rival Sudanese generals, the Arab world’s second most populous nation is disintegrating.
- A US-Saudi brokered ceasefire seems to have failed.
- Half a million people have fled the country.
- One of the other key centres of fighting is in Darfur, a southwestern region of Sudan larger than Germany.
During the early 2000s, at least 300,000 people were killed in Darfur when Arab horsemen known as Janjaweed – “devils on horseback” – slaughtered mainly black ethnic Masalit.
- The Janjaweed were rolled into the organisation now known as the RSF in 2013.
- The 100,000-strong force is led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti”, who claims he was once a humble camel dealer but was probably a Darfuri highwayman.
- The RSF is fighting General Abdel al-Burhan’s Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) for control of Sudan, whose water is Egypt’s lifeblood and whose gold is coveted by, among others, Russia.
There are reports of men in RSF uniforms indiscriminately killing people in Darfur. Médecins Sans Frontières says at least 500 people have been killed in Geneina, the main city, since mid-April. The overall number is likely far higher. Doctors say they cannot get to bodies rotting in the streets in the city itself, let alone in the vast hinterland.
From Wagner with love. Hemedti is a key regional ally of Moscow (he was in the city for talks when Putin invaded Ukraine). Russia and the guns-for-hire at the Wagner group have military interests across Sudan, Central Africa Republic, Libya, and the wider Sahel region.
- Sudanese gold has been used by Russia to evade Western sanctions and fill up its war chest.
- Investigations show that Russia has been shuttling armaments to the RSF through its bases in Libya, CAR and Syria.
- The SAF has had a monopoly on airpower (supported by Egyptian warplanes) but the US accused Wagner of providing surface-to-air missiles to the RSF last month.
A most valuable man. To understand Hemedti’s real value for Putin, forget the almost comical lines drawn by colonialists on the African map. The RSF is run by Hemedti’s extended family, who come from a branch of an Arab nomadic tribe called Rizeigat.
“The Rizeigat are one of many tribes who fall under the Jeneid umbrella and this larger group brings together dozens of tribes that call many countries home at once,” says Reem Abbas, a prominent Sudanese journalist. “The social fabric of Jeneid crosses Sudan into Libya, Egypt, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Mali and perhaps even more countries.”
She adds: “The interlinkages [can] be seen at the political level as the current president of Niger is Hemedti’s relative, while several senior politicians in the current Chadian government are also his relatives.”
Put simply: tribal links give Hemedti immense political capital across a swathe of Africa that Russia has in its sights.
Forward to nothing. Twelve years ago, the Arab Spring rocked the Middle East.
As Syria burned and Egypt’s revolutionaries ended up in prison, observers could at least look to Sudan with some hope. There a murderous dictator had been ousted and slow progress was being made towards something that was not a theocratic or dictatorial state.
Now there is no need to cast about for words. The last hope of the Arab Spring is dead.
Also, in the nibs
Photograph Scott Nelson/Getty Images
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