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Gold epaulettes for Sudan’s generals

Lekan Sote

Because Warner Group, a contractor of mercenary services, is a Russian company, many conclude that the war between the generals in Sudan is a proxy war between America and Russia.

Recent developments in Sudan seem to support this theory: In 2022, America’s ambassador to Sudan, John D. Godfrey, warned Sudan not to allow the establishment of a Russian military base in the Sudanese territory.

By the way, Ambassador Godfrey speaks Russian and Arabic, which suggests that America chose him as ambassador to Sudan with post-cold war calculations and America’s need to readily read Russian intentions in that region.

But by February 2023, Sudan approved the Russian military base after talks between Russian Foreign Minister Seygey Lavrov and Sudanese strongman, General Abdel Fattah el-Burhan. Some argue that General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo is the prime sponsor of this initiative.

By April 2023, conflict erupted between Sudan Armed Forces and rival Reserve Support Forces, led by el-Burhan’s second-in-command, General Dagalo. Both men, veterans of the Saudi Arabia war in Yemen, lead the Transitional Sovereignty Council that succeeded General Omar al-Bashir.

There is tribal rivalry between the generals. While General el-Burhan is from the elite tribe around Khartoum and the River Nile region, General Dagalo is from the rural Darfur region of Western Sudan.

The RSF, an offshoot of the ragtag janjaweed forces could not be successfully grafted into the Sudan Armed Forces, as post-Independence Zimbabwe did with the Patriotic Front after liberation fighter, Robert Mugabe, became Prime Minister. So RSF remained as an independent force under General Dagalo.

RSF was supervised by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service under General Dagalo. In 2019, RSF carried out the bestial “Khartoum Massacre,” on pro-democracy demonstrations that took place mostly in Khartoum, during the ouster of former strongman, al-Bashir.

Janjaweed, or “Devils on horseback,” formed by General Dagalo, is rooted in Islamism, that uses Islam to achieve political objectives, and Pan Arabism, that places the interest of the Arab nation above anything else.

Janjaweed originally carried out the violence that the pastoralists, or wandering herdsmen, of Darfur, of western Sudan, wrought against the more sedentary farmer folks. In 2013, Janjaweed transformed into RSF.

A sore point is that Generals el-Burhan and Dagalo removed civilian members of the Transitional Sovereignty Council, only for General el-Burhan to inexplicably replace them with loyalists of ousted al-Bashir.

The unstated, but real bone of contention between the warring generals, is the gold from the Darfur region, which suggests that the generals would rather wear gold epaulettes, rather than the traditional red epaulettes, on the neck of their starched uniforms.

With roughly 90 tonnes annual production mostly from the Hassai Gold Mines, about 50 kilometres South of its Khartoum capital city, Sudan is the 10th largest producer of gold in the world.

While the government-owned Sudanese Mineral Resources Company reported a haul of 18 tonnes of gold in 2012, reports indicate that more than 80 per cent balance of the gold mined was smuggled out of the country.

Please follow this story carefully: In February 2023, the month that Sudan approved a military base for Russia, some Russians, who worked in the gold mines, were arrested for involvement in smuggling Sudan’s gold.

RSF commander, General Dagalo, a major beneficiary of the gold trade, is said to be in support and in cahoots with the Russians.

Warner Group, which trains RSF men, reportedly runs a company that is engaged in gold smuggling with RSF. Head of State General el-Burhan probably wants a piece of that action.

Together, Warner Group and RSF reportedly smuggle substantial volumes of Sudan’s gold for sale in the jewellery shops of North America, Western Europe and Eastern Europe, the metropolitan economies of the world.

Dubai is said to be the preferred destination for Sudanese gold in recent times, though citizens of the metropolitan economies have the highest financial capacity to purchase the jewellery made from gold.

In his personal capacity, General Dagalo, a school dropout and former camel trader, owns al-Junaid, a conglomerate, run by his relatives, with interests in portfolio investments, gold mining, haulage, car rental and steel mining.

As you may have deduced, the funds used to finance Dagalo’s intransigence against his principal, General el-Burhan, come from this chaebol. It also pays for his personal comfort, safety and security.

But in this mess were trapped some 5,500 Nigerian students, though the Federal Government activated an evacuation operation that has successfully returned a good number of them back to Nigeria, though 40 buses for the evacuation came at an unbelievable cost of $1.2m.

Nigeria took advantage of the 72-hour temporary ceasefire and safe corridor brokered by America for the purpose of evacuating non-Sudanese nationals. An extension was brokered, because the first one was not long enough to quickly evacuate stranded foreign nationals.

Some of the Nigerian students sent distress calls about being stranded in the desert, complaining that the drivers hired for the evacuation “said they’re not moving because (the agents of the Federal Government) did not give them money.”

Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, admonished the public not to always “believe everything on social media,” though she agreed that “there will be challenges along the way.”

She however, promised, “Whatever challenges are faced now, I believe that relevant (government) agencies will resolve them.” The National Emergency Management Agency isn’t up to the task. Some Nigerians, who arrived at Egypt’s border, were not allowed into Egypt.

Despite the no-fly zone over Sudan claimed by Nigeria’s Foreign Minister, usually phlegmatic Geoffrey Onyeama, reports indicate that America, Britain, Germany, even Namibia, flew into Sudan to “scoop out” their stranded citizens by air!

After some inexplicable false starts the Federal Government finally gave clearance for Air Peace airlines that volunteered to bring stranded Nigerians home for free, to join Nigeria Air Force to bring Nigerians back home.

Over the past weekend and after six weeks of hostility, another seven-day ceasefire was brokered by America and Saudi Arabia. The purpose is to further negotiate peace and calm for the beleaguered Sudanese nation.

For weeks, Khartoum had no access to electricity, water, foodstuffs, other supplies and also could not access money in the banks, most of which have been shut down and cannot attend to cash-strapped customers.

While the warring generals and do-gooders, like America and Russia, try to resolve Sudan’s internal problems, Nigeria may have to review its stated objective that Africa is the centrepiece of its foreign policy.

Some questions: Why did Egypt initially refuse entry to Nigerians? Why would six African neighbours of Sudan, including Chad, with a common border with Nigeria, refuse safe passage to Nigerians stranded in Sudan? Maybe Nigeria no longer commands the respect it used to have across Africa.

Now that the petro-dollar purse of royalty that funded Nigeria’s profligate fight against South Africa’s apartheid regime, supported the liberation movements across Southern Africa and the peace-keeping initiatives in West Africa, is no more, Nigeria must stop acting like the big man it no longer is.

Anyway, the war in Sudan is one too many for Africa and it must be contained before it compounds the hardship of the poor citizens. Saudi Arabia is trying to help settle the quarrelling generals.

As the two wrong-headed elephant generals fight, the masses at the grassroots suffer.

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