By Theodore Shoebat
African migrants are trying to escape violence and poverty by fleeing to Europe. The EU supposedly tried impeding this wave of migration in 2016 by collaborating with the biggest paramilitary group in Sudan, the RSF or the Rapid Support Forces, which was heavily involved in genocide in Darfur, to stop migrants from crossing the Mediterranean. The EU did this in the name of ‘stopping people smuggling’ and illegal crossing through EU borders. But, it turned out that the RSF was in fact exploiting Africans, keeping them as hostages for ransom and forcing them into slavery in gold mines in the Chad-Libya border, while being backed by the EU. The RSF was also heavily involved in people smuggling while receiving support from Brussels. The EU knew beforehand that its support for the RSF would be used for insidious and violent actions, but continued support anyway. It was, reportedly only until March of 2019 that the EU stopped backing the RSF. The fact that the EU — which is controlled by Germany — was willing to back a genocidal mercenary organization, is indicative that the Europeans, if war ever comes to Europe, will resume back to genocide themselves, in Europe and in Africa, as it has done in the past, be it the genocide that was done in Namibia by Germany, or the killing of Ethiopians by Italy. The thirst for rapine in Africa has not ended, but is done through corporations, and could manifest through military incursion if war tears Europe apart again.
Weapons are being transported through the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and as we have written in a previous article, they were involved in the removal of the Sudanese dictator and mass murderer, Omar al-Bashir. This paramilitary came from the same strata of the the Janjaweed militias who carried out Khartoum’s genocidal policy on Darfur. The Rapid Support Forces is led by one Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo or as he is better known as, “Hemeti.” They are a ruthless armed force that conducted two counterinsurgency campaigns in Darfur since February 2014, where they murdered civilians, raped and burned and looted villages. To quote Suliman Baldo:
“The state’s use of militias from a particular defined group to attack others outside that group has had a devastating effect on populations seen as loyal or sympathetic to the armed opposition. The burning of villages, killing of civilians, looting, rape and abduction of women and girls, and forced displacement of thousands are the hallmarks of RSF incursions into armed opposition-held areas in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states.”
The Rapid Support Forces are part of Sudan’s intelligence apparatus, being under the command of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). Several times already in the year 2019, Hemeti met with the Islamic militia leader, Noureddine Adam, whose major rebel group, the Popular Front for the Rebirth of Central African Republic, was decisive in the removal of incumbent President François Bozizé in 2013. The coup sparked an extremely bloody civil war between two factions, the Seleka (Islamist) and the anti-Balaka (Christian and shamanist). This war saw everything, from massacres of the thousands to things as egregious as cannibalism. The conflict is still ongoing today, with regions of Central Africa being controlled primarily by ex-Seleka fighters or anti-Balaka militias.
The ex-Selekas are buying weapons and vehicles from the Rapid Support Forces, and the European Union, only until recently, had been backing this very paramilitary. The reason why is because the EU wanted to use African mercenaries to block migrants from leaving their country to travel to Europe. It can be said, that Africa has been forced to become Europe’s southern border. When migrants began pouring into Europe by the hundreds of thousands back in 2015, many German politicians — especially Angela Merkel — acted quite enthusiastic about the entire thing, while huge numbers of Germans expressed their disdain for the whole situation, beginning their remonstrance through the PEGIDA rallies, then with putting into the mainstream the racialist party AfD, and then with more explicitly racist rallies like what occurred in Chemnitz in 2018.
With the nationalist reaction to the migration crises, the EU government reacted by contracting with Sudanese forces, including the Rapid Support forces, to keep migrants from cross the Mediterranean. The name of this EU project was the Khartoum Process. Sudan was the choice to do this sort of operation because it is the central point to which many Africans travel before crossing North Africa into the Mediterranean. In 2016 it was reported by the United Nations that some four million people from Somalia, Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic, travelled to Sudan where they would go to Khartoum and from there enter Libya with the hopes of crossing the sea into southern Europe.
Both Sudan and Europe are working together on migration for their own interests. Sudan, with a government that has a mile high human rights abuse record, wants to no longer be isolated by the Western world (in other words, it wants Western aid money), and so is willing to do something for Europe which wants Sudan to keep migrants from leaving. Europe has thus given Sudan funds in the form of humanitarian aid as essentially a form of bribery to get Sudanese gunmen to preclude migration. Suliman Baldo, who wrote an investigation on Europe’s collaboration with Sudan on migration policy, pointedly said in regards to the supposed European humanitarian aid:
“There is no direct money exchanging hands … But the E.U. basically legitimizes an abusive force.”
The European Union’s aid to Sudan was millions and millions of euros for the purpose of training Sudanese forces so that they can stop migrants from Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa who come through Sudan. The aid is also going into backing and training Sudan’s main paramilitary organization, the Rapid Support Forces. As Baldo details:
“The EU’s action plan will involve building the capacities of Sudan’s security and law enforcement agencies, including a paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which has been branded as Sudan’s primary “border force.” The EU will assist the RSF and other relevant agencies with the construction of two camps with detention facilities for migrants. The EU will also equip these Sudanese border forces with cameras, scanners, and electronic servers for registering refugees.”
The technology has not only helped the Rapid Support Forces track migrants, but also in surveilling Sudan’s own citizens at a time when the paramilitary has been killing political dissidents.
The EU is affirming that their aim is to stop human smuggling, and while it has been reported that about one-fourth of the people-smugglers caught in January and February of 2018 on the Eritrean border were arrested by the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces, it has also been revealed that these same paramilitaries are getting profits from smugglers. Patrick Kingsley, writing for the New York Times recounts that he interviewed four smugglers who told him that Sudanese intelligence (NISS) and the Rapid Support Force are “receiving part of the smuggling profits on most trips to southern Libya.” And while the Rapid Support Forces boasts about impeding smuggling, the four smugglers — who were interviewed separately — told Kingsley that the Rapid Support Forces is often the main organizer for migrant smuggling and even provides camouflaged vehicles to transport migrants through the desert. The corruption of the Rapid Support Force is much more sinister when you see what they do in southern Libya where they hand over migrants to Libyan militias in Kufra and Sabha who torture the migrants and keep them hostage for ransom money, a portion of which is paid to the Rapid Support Forces.
Sudanese people are not the only victims. Many Eritreans as well are forced into the reign of terror of exploitation. There are horror stories of long hours of torture, rape and murder. One story recounted by an Eritrean gives us an idea as to the sinister realities of what migrants have gone through:
“The first group of kidnappers said I had to pay $3,500. They blindfolded all of us and chained our hands and legs together. They threatened to remove our organs if we didn’t pay. Even though my family paid, they didn’t release me but instead sold me to a second group.
The second kidnappers said we had to pay them $33,000 because they had bought us from the first group, so we had to help them get their money back.
They beat me with a metal rod. They dripped molten plastic onto my back. They beat the soles of my feet and then they forced me to stand for long periods of time, sometimes for days. Sometimes they threatened to kill me and put a gun to my head. They hung me from the ceiling so my legs couldn’t reach the floor and they gave me electric shocks. One person died after they hung him from the ceiling for 24 hours. We watched him die.
Whenever I called my relatives to ask them to pay, they burnt me with a hot iron rod so I would scream on the phone. We could not protect the women in our room: they just took them out, raped them, and brought them back. They hardly let us sleep and I thought I was going to die but in the end a group of us managed to escape.”
Another Eritrean migrant recalled what horrors he had to endure in the Sinai by Egyptian traffickers:
“To make us pay, they abused us. They raped women in front of us and left them naked. They hung us upside down. They beat and burnt us all over our bodies with cigarettes. My friend died in front of us and I wanted to lie down and die.”
Traffickers will ask for exorbitant amounts of money, in the tens of thousands, from the families of their hostages; they will torture their victims and make sure that their families hear their screams through the speaker of their phones, and if the pockets of the sadist is not filled, the torture will continue, and as long as rapaciousness is not satisfied, the sadism continues on, until screams can no longer be uttered and the person is dead. One smuggler in Arish, in the Sinai area of Egypt, gave an explicit and graphic description of how he holds people captive, keeps them for ransom, tortures and murders migrants:
“I buy Eritreans from other Bedouin near my village for about $10,000 each. So far I have bought about 100. I keep them in a small hut about 20 kilometers from where I live and I pay two men to stand guard. I torture them so their relatives pay me to let them go. When I started a year ago, I asked for $ 20,000 per person. Like everyone else I have increased the price. I know this money is haram [shameful], but I do it anyway. This year I made about $200,000 profit.
The longest I held someone was seven months and the shortest was one month. The last group was four Eritreans and I tortured all of them. I got them to call their relatives and to ask them to pay $33,000 each. Sometimes I tortured them while they were on the phone so the relatives could hear them scream. I did to them what I do to everyone. I beat their legs and feet, and sometimes their stomachs and chest, with a wooden stick. I hang them upside down, sometimes for an hour.
Three of them died because I beat them too hard. I released the one that paid. About two out of every 10 people I torture pay what I ask. Some pay less and I release them. Others die of the torture. Sometimes when the wounds get bad and I want them to torture them more, I treat their wounds with bandages and alcohol.
I beat women but not children and I have not raped anyone. My parents don’t know I do this and I don’t want them to know. I’m not interested in speaking to anyone who wants me to stop doing this. The government doesn’t care so I don’t mind talking to you. The police won’t do anything to stop us because they know that if they come to our villages we will shoot. The military might try to get us, but I am young so I don’t think about that.
I first started doing this because I had no money but saw others making lots of money this way. I know about 35 others who sell or torture Eritreans in Sinai. There are 15 just near my house, living close to each other. We are from different tribes. Some just buy them and sell them on to others, and some of us torture them to get even more money.”
Both the Egyptian and Sudanese governments are completely involved in the trafficking industry, as Human Rights Watch reports:
“In some cases, these crimes are facilitated by collusion between traffickers and Sudanese and Egyptian police and the military who hand victims over to traffickers in police stations, turn a blind eye at checkpoints, and return escaped trafficking victims to traffickers.”
A British journalist by the name of Phil Cox was in fact kidnapped by the Rapid Support Forces and they told him that they were smuggling people into Libya. Cox recounted: “I asked specifically about how it works … And they said we make sure the routes are open, and we talk with whoever’s commanding the next area.”
When the European Union began cooperating with the Rapid Support Forces, it knew about the violent ways of the paramilitary and understood the risk of giving technology that could be used for sinister intentions. In October of 2016 there was a question issued to the EU parliament about this very concern in which it was clearly stated that the EU knew that its equipment could be used for nefarious motives:
“The Sudanese government has deployed its militia, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), at the borders with Libya to prohibit irregular migration and combat human trafficking. The RSF’s crimes against humanity and war crimes are well documented (i.a. by the International Criminal Court). Amnesty International reports that the Sudanese government may also have used chemical weapons against civilians in Darfur in 2016.
The EU cooperates with the Sudanese government in the area of migration, notably through the project ‘Better Migration Management (Khartoum Process)’ and, according to the relevant Action Fiche, provides i.a. capacity building support to front-line officials. The Action Fiche lists ‘provision of equipment and trainings to sensitive national authorities diverted for repressive aims’ as a risk. However, it does not indicate any direct mitigation measure to address this.”
In fact, the European Union tried to hide their collaboration with the Rapid Support Forces. But once information leaked out, the EU was met with a plethora of criticism from the press and human rights groups. If the EU could willingly work with such a genocidal force, imagine what a European power like Germany will do to its own people and other people under a militarist and despotic regime.
It was quite obvious that the Rapid Support Forces were insidious; its history is rooted in the genocide of Darfur, much of which was being committed by the Janjaweed militia. In the years 2004 and 2005 there was a lot of international pressure on Sudan to put an end to the mass killings and displacement of civilians. Khartoum had no choice but to cease the Janjaweed militias. But the militias never really went away. They were at one point in 2003 integrated into one armed force called the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and then moved into the umbrella of “the Border Guards corps.” This was done on purpose to confuse Western countries into thinking that the militias were no longer there while the SAF continued its bloody operations. The militias were still there, just with military uniform. Over time, the SAF made its control over the militias more lenient, and the militias took part in inter-tribal warfare, robberies and murder of civilians.
In 2012, Musa Hilal — a former Janjaweed militia leader who was instrumental in the genocidal violence of 2003 and 2004 — began to foment an anti-government revolution in Darfur. To remove him as a threat, the Sudanese government carved out the Rapid Support Forces from the border corps in 2013 and commissioned as its commander, Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo or as he is better known, “Hemeti.”
The Rapid Support Forces are not only interested in smuggling migrants, but also forcing migrants to work in slave labor camps to mine gold. Gold is immense in Sudan, and whenever gold is discovered, there will blood. In 2012 huge deposits of gold were discovered in north Darfur. The largest gold mines were found in Jebel Amir, and many miners flocked there all seeking the precious metal that grabs a universal obsession.
The high number of miners meant that levies were to be imposed on them; who would have power over these levies was a position that people were willing to kill for. Tribal militias, some of whom were loyal to to Hemeti and Musa Hilal, began spilling each other’s blood over control of the levies. In 2013, fighting sparked between the Beni Hussein and the Abbala militia, which led to the deaths of 839 people (mainly Beni Hussein) and the displacement of 150,000 people. Fighting subsided and rivals decided to have more cooperation to obtain gold, but intense fighting resurfaced in 2017 when Sudanese Minister of Interior General Ismat Abdel Rahman Zein al-Abdin exclaimed before parliament that around 3,000 armed “foreigners” took control of the Jebel Amir gold mine and exhorted the Sudanese Armed Forces to then raid the mine and fight the militias who controlled the levies.
But this was pure propaganda for the purpose of taking control of the mines, as several journalists visited Jabel Amir and found that there were very few foreigners working in the mines and that it was under the control of both Musa Hilal and Beni Hussein, and the two were sitting on what would now be Sudan’s biggest business. In fact, by 2017, 40% of Sudan’s exports was gold. Hilal was fixated on maintaining his control over the gold mines and prevented Omar al-Bashir’s regime access to Jebel Amir. Hemeti’s mercenary forces attacked Musa Hilal’s militia and conquered the mines for the state. In November of 2017, Hemeti had Hilal arrested and thus solidified the RSF’s control of the mines.
The site was also secured by troops from the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces. There is a gold processing company called El-Geneid and it is one out of only two companies of this kind in Sudan; what is very interesting is that it is owned by the brother of Hemeti, the owner of the Rapid Support Forces.
Now, when the Rapid Support Forces keep hostages for ransom and the money is not paid, the captives are at times forced to work in the gold mines in the Chad-Libyan border. A report from the CRU talks about how a Darfurian named “A.O.” and other Darfurian migrants were sold by the Rapid Support Forces to Tubu militias on the Libyan-Sudanese border who, if they can’t get money from ransom, force the migrants to work in gold mines:
“The RSF also reportedly sell migrants to Tubu traffickers, who are not only civilians but also militias, including forces allegedly theoretically under the control – and on the payroll – of northern Libya’s rival authorities. In 2016, A.O. and nine other Darfurian migrants were handed over by the RSF to Libyan Tubu militias, in the Sudan-Libya borderlands. The Tubu were uniformed men on two pickups mounted with DShK-type machine guns who presented themselves as soldiers of the Tripoli-based GNA. Once in Rebyana, they beat the migrants for two days to force them to phone relatives and find SDG 2,000 (EUR 300). Those who were not able to obtain the money were reportedly sent as forced labour to gold mines.”
The same report talks about how the RSF are “recruiting” people to work on the gold mines at the Chad-Libyan border:
“In the same period of early 2017, A., another Darfurian asylum seeker, met RSF smugglers in El-Fasher who were recruiting passengers for gold mines at the Chad-Libya border. He was driven to Tina in a convoy of four military cars, each loaded with 35 passengers.”
The RSF’s involvement in forced labor in gold mining is not coincidental, since the brother of Hemeti, the owner of the RSF, runs a gold processing business, and the fact that the RSF uses money from gold operations to bribe local tribal leaders and Sudanese elites, as we read in the AP:
“Experts say he can draw on his family’s vast livestock and gold mining operations in Darfur, as well as funding from Gulf Arab countries, to buy the support of tribal leaders and other local elites.”
The immense amounts of gold in Sudan has been, inevitably, attracting mining corporations outside of Africa. For example, the Russian company, Esimath, a subsidiary of Acropol Group Russia, got a deal with the Sudanese government to mine gold in 2017, as we read in a report from Xinhua.
With the European Union having backed a murderous mercenary group like the RSF, what appears to be happening is Germany (the most powerful nation in the EU) and other European countries wanting control in Sudan and other African countries for grips on resources. European nations have competed over African territories many times, historically. And this competition still occurs today. For example, as we have written before, Italy and France have been rivaling over oil in Libya.
Moreover, the fact that the EU backed a genocidal group of mercenaries is indicative of the fact that the EU is not in Africa for “humanitarian” reasons and does not care about the welfare of Africans but is solely interested in power over African countries in order to take resources. It is true that the EU, reportedly, ceased backing the RSF in March of 2019. But, this took years and it was only done because of public outcry, since the EU, as has been shown, already knew of the genocidal ways of the RSF. If the EU is willing to back these sorts of African mercenaries, imagine the European war machine when fighting breaks out in Europe again (as it always does): it will no longer be elusive exploitation of territory simply through corporate action, but explicit military incursions of Africa, with European countries warring over land, and the local population enduring the worst of the suffering. If the EU — to please nationalist in Germany — decided to work with genocidal African mercenaries and turned a blind eye when these very mercenaries people smuggled and turned people over to torture and slavery, then imagine what the Europeans will do to people if a nationalist and militarist hysteria possess their souls.