Russia: How the Kremlin is involved in the power struggles in Sudan

Russia: How the Kremlin is involved in the power struggles in Sudan

For years, Russia has been involved in African conflicts, primarily through the Wagner mercenary group. In Sudan, the Kremlin first supported dictator Bashir, then the army that overthrew him, now the RSF militia. Besides gold, Russia has another motive.

By Hubertus Volmer

This article first appeared on n-tv.de

Gold or diamonds in exchange for weapons and security, this is the business model used by the Russian mercenary group Wagner in a number of African countries. This also applies to Sudan, the third largest gold-producing country on the African continent. However, as in Africa in general, Russia is not only concerned with financial interests, but also with geostrategic goals: Moscow wants to build a naval base in the port city of Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

The Kremlin supported the putsch in Sudan two years ago. In October 2021, the Sudanese military deposed the interim government that was formed in 2019 after the fall of long-term dictator Omar al-Bashir.

There is no evidence that Wagner mercenaries are directly involved in the current fighting in Sudan. But in the background, Russia plays a not insignificant role. According to reports from the US broadcaster CNN, the Wagner group supplied weapons to the paramilitary unit Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which organized the coup against him together with the army. Originally, the RSF was under Baschir personally. Since 2021, RSF chief Mohammed Hamdan Daglo and military commander-in-chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan have ruled the country together.

Russia: Prigozhin has his fingers in the game several times

The political background to the conflict in Sudan is the power struggle between Daglo and Burhan. It was originally planned that the joint military government would hand over power to a civilian leadership in 2022, and Daglos RSF should have been integrated into the army.

However, according to information from CNN, Russia has equipped the RSF with surface-to-air missiles, thereby significantly strengthening it. Satellite images from Libya, Sudan’s northwestern neighbor, also showed an unusual increase in activities by the Wagner group parallel to the fighting between the RSF and the army. In Libya, the Wagner mercenaries also support an insurgent militia: that of General Chalifa Haftar, who is fighting against the UN-recognized government in Tripoli.

As early as July 2022, CNN reported on how Russia flies tons of gold out of Sudan. Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin had his fingers in the pie several times over in these deals: once through his mercenaries, but also through the Sudanese company Meroe Gold, which belongs to the Russian company M Invest. According to the US, M Invest is a front company of the Wagner group.

“Wagner is a secret division of the Russian special forces”

At that time, in July 2022, Prigozhin still denied having anything to do with Wagner. That has changed. The mercenary boss is now having his alleged appearances at the front in Ukraine filmed and wants to promote the “liberation of the African continent from Western occupiers”.

The head of the Russian private army Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has published a text about a possible end to the war.

The Wagner group made its first public appearance in 2014 during the Donbass war, and Wagner mercenaries also fought in Syria on behalf of the Russians for the local dictator Bashar al-Assad. Later, Wagner fighters increasingly appeared in African states. The Kremlin initially denied that they were acting on behalf of Russia. For example, in February 2022, in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron, Putin claimed that the Russian Federation had “nothing to do with private military organizations operating in Mali.”

In fact, however, Wagner is likely to be operating on behalf of the Kremlin. It is “not a private mercenary army, it is a secret division of the Russian special forces,” as Russian human rights activist Vladimir Osechkin told RTL. The Russia expert Andreas Heinemann-Grüder sees organizations like Wagner not as private companies, but as an expression of the “siloarchy”, the merging of oligarchic power with military power. “Through the Wagner group, Russia was able to intervene in armed conflicts with ground troops without officially becoming an actor,” Heinemann-Grüder told ntv.de. In addition to Libya, Mali and Sudan, Wagner is active in Africa at least in the Central African Republic, in Chad – both of which are also neighboring countries of Sudan – as well as in Somalia, Nigeria and numerous other countries. Wagner’s offer to the despots is: We support your regime and make no further demands, says Heinemann-Grüder – at least no demands for democracy and human rights.

According to US estimates, Wagner also wants to overthrow the government in Chad

According to information from the Washington Post, the Wagner group is working to build an alliance of anti-Western states in Africa. With regard to Chad, US intelligence services assume that Wagner tried in February to recruit rebels and set up a training facility for 300 fighters in the neighboring Central African Republic “as part of an evolving plan to overthrow the Chadian government”. , as stated in an intelligence document.

The newspaper relies on documents from the so-called Discord leaks, the alleged author of which was recently arrested. Russia has not necessarily proved to be a loyal ally: first Bashir was supported, then the army, then the RSF. The company Meroe Gold dates back to the time when Bashir was in power: in November 2017 he was in Moscow, where he signed several bilateral agreements, including concession agreements on gold mining and an agreement on the establishment of a Russian naval base in Port Sudan. According to the Washington Post, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, during a visit to Khartoum in February, spoke with the Sudanese army chief about the fact that the base should be completed by the end of 2023.

Officially, the RSF want nothing to do with Wagner

In the years after 2017, the Wagner group’s “primary task was to guard the mineral resources, especially the gold deposits, and to support the Bashir government,” Arabic broadcaster Al-Jazeera quoted Samuel Ramadi, an expert on African-Russian affairs Relationships. According to him, Prigozhin initially allied himself with army chief Burhan before switching to Daglo.

Ramadi says Wagner – or the Kremlin – is primarily concerned with creating a smuggling route for the gold from Sudan to Dubai and then to Russia “so that they can fund the Wagner Group’s operations in Ukraine.” Al-Jazeera points out that the day after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Daglo was in Moscow to improve relations between the RSF and Wagner.

However, the militia does not like the fact that these relationships are being discussed publicly. On Saturday, the RSF distanced itself from the group in a tweet: “We categorically reject the claims that we have a connection to the Wagner group in the current conflict in Sudan.” Rather, it is the Sudanese army “that has allied itself with these foreign forces, not the RSF”.

Source: Stern

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Posts