Russia’s Wagner PMC has been supporting the anti-government Rapid Support Forces paramilitary militia fighting the Sudanese National Army and wreaking havoc and killing thousands in the African nation.

Last April, active war broke out in Sudan between the Sudanese National Army and the rebel group, the Rapid Support Forces militia. Thus far, the impact has been devastating; thousands were killed and millions displaced, and millions of children are subject to hunger, in addition to massive destruction in the infrastructure. 

To continue waging this war, the RSF militia sought external support from the Wagner group. Ukraine, which has been fighting this rogue group in its land, decided to fight it in Sudan as well. In parallel with military operations on the ground, Ukraine should leverage its diplomatic relationship and persuade its Western supporters to confront this Wagner-RSF partnership.

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The RSF emerged primarily from restructuring the notorious Janjaweed militia in 2013, aiming to support the central government’s counterinsurgency operations in Darfur and South Kordofan.

In 2017, the Sudanese parliament passed a law legitimizing its activities, despite the militia’s reported commissions of countless crimes and atrocities, including destroying villages, killing protestors, sexual violations and rape, mass killings, and unlawful detention, along with targeting hospitals and churches. They have a history of attacking journalists and media institutions. All this in addition to killing based on ethnicity and taking down the telecommunication network during the ongoing war.

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Wagner’s presence in Sudan dates back to 2017 when the ousted Sudanese president al-Bashir met with Putin.

Following that meeting, gold companies linked to the Wagner Group, such as M-Invest and Meroe Gold, started operating in Sudan, receiving special treatment from the military leadership and facilitating the smuggling of Sudanese gold to Russia in an attempt to circumvent Western sanctions after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

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Reportedly, Wagner’s leader had promised to provide more military support to the militia in exchange for smuggled Sudanese gold. It is worth noting that Wagner's gold operations in Sudan were accompanied by the terrorization and intimidation of locals in the areas of exploration and mining.

The military cooperation between the RSF militia and the Wagner mercenaries started with the outbreak of the ongoing Sudanese war. In April 2023, an investigative report by CNN exposed that the Wagner Group had facilitated the transfer of surface-to-air missiles from General Khalifa Haftar in Libya to the RSF militia. The purpose of this assistance was to offset the air dominance of the Sudanese armed forces. Moreover, US and French intelligence believe that Wagner was shipping anti-aircraft guns and light weapons from the Central African Republic to the RSF militia

Indeed, both the RSF militia and the Wagner Group were secretive about their relationship. The RSF militia categorically denied any connection to Wagner, and the Wagner Group falsely claimed that it had no presence in Sudan.

The RSF-Wagner cooperation wouldn’t have progressed without the direct approval of the Russian regime, which, while claiming to be neutral in the ongoing war, simultaneously allows its companies to sell arms to the RSF militia and has a foreign minister that openly defends Wagner’s operations in Sudan.

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Indeed, this alliance jeopardizes the Western interests in the Sudan and the region. For instance, in a grim scenario where the RSF takes control of the country, Russia would have a strong foothold in the country, establishing a naval base in the Red Sea east of Sudan.

This project is still not implemented but was previously backed by the RSF militia leader who also defended the invasion of Ukraine. In addition to that, more Sudanese gold would be plundered by Russia to fuel its unjust wars.

Given the scale of the ongoing militia violations, the Arabic gum supply lines, which Sudan is the largest producer of in the world, imported mainly by European companies and used a primary ingredient for Coca-Cola and Pepsi products, would be impacted.

Europe should also expect a new wave of immigrants and missing ships that the RSF militia leader once threatened them with as a negotiation card. The RSF militia would also expand its influence in the Central African Republic, Chad, and Libya, where the Wagner group also has a strong presence.

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Despite all these impending risks, the Western reaction, by and large, has been ineffective and insidiously aiding the militia to emerge victorious in the long run.

The US, for example, has been closely following the RSF militia activities in addition to imposing sanctions on the RSF and warning of using Wagner in Sudan war, Europe on the other hand also placed sanctions on companies affiliated with the militia.

Paradoxically, some of its countries are sending delegations to train the RSF members, permitting the exportation of surveillance technologies to the RSF and even hiring security companies that are directly linked with the militia.

In adopting this approach, the West appeared to be falling prey to the RSF’s PR campaign launched to influence Europe’s leaders and policymakers by hiring PR companies and journalists and sending the militia’s envoy to persuade Europeans that it had sought to protect civilians during the war and will continue to guards Europe’s shores from the African immigrants in line of Europe’s border externalization policy that started years ago through the Khartoum process in which the RSF militia has been its implementation tool in Sudan.

By contrast, Ukraine’s response to this insidious partnership has been robust; the Ukrainian special forces have launched several drone attacks against the Wagner group in Sudan and interrogated some of its members. Moreover, the Ukrainian president discussed this threat in his meeting with the head of the Sudanese armed forces. 

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Ukraine, however, should play another crucial role and push the West to follow its lead and take more expeditious and decisive actions. This realistically could be through lobbying the Western countries to reverse their policy and align with the Sudanese army in its battle against the RSF.

Pressure must be applied to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a gulf country infamous for being the central hub for Wagner affiliated companies and for being the main sponsor of the RSF militia. Dubai has been supplying the RSF with money and arms in a blatant violation of the UN arms embargo. The West must stop gambling on this destructive alliance as a tool to pursue its own shortsighted political and economic interests in the region.

Disbanding this alliance would also result in backing the Sudanese people to build a national unified army and a democratic system with no outlaw militias, a strategic and legitimate goal that the RSF militia leader once not only rejected but even threatened to send the whole country into the abyss if anyone demands it.

Ukraine’s global wartime diplomacy against Russia and Wagner has been successful; it’s time to understand the threat posed in Sudan and add it to its agenda calendar.

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Comments ( 1)

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John
This comment contains spoilers. Click here if you want to read.

Let's not focus just on Wagner / Russia's crimes in solely in Africa's Sudan. Include Russia supported upheavals of elected government in:

Sudan.
Central African Republic.
Madagascar.
Libya.
Mozambique.
Mali.
Burkina Faso.
Chad

And where have the UN peacekeeping forces been deployed? On neighbouring borders and in refugee camps to "protect aims to "protect civilians, prevent violence, and support the country’s fragile transitional government". Thats all very well, but how about addressing the core of the problem. Why just keep picking up the tab for a despots foreign marauding. It remains a failure in global leadership to not address the aberrant core of each problem.

However Ukraine is addressing the core of many global wars. Freedom seeking citizens across the globe can at least help Ukraine do this necessary dirty work. Reach out to any dithering leadership and let them know you want your nation to increase its support for Ukraine. In the interim, help Ukraine directly by funding drones on their United24 fundraising platform.

Ukraine represents democracy's best chance of dethroning a most psychopathic expansionist dictator.

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