On April 11, after three decades of authoritarian rule in Sudan, President Omar al-Bashir was usurped following mass protests. After years of being dominated by the ironclad fist of a regime that promoted rampant war crimes and human rights violations, the people of Sudan wanted a democratic government. An uprising of voices chanted for change and for the guilty to be held accountable.
Yet, the man who has since claimed leadership of Sudan may be emblematic of everything protesters have fought against.
Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, cuts a figure that imperils egalitarianism. Many attest that Hemedti, who was al-Bashir’s right-hand man, should have also been arrested alongside al-Bashir. As leader of the infamous Rapid Security Forces (RSF), Hemedti has been instrumental in a host of human rights violations – most notably, the genocide and ordered rapes of thousands in Darfur.
During the protests, his troops have been accused of shooting and killing unarmed protestors. According to reports, in an attack last Monday, more than 100 people were killed and around 700 were injured. Doctors have also claimed that more than 70 rapes were committed by the RSF as part of the attack.
Shahd Khidir, a social media influencer who lives in New York City, recently garnered attention around the globe after she spoke out on her social media about the atrocities being committed in Sudan. She asked her followers to spread awareness about the mounting crisis in her native country and pleaded for help.
“There’s a revolution in my country of Sudan. In April, the Sudanese people overthrew a military regime that has persecuted my people for 30 years. There was a Transitional Military Council holding negotiations with the opposition, which were civilian institutions such as the Sudanese Professionals Association, with the declaration for freedom and change. However, the Rapid Support Forces attacked peaceful protests on June 3rd and massacred 130 people,” Shahd told me.
“In Sudan, the RSF is abusing people on the streets. They have batons and kalashnikovs. They abuse, rape and arrest people. My friend, Mattar, was protecting 2 or 3 women from the RSF and they beat him to death. Another friend was speaking to me on the phone and he was whispering. I asked why and he said that he was in hiding because they are shooting and beating people. They found his hideout. They beat and arrested him, and took his phone. I could not get in touch with him for days,” she added poignantly.
Those in Sudan who remain frustrated with the corruption, unemployment, and oppression may not see their saviour in the form of Hemedti. Coming from the Rizeigat tribe of poor camel-herding Arab nomads, his meteoric rise was born out forging questionable alliances.
After fleeing conflict in Chad, his family ended up in Sudan in the 1980s. They settled in Darfur – the same region where Hemedti would later allegedly orchestrate heinous crimes of genocide, abuse, and rape. After he dropped out of school to join the Janjaweed – the Arab militias – he very quickly ascended to the top, eventually becoming the second most powerful man in Sudan.
Niemat Ahmadi, founder of Darfur Women Action Group was one of the fortunate ones who was able to flee the genocide in Darfur.
“I and millions of Darfur genocide victims categorically rejected Dagolo’s leadership because his rise to power signifies the reality about the reward for genocide. He only rose to fame because of the number of people he had killed, the villages he had burnt, and the countless women who were raped under his leadership and directions,” Niemat said.
“We rejected him because of the fact that, if al-Bashir was indicted for being the Commander-in-Chief, Dagalo was the Commander in charge of the battlefield and the on-going Darfur genocide.”
Despite his humble background, Hemedti has amassed substantial wealth due to his involvement in the gold mining sector, as well as providing security services at the Libyan border – a lucrative frontline for traffickers and smugglers. As an affluent leader with connections in high and sometimes, unsavoury places, he could hold an even more dangerous position. Sudan’s politics has thus far been marred by corruption, and this new foothold could see something else arise from the ashes.
“His rule will be a devastating and bloody rule, as he and his soldiers already have achieved the highest level of destruction – in Darfur in particular and in Sudan as a whole. And now with more support, he will be encouraged to commit more crimes. Dagalo and his fellow Arabs have an ambition to rule both Sudan and Chad and if they are allowed, they will take as many lives as possible to fulfill that ambition,” Niemat despaired.
“He is incompetent, incapable, and unfit to rule because he is a serial killer. Both Dagalo and al-Burhan are responsible for genocide and war crimes committed in Darfur.”