Russia’s Wagner Group precipitated Sudan’s destructive civil war by assisting both the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of Sudanese General Mohammed Dagalo aka “Hemeti” and General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the military commander of Sudan’s Armed Forces (SAF). Both did business with Yevgeny Prigozhin, Wagner’s head and confidant of Vladimir Putin, who expanded his wealth and power by providing them with arms in exchange for lucrative mining concessions.
When Hemeti and I met at his home six months ago over a meal of roast camel, he was transparent that the RSF had provided gold to Wagner in exchange for weapons and military training. He claimed to have discontinued the RSF’s joint venture with Wagner, but recent events suggest that tying off Wagner is easier said than done.
rigozhin’s business model involves playing one military faction against the other. Wagner has ties with the SAA going back to 2017 when Omar al-Bashir was Sudan’s President. Bashir signed a series of deals with the Russian government, which included “concession agreements on gold mining between Russian company M Invest and the Sudanese Ministry of Minerals”. The agreements also enshrined security cooperation, providing terms for Russia to set up a coveted warm water naval base at Port Sudan on the Red Sea.
After Bashir was overthrown in 2019, Wagner continued to collaborate with both Hemeti and Burhan. It worked most closely with Hemeti who served as its proxy for mining for gold, exploring for uranium, and supplying mercenaries to the restive region of Darfur. Its military assistance included armored vehicles, surface-to-air missiles, artillery, and mortars, drawn from Wagner stocks in the Central African Republic (CAR).
Sudanese gold mined in Hemeti’s home region of East Darfur was transported through the CAR, where exports are unrecorded in Sudanese official trade data. From there, the gold was moved to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Russian and UAE officials worked together hand-in-glove.
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