UN experts: Darfur rebel groups make money in Libya

UN experts say rebel groups in Darfur that signed a peace deal with the Sudanese government in 2020 continue to operate in Libya, benefiting from opportunities brought by civil war and a lack of government control in the wealthy North African nation. in oil.

In a report to the UN Security Council circulated on Friday, the panel of experts monitoring sanctions against Sudan stemming from the 2003 Darfur conflict said several sources in the rebel movements said they have no intention of withdrawing completely from Libya because they get most of their funding and supplies, including food and fuel, from commitments there.

One commander was quoted as saying: “We will have one foot in Darfur and one foot in Benghazi,” the main city in eastern Libya, which is the stronghold of forces loyal to military commander Khalifa Hifter.

Libya was plunged into turmoil after a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later assassinated. It then split between rival governments: one in the east, backed by Hifter, and a UN-backed administration in the capital Tripoli, each backed by different militias and foreign powers.

In April 2019, Hifter and his forces, backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive to try to capture Tripoli. His campaign failed after Turkey stepped up its military support for the UN-backed government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.

An October 2020 ceasefire agreement called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Libya and led to agreement on a transitional government in early February 2021. Elections that were supposed to take place on December 24 were delayed.

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The panel of experts said that despite the ceasefire agreement’s call for foreign forces to withdraw, “most Darfurian groups in Libya continued to work under the command of the Libyan National Army,” securing areas and controlling outposts. control.

In exchange for their work, the experts said, the five main Darfur rebel movements that signed the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement were receiving payments and logistical support.

According to several unnamed sources in the movements, the experts said the money and support were agreed upon in meetings between their military commanders and UAE representatives in Libya. “The payments were provided by the United Arab Emirates and channeled to the Libyan National Army movements, which received a portion,” the panel said.

“In recent months with relative peace in Libya and the announcement of elections, there is pressure on the signatory armed groups in Darfur to leave Libya,” the panel said. “Payments to Darfurian groups have been reduced.”

Sudan had been on a fragile path to democracy after a popular uprising forced the military to oust autocratic President Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019. But a military coup in October has plunged the country into agitation.

The Juba Peace Agreement was seen as a breakthrough in the conflict in the vast western Darfur region that began when ethnic Africans rose in revolt, accusing the Arab-dominated Sudanese government of discrimination. The Khartoum government was accused of retaliating by arming local nomadic Arab tribes and unleashing them on the civilian population, a charge it denies.

The experts said that the UAE saw the Juba agreement as the basis for a successful transition and recommended that Darfur movements join the government. They said the United Arab Emirates argued that it did not fund or arm the movements, instead focusing on health and education efforts, as well as helping Sudan and other countries in the region control their borders.

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At a meeting in November, the panel said, the UAE responded to allegations of possible financial or military support for Darfur forces in both Sudan and Libya by referring to “your country’s moderate position and fight against extremism.” and hate speech.

A major Darfur rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army-Movement, led by Abdel-Wahid Nour, has refused to sign the Juba agreement and rejected the original military-civilian transitional government formed after al-Bashir’s ouster. .

Experts said the rebel group also has a presence in Libya and continues to use revenue from the Torroye gold mine in its stronghold at Jebel Marra and a gold mine near Danaya in southern Darfur “to strengthen its capacity.”

The panel said it received information that authorities in the United Arab Emirates had seized gold linked to one of the Darfurian movements and is seeking additional information.

It also reported that violations of the arms embargo against Sudan continued with the transfer of arms and other military material to Darfur.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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