By Al Nur al Zaki and Francesca Cicardi
Khartoum/Cairo, Jun 11 (efe-epa).- For years Musa Farah, a tribal leader in the Sudanese region of northern Darfur, has watched as hundreds of young men from his community went to Libya to fight as mercenaries.
Officially there are no Darfurians fighting in the civil war in the neighboring nation but for tribal communities it is an open secret that young fighters can earn roughly $1,000 to take part in the raging conflict there.
Farah says that up until last year volunteers were transported by planes from the Al-Junaynah airport in Darfur under the supervision of soldiers wearing “similar uniforms” to the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a unit commanded by the powerful warlord Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, more commonly known as Hemedti.
Some of the young men undergo military training in Libya, others don’t need it, already hardened by the war in Darfur between 2003-08.
Their families received monthly payments sent from Libya but this year the planes have stopped coming.
In 2000, Hemedti, a Sudanese entrepreneur with roots in Darfur, had a thriving business with networks in a Libyan nation still under the iron-fisted control of Muammar Gaddafi.
He is now the deputy leader of the Transitional Military Council set up in the wake of the coup that deposed strongman Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir in April last year.
The businessman-turned-general acknowledged in an interview with the Sudania24 TV station that he has “strong links with Libyan society” but denied sending his men to fill the ranks of Field Martial Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army, which is at war with the United Nations-backed Tripoli government.
Haftar effectively inherited Gaddafi’s worn-out military.
Hemedti says that those accusing him of sending RSF troops to Libya merely seek to demonize the military unit.
“We have no interest in fighting in Libya,” he insisted during the interview.
In 2017, Al Bashir placed the RSF under his direct command.
The unit started life as an umbrella of Arab tribal militias known as the Janjaweed, which the United States have accused of acts of genocide in the Darfur war.
Since the overthrow of Al Bashir last year, Hemedti’s role in recruiting fighters to be sent to Libya is not clear.