Hemeti visits Eritrea to discuss bilateral relations but also to ‘weave RSF alliances’
ASMARA – March 14, 2023
Lt Gen Mohamed ‘Hemeti’ Dagalo, Commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Deputy Chairman of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council, travelled to Eritrea for an unannounced one-day visit yesterday. The visit has been linked to US-Russian rivalry, internal armed forces tensions, and issues in eastern Sudan.
In the Eritrean capital Asmara, he met with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki to discuss bilateral relations between the two neighbouring countries and other regional and international issues of common concern.
During the unannounced visit, Deputy Chairman gave a detailed explanation to President Afwerki about the current situation in Sudan, especially the progress related to the Framework Agreement that was signed last December, the Sudan News Agency (SUNA) reported yesterday.
‘The visit comes in light of the great rapprochement between Russia and Eritrea’ – Abdelmonim Abu Idris
Journalist and political analyst Abdelmonim Abu Idris told Radio Dabanga that Hemeti’s visit to Asmara fits within a wider framework of regional and international tensions and alliances related to the US-Russian rivalry.
“The visit comes in light of the great rapprochement between Russia and Eritrea, where Russia wants to build a military base in Massawa as expressed by [Russian FA Minister] Lavrov in his recent visit to Africa,” he explained.
“The RSF has regional and international relations separately from the Sudanese government. The visit is therefore also part of the RSF weaving alliances of its own with countries in the region and international powers.”
‘The visit is therefore also part of the RSF weaving alliances of its own with countries in the region and international powers’ – Abdelmonim Abu Idris
It is no secret that RSF leader Hemeti has close ties with Russia, even paying the country a visit shortly after the start of the Ukraine war.
It has also been reported that Russia is heavily involved in Sudan’s gold trade, which has been largely in the hands of the RSF in the past decades, and Russian Wagner Group militias have been spotted around Sudanese gold mines.
The visit was therefore also placed in the context of the RSF pursuing its own political agenda, separately from the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) headed by Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, who is the Chairman of the Sovereignty Council.
According to political analyst Waleed El Nour, the conflict between the Sudanese army and the RSF is not a conflict between military institutions*, but a struggle over power and political influence.
‘These visits take place to develop solutions that may help in the coming period’ – Waleed El Nour
El Nour also added that the visit of Hemeti to Asmara was concerned with exchanging information on the issue of eastern Sudan and the role of Eritrea in solving the crisis in the region, especially the ethnic overlap between Sudan and Eritrea.
“South Sudan and Eritrea have a direct impact on the situation in Sudan, especially eastern Sudan, which is a volatile region and is witnessing sharp polarisations that could affect the entire country. Therefore, these visits take place to develop solutions that may help in the coming period.”
* Officially, the RSF, set up by the ousted Al Bashir regime in 2013, was integrated into the Sudan Armed Forces, as stipulated in the Constitutional Document of August 2019. At the same time, however, the militia commanded by Hemeti stays a force unto itself. The RSF leaders have reportedly built up a vast business empire that captures not only a large part of the country’s gold industry but has huge interests in many sectors of the Sudanese economy as well. Tens of thousands of RSF troops have also joined the Saudi-led campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen since 2015.