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North Darfur vigil calls for release of Musa Hilal

October 28 - 2020 EL FASHER
Vigil in El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, calling for the release of Musa Hilal and his entourage (Social media)
Vigil in El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, calling for the release of Musa Hilal and his entourage (Social media)

On Tuesday, relatives of detained former janjaweed leader Musa Hilal and his followers organised a protest vigil in front of the North Darfur secretariat in the state capital El Fasher.

They called for the immediate release of Hilal, leader of the Mahameed clan and all other clan members detained in the second half of 2017, following their refusal to respond to a large disarmament campaign launched by Khartoum.

They denounced the “systematic targeting of Hilal and his followers”, pointing to the recent arrest of Ali Majok, a leader member of the Revolutionary Awakening Council (RAC) established by Hilal in North Darfur in 2014.

In a memorandum handed to the North Darfur government secretary general, the protestors urged the president of the Sovereign Council, the prime minister, the chief justice, the attorney general, the Darfur Bar Association and the Forces for Freedom and Change to intervene for the release Hilal and his affiliates, and stop the arbitrary arrests of Mahameed tribesmen.

They further appeal to the UN Security Council, the African Union, the Arab League and human rights organisations “to play their role and stop the abuses against Sheikh Musa Hilal and his companions”.

The North Darfur government secretary general called on the Mahameed not to involve in politics. He further praised their commitment to peaceful protesting.

* Musa Hilal was held, together with a number of his relatives and followers, in a raid on his stronghold in Misteriya, North Darfur, in November 2017. He was immediately transferred to a prison in Khartoum. His trial secretly began on April 30, 2018.

Hilal is held responsible for numerous atrocities committed in Darfur against civilians after the conflict erupted in 2003. With full government backing, his militiamen, popularly called janjaweed, targeted villages of African Darfuris. They rarely came near forces of the rebel movements.

In 2008, the militia leader was appointed as Presidential Assistant for Federal Affairs. Six years later however, he announced his defection from the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), returned to Darfur and established the RAC.

The RAC consists of Hilal’s militiamen and a number of North Darfur native administration leaders. RAC commanders took control of the Jebel Amer gold mining area in July 2015. According to a UN Security Council report in April 2016, Hilal and his entourage were profiting from vast gold sales in Darfur.

Sources claim that Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’, Commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, was behind the arrest of Hilal in 2017, and took over the operation of the mines.

The Darfur Bar Association (DBA) said in April this year that the current government no longer has legal grounds to keep Hilal and his men detained.

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