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Relatives of Darfur militia leader call for his release

August 23 - 2019 KHARTOUM
Vigil in Khartoum calling for the release of janjaweed leader Musa Hilal, August 22, 2019 (social media)
Vigil in Khartoum calling for the release of janjaweed leader Musa Hilal, August 22, 2019 (social media)

Relatives of former Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal organised a vigil in front of the office of the Sudanese Professionals Association in Khartoum on Thursday, demanding his release. The Revolutionary Awakening Council also called for the release of Hilal and hundreds of his affiliates arrested on November 26, 2017.

Amani Musa told reporters at the vigil that her father and a number of her relatives are being held for more than a year and a half. Their families have not been allowed to communicate with them.

She said her father was detained because of his opposition to the former regime. “He should have been released, like the rest of the political detainees, after Al Bashir was deposed.

Among the detainees are several of her brothers who have nothing to do with politics, she noted, including a student at the Garden City College.

Hilal’s relatives have repeatedly contacted Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’, Chief commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Deputy Head of the junta that deposed President Omar Al Bashir in a military coup on April 11, member of the recently established Sovereign Council. “To no avail,” Musa said.

She added that “certain entities” asked them not to resort to the media as this “could complicate the issues of the detainees”.

Last Saturday, East Darfuris in Khartoum organised a demonstration demanding the release of Musa Hilal.


In 2017, after years of close cooperation, Musa Hilal had become a thorn in the side of Khartoum.

The relationship between Hilal and Khartoum began in 2003. After Darfuri rebels took up arms against the government in February that year, Khartoum assigned Hilal, chief of the Arab Mahameed clan in North Darfur, as recruiter of militant Arab pastoralists (popularly called janjaweed) in Darfur.

With the full backing of the government, his militiamen targeted unarmed African Darfuri villagers, but they rarely came near forces of the rebel movements. In 2006, the UN Security Council imposed financial and travel sanctions on Hilal.

Hilal’s stance towards the ruling regime changed over the years. Mid 2013, he returned from Khartoum to his base in North Darfur, where his fighters, mainly members of the paramilitary Border Guards, launched widespread attacks on government forces and allied militias.

In March 2014, he established the Revolutionary Awakening Council (RAC), consisting of native administration leaders and militants from various tribes in north-western Darfur, who profited from vast gold sales in Darfur, according to a UN Security Council report in April 2016.

When the Sudanese government announced a nationwide disarmament campaign in July 2017, the RAC and Border Guards opposed the measures. On November 26, a large force of RSF militiamen raided the stronghold of Hilal in North Darfur, arrested him and his entourage, and transferred them to Khartoum. Hilal’s trial began, secretly, on April 30, 2018.

Hundreds of followers detained

In a statement on Thursday, the RAC repeated its call for the release of all political prisoners and detainees in the country.

According to the council's spokesman, Ahmed Mohamed Abakar, hundreds of affiliates of Hilal are being held as well since November 26, 2017. “Until now, their relatives do not know where they are detained. They have not been allowed to visit or contact them,” he told Radio Dabanga in an interview on Thursday.

According to the RAC spokesman, Hilal and his men are held in “secret detention centres of the former regime”. He noted that this way of keeping people detained is violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners, and called on “the UN Human Rights Council and other relevant organisations to intervene and visit these ghost houses to assess the human rights situation closely and take the required measures”.

Abakar further explained that the RAC has submitted several memoranda letters to “our partners”, the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), demanding “the release of all prisoners of war and political prisoners tried under the former regime”.

He said they were disappointed by the FFC’s “negative role” concerning “the national concern about the fate of prisoners and detainees. “The position of FFC is contradicting the Declaration of Freedom and Change itself.”

He emphasised “the support of the RAC for all genuine national initiatives that seek to release its founder and head, Sheikh Musa Hilal, and all leaders and affiliates of the RAC, as well as for all international efforts to help restore human rights in Sudan”.


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