‘Release of Darfur janjaweed leader Musa Hilal imminent’

The family of detained former janjaweed leader Musa Hilal has received no official confirmation, despite unconfirmed reports that he and his sons might be released in the coming days.

Darfur janjaweed leader Musa Hilal following his detention in 2017 (File photo: RD)

The family of detained former janjaweed leader Musa Hilal has received no official confirmation, despite unconfirmed reports that he and his sons might be released in the coming days.

Amani Musa, the daughter of Hilal*, confirmed that officially the family has not received any confirmation regarding the release of her father. In a statement on Friday, Amani said that the family follows the news in the media: “We heard that they were transferred to a new place of detention on Thursday,” she said.

Amani stated that the transitional government, both the civilian and military members, are responsible for the safety and security of her father and his sons. “We will keep advocating for his unconditional release,” she said.

Unconfirmed reports have circulated that there have been efforts to release Hilal in the coming days under certain conditions. However it is feared that Hilal might seek revenge if he is released. Some sources said that the leaders of the Rizeigat tribe have been trying to broker a reconciliation between Hilal and his arch rival, Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’, Deputy Chairman of the Sovereign Council and commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) government militia, to avoid any potential violence.

The head of the Revolutionary Awakening Council (RAC) Musa Hilal and hundreds of his affiliates, including 250 members of the infamous Border Guards militia, were held in Misteriya in North Darfur in November 2017. The RAC and the militia refused to comply with the disarmament of civilians in Darfur and Kordofan, ordered by deposed president Omar Al Bashir. The disarmament campaign was carried out by the RSF.

According to the Darfur Bar Association (DBA) the government no longer has legal grounds to detain Hilal. On April 16, Radio Dabanga reported that the DBA denounced the continued detention of RAC members and their leader. “There is no legal ground for the detention of these people under the transitional government, they must release all those who were detained for political reasons during the Al Bashir regime.”

In a statement last week, the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) expressed its concerns as well about the detention without trial of 250 officers from the Border Guards, including Hilal. “ACJPS urges Sudan’s transitional government to drop the charges and release all detainees. In the event that the charges are not dropped, the authorities must ensure that detainees are promptly brought before an independent and impartial court to stand trial, where they can challenge the legality of their detention,” the centre said.

At the end of last year, the family and supporters of Hilal organised several vigils and demonstrations in the country in protest against the prolonged detention without charges of their leader, his relatives, and his followers.

* 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, after he refused to respond to the government’s disarmament campaign. 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. In that year, he was released from prison by the Sudanese government with the purpose to mobilise Darfuri Arab herders to fight the insurgency in the region. His lawyers argue that resisting the Al Bashir regime can not constitute a crime.

With full government backing, his militiamen, popularly called janjaweed, targeted villages of African Darfuris. They rarely came near forces of the armed rebel movements.

In 2008, the militia leader was appointed as Presidential Assistant for Federal Affairs. In January 2014 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 El Sareif Beni Hussein locality 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.

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