The Sudanese government has reconstituted the Janjaweed militias that terrorised the Darfur region from 2003 to 2005. "It has made them an official, uniformed force – named the Rapid Support Forces – that has recently burned down houses and attacked civilians," according to a report prepared by the activist group the Enough Project.
“After spending years trying to distance themselves from these forces of terror [the Janjaweed, ed.], the Sudanese regime is not even bothering to deny their association with these war criminals any more,” the report, titled 'Janjaweed Reincarnate', stated. The Enough Project has researched and traced the movements of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) across Sudan for nine months, and published its findings this week.
Attacks on non-Arabs
The report describes how Khartoum requested militia commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, known as 'Hemeti', to recruit a new force of 6,000 men, mostly Darfuris. “Hemeti was promoted to brigadier general in exchange. He named many original Janjaweed commanders as officers in the government RSF.”
At the height of the violence in Darfur from 2003 to 2005, Janjaweed fighters were the primary perpetrators of brutal attacks on non-Arab civilians, particularly those from the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa communities. The International Criminal Court (ICC) traced these attacks to the highest levels of Sudan’s government, eventually issuing an arrest warrant indicting President Omar Al Bashir for genocide. The UN Security Council mandated that the Sudanese government disarmed its Janjaweed militias, who earned global infamy as 'devils on horseback', a decade ago.
The report, written by Akshaya Kumar and Omer Ismail and published this week, compared the new paramilitary RSF with the Janjaweed: “These forces are better equipped, are officially integrated under the state's security apparatus, have legal immunity, and are deployed throughout Sudan.”
'Janjaweed enhanced in RSF'
What is new, is that the RSF carries the symbols of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) accordingly, and holds press conferences at Sudan's headquarters. The NISS maintains a Facebook page that showcases the group's activities. And the government's fact sheet about the force states that its “operations are fully controlled and governed by military laws and regulations”.
Atrocities in South Kordofan, Darfur
In September 2013, the government RSF, installed to fight the rebel movements in Sudan, was involved in the violent crackdown of mass demonstrations in Khartoum, the report stated.
Then in February 2014, after their first round of fighting in South Kordofan, the units retreated north to El Obeid to collect their payment. “They committed gross human rights abuses, looting, and sexual violence in El Obeid.” Later that month, the units moved to South Darfur and burned 38 villages south east of the state capital Nyala. Afterwards, the RSF moved to North Darfur, where they destroyed villages and camps in Kutum locality.
The satellite imagery obtained by the Satellite Sentinel Project shows hundreds of damaged huts in each affected area, confirming earlier witness reports about the attacks by Radio Dabanga. The ICC Prosecutor’s June 2014 report to the Security Council listed these “alleged grave attacks by the RSF” in East Jebel Marra, Kutum, Mellit, Nyala, El Fasher, and Tawila.
“In April this year, the units returned to South Kordofan, and began to target civilians […] They caused the almost immediate displacement of 70,000 civilians from the Nuba Mountains.”
'Do not use the term Janjaweed'
Also in April, Radio Dabanga published a series of interviews with former Unamid spokeswoman, Aicha Elbasri. She reported that “the UN did not tell the world that the Sudanese government failed to disarm the Janjaweed militias; that it, conversely, reintegrated them into paramilitary forces under new names, and let them continue committing their widespread, systematic attacks directed against the civilian population in Darfur.
A Sudanese official has denied the allegations in the new report. “What the ICC and Enough Project are claiming is untrue and uninformed,” Gamal Goraish, deputy chief of mission at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, told the New York Times. “These are very disciplined, organised troops. I won’t comment on the term Janjaweed – we don’t use that term. But I can tell you the ICC and Enough are only giving you part of the story.”
'As for the satellite photographs that showed rings of ash where villages once stood, Goraish said those areas might have been rebel camps,' the news website wrote on Tuesday.
Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. The Satellite Sentinel Project, co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, is a partnership between the Enough Project and Not On Our Watch. SSP uses satellite imagery and forensic investigation to assess the human security situation. It recently announced to expand its work and focus on the economic drivers of mass atrocities and human rights abuses.
ICC demands investigation of Unamid in Darfur (18 June 2014)
‘RSF militias unconstitutional’: Sudan's Umma Party (3 June 2014)
RSF attacks in Ba'ashim, North Darfur (30 March 2014)
Thousands displaced in attack on more than 35 villages in South Darfur (28 February 2014)
$3 million for withdrawal of North Kordofan's Janjaweed (14 February 2014)