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Sudan releases former janjaweed leader Musa Hilal

March 12 - 2021 KHARTOUM
Former janjaweed leader and head of the RAC Musa Hilal (Hamid Abdulsalam / UNAMID)
Former janjaweed leader and head of the RAC Musa Hilal (Hamid Abdulsalam / UNAMID)

Musa Hilal, the former janjaweed leader and head of the Revolutionary Awakening Council (RAC)* was released by Sudanese authorities on Wednesday following more than three years in detention.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Amani Musa Hilal announced in a press statement that the military court cancelled all the restricted cases against her father. The authorities released a number of Musa Hilal’s sons and members of the RAC, while others remain in detention.

A large number of supporters and relatives gathered in front of Hilal’s home in the Maamoura district in Khartoum to receive him, expressing their joy at his release.

The RAC made a statement welcoming the release of Hilal and his companions, and renewed the demand for the release of the remaining prisoners and detainees.

* 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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