Almost a year after supporting coup in Sudan, fearsome paramilitary leader Mohamad Hamdan Dagalo is trying to sell himself as a useful partner to pro-democracy groups that have regularly opposed the country’s military rule for months, his critics and some analysts say.
In recent weeks, Dagalo – aka Hemeti – has declared the October 25, 2021 coup a failure due to ongoing protests and a faltering economy, while promoting report efforts to reduce violence in Sudan’s neglected peripheries.
“Hemeti knows that the military coup has failed… that is why he now declares that he will support the people of Sudan. But all he wants is power in the next government,” said Sammer Hamza, a 25-year-old pro-democracy activist.
Hemeti is seen by many as a shrewd and calculating figure after turning down his former sponsor and former President of Sudan. Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. He eventually became the second-in-command of the top army General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, his partner in the coup.
Now after months of being broken pro-democracy protestersRSF leadership is backing efforts to form a civilian government to ensure universal and international legitimacy while strengthening its position through al-Burhan, according to activists and analysts .
Compete for friends
In 2013, the RSF was formed from a tribal militia that led mass killings in the western province of Darfur. Al-Bashir feared he might be overthrown by his own military or intelligence units, so he incorporated Hemeti and his men into the army in exchange for loyalty and protection.
The move has baffled senior officers of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), who see the RSF as a threat to their legitimacy. Al-Burhan and Hemeti are currently competing to be Sudan’s top security chief.
Since the coup, al-Burhan has bent my back about members from al-Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) – part of the Islamic movement in Sudan – in favor of politics.
Many figures from this movement despise Hemeti for what they say is betraying his former ally.
Pressed into a corner, the RSF leader is now trying to garner support from pro-democracy factions to protect his political future.
“We affirm our will for the revolutionary forces to agree to form an all-civilian government to fulfill the tasks of the transition period, in a way that will lay the groundwork for change.” true democracy,” he wrote on Twitter on September 16.
Kholood Khair, founder of Khartoum-based Confluence Advisory, said that while the pro-democracy movement was generally opposed to Hemeti, some elite politicians saw him as instrumental in isolating al -Burhan and his constituency are composed of NCP officials.
“Problem with selection [Hemeti] end [al-Burhan] … You are potentially fueling a confrontation between the two,” she told Al Jazeera. “It doesn’t make sense to turn one against the other, as it only means that one side will win, not that both will be nullified.”
Other politicians believe that RSF needs to be incorporated, otherwise the group could be a key agent for any new transition.
“We need all the armed groups on board. This is the lowest cost for us, otherwise it would be very high,” said Ammar Hammoda, spokesman for the Force for Freedom and Change of Command Center (FFC-CC), a loose coalition. of the political parties and the main one of Sudan, said. opposing blocks.
Security sector reform
The FFC-CC supports a new transitional draft constitution that calls for a civilian prime minister to command the security forces and oversee security sector reform, a key need of the pro-democracy movement.
Real reform requires that the RSF – and other armed groups – be partially disarmed and demobilized, then enlisted in the army, which would in theory strip them of political and financial power. Hemeti.
However, previous context shows that armed groups joining the military still possess lucrative property and territory and maintain their command and control structures.
One such case is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where members of a rebel faction joined the armed forces after the end of a civil war in 2003 before forming the M23 uprising against the state. in 2012.
Jonas Horner, a Sudan expert and former researcher with the International Crisis Group, said Hemeti still faces a difficult choice.
“By refusing to admit the RSF into the SAF, Hemeti made the paramilitary RSF a secondary partner in the military and politics, even as he gave up his more personal ambitions if he did,” says Horner. join his forces in the SAF.
Al Jazeera attempted to contact RSF spokesman Osman Mohamad Hamid for comment, but he had not responded at the time of publication.
Hemeti is rumored to be port eager to run in any of the last elections since coming to power in 2019. Fueling those doubts is the campaign he has launched to restore his reputation and improve his image.
“The most important thing for Hemeti is for his RSF to be seen as legitimate, rather than seen as a militia,” Hammouda said.
The campaign saw RSF co-operate with aid groups, finance human rights activists and hires lobbyists with influence in the United States. Most recently, Hemeti fabricate for a picture with children, claiming to be a fight for children’s rights, even though report that his own forces had recruited teenagers to fight on behalf of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
“Hemeti is definitely trying to clean up his image,” Khair said.
Hemeti’s efforts have not changed the views of Sudan’s resistance committees, neighborhood groups that have raised hopes for democracy by coordinating nationwide protests since the coup. main. They are calling on both Hemeti and al-Burhan to face justice for killing at least 117 anti-coup protesters.
For them, any convenient combination with Hemeti would be a terrible mistake that would allow him to consolidate power later.
Pro-democracy activist Hamza told Al Jazeera: “The resistance committees know that Hemeti is in the dark and he just wants to be part of the next government so as not to lose legitimacy. “But given the opportunity, he or al-Burhan will launch another coup.”