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UN Report Reveals Sudan Militia Funds War with Gold Riches

Sudan's Rapid Support Forces (RSF) Allegedly Funding Conflict Through Gold Mining

by Ikeoluwa Ogungbangbe

In a comprehensive UN report, it has been disclosed that Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are using substantial proceeds generated from gold mining to finance their devastating war against the nation’s army. Additionally, the report alleges the United Arab Emirates (UAE) involvement in supplying the RSF via neighboring Chad, a claim vehemently denied by the Gulf nation. The report further suggests that violence perpetrated by the RSF and allied militias may have resulted in the deaths of up to 15,000 individuals in a single city within the Darfur region in 2023 — a staggering figure that surpasses the UN’s previous estimate for the entire nine-month conflict.

The panel of experts behind this report, which Bloomberg News has exclusively obtained but has not yet been officially released, offers one of the most detailed accounts to date of the RSF’s activities. The RSF, a paramilitary group, and Sudan’s national army turned against each other in April, triggering a severe refugee crisis and pushing the country perilously close to famine.

At the time of this report’s release, an RSF spokesperson had not provided any immediate response to inquiries. On the other hand, the UAE’s foreign ministry issued a statement asserting that it was not supplying arms or ammunition to any of the warring parties in Sudan and remained neutral in the ongoing conflict.

The UAE emphasized its firm commitment to adhering to UN resolutions and complying with the UN sanctions regime concerning Sudan. It further extended an invitation to UN experts to visit Amdjarass, a city in Chad where the UAE had established a field hospital aimed at providing vital assistance to civilians. The UAE reiterated its consistent calls for de-escalation and a permanent ceasefire.

The RSF, with roots tracing back to the janjaweed militias that Sudan’s government had mobilized to quash a rebellion in Darfur in the early 2000s, has benefited from an intricate network of financing and new military supply routes extending through eastern Chad, Libya, and South Sudan. The UN experts’ findings indicate that the RSF now exerts control over most of Darfur, a region in western Sudan roughly equivalent in size to France.

Prior to and during the conflict, the RSF established financial networks that facilitated the acquisition of weapons, funding for media campaigns, salary disbursements, and support from political and armed groups. Notably, the RSF has long held sway over Sudan’s gold trade, and despite production setbacks due to the ongoing war, gold remains a source of revenue for both conflicting sides.

The report cites an example of a Sudanese gold trader in Dubai connected to the RSF who received a consignment of 50 kilograms of gold in May, marking the first such shipment since the conflict’s eruption. The RSF reportedly continues to exploit gold concessions in Darfur.

As of July onwards, the RSF deployed a range of heavy and sophisticated weaponry, including drones, howitzers, multiple-rocket launchers, and anti-aircraft weapons such as MANPADS. This influx of advanced firepower significantly altered the balance of power in both Darfur and across the country.

During their advances, the RSF and affiliated militias targeted internally-displaced people, civilian neighborhoods, medical facilities, and perpetrated sexual violence against girls and women, as highlighted in the report.

The UN experts estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 people lost their lives in El-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, during the conflict. The UN’s most recent publicly disclosed death toll for the entire war stands at approximately 12,000.

International attempts to mediate an end to the conflict have faced considerable obstacles, including entrenched positions of the warring parties, multiple mediation initiatives, and competing regional interests, according to the report.

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