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Sudan militia commander waits in wings after Bashir’s ouster

Sudan militia commander waits in wings after Bashir’s ouster

Reuters
KHARTOUM
When Omar Hassan al-Bashir wanted protection from rivals during his long rule as president of Sudan, he turned to Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, a commander of widely feared Arab militias.
General Dagalo, who goes by the nickname Hemedti, could soon become the most powerful man in Sudan himself following the military coup that ousted his old ally on April 11, Western diplomats and opponents say.
Hemedti has played down his political ambitions. But as deputy head of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) set up by the military to run Sudan for up to two years until elections, he has become the second most powerful man in the country.
The Western envoys and opposition figures, who spoke to Reuters on condition on anonymity, say Hemedti is hungry for more power, and that he helped force out Bashir after 30 years in office because he has set his sights on the presidency.
“Hemedti planned on becoming the number one man in Sudan. He has unlimited ambition,” said an opposition figure who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.
With the TMC under pressure from the opposition and protesters to hand power to civilians swiftly, Hemedti and other generals risk being sidelined soon. In his new role, Hemedti has been meeting Western ambassadors and is already well placed to influence events from his office in the presidential palace in the capital Khartoum. The RSF are deployed across the city and he is backed by Gulf Arab states that have pledged billions of dollars to support Sudan since the coup. His rise is a concern for many of the protesters who helped bring down Bashir and are now blocking the Defence Ministry and some surrounding roads as they press demands for a quick transition to civilian rule.
Militias he commanded were accused by human rights groups of genocide during the war than began in Darfur in 2003, allegations that Bashir’s government denied.
Hemedti and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) he now commands did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in a speech to army officers on Monday, he said: “I personally... don’t want to be vice-president. I... don’t want an inch more than the Rapid Support Forces.” He said the priority was to defend Sudan and reach agreement with the people of Sudan on how the country should be run. But he added: “We won’t allow chaos.”
Protesters have expressed fears that Sudan is going the same way as Egypt did after the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. One of their chants has been “either victory or Egypt”.
Egypt’s armed forces chief effectively brushed Mubarak aside when it became clear security forces could not contain street protests against the veteran leader. Two years later, army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi led the overthrow of Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohamed Mursi.

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