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Darfur: Cannabis Cover For Counterinsurgency?

Is the region resorting to a tried-and-true tactic?

Bill Weinberg

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Darfur: Cannabis Cover For Counterinsurgency?

Sudan’s conflicted western region of Darfur has receded from the headlines since the wave of global concern about the genocide there a decade ago. But horrific violence in the stark desert region continues—and there are signs that Sudan’s regime is resorting to the tried-and-true tactic of using drug enforcement as a rationale for counterinsurgency.

AFP reports that Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), usually used to fight rebels in the country’s conflict areas, are now boasting a massive hashish haul of 19 metric tons in the state of South Darfur.

RSF commanders said their troops seized two vehicles loaded with hashish after a gun-battle with smugglers on October 31. Security forces displayed tons of seized hashish to reporters at an RSF camp in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. Dozens of blue plastic sacks full of hash were shown, with some bricks of the stuff spread out on a carpet.

“[O]ur troops clashed with a gang of smugglers when we ambushed them,” RSF spokesperson Abdulrahman al-Jaali told reporters. “We captured their chief… and seized two vehicles loaded with 19 tons of hashish.”

“This hashish is usually grown in South Sudan and also comes from Ethiopia, and these days it is also grown in Radoum [in South Darfur],” added police General Hashim Ali at the press conference (seeming not to know what hashish is).

The RSF is meanwhile carrying out what is euphemistically being called a “disarmament campaign” in Darfur, forcibly seizing weapons from remnant rebel forces. This is also ooccasioning clashes.

Most recently, an RSF unit got into a fire-fight that left several dead on November 10 in North Darfur with rebels of the Sudan Army Movement-Revolutionary Forces (SAM-RF).

The RSF is, itself, a rebranded version of the Janjaweed—the militia network that was accused in the Darfur genocide. The Janjaweed militias were consolidated and brought under formal government control as the RSF in 2013. The RSF is being deployed to combat illegal immigration as well as hashish and arms trafficking. RSF units have recently been accused of abuses against migrants captured while making their way across the Sahara toward the Mediterranean.

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