Sudan’s military rulers sought a refund on their US$6-million payment to a Canadian lobbyist after the two sides quarrelled over the massacre of more than 100 pro-democracy protesters last month, the lobbyist says.
Ari Ben-Menashe, president of Dickens & Madson (Canada) Inc., says the regime wanted its money back after he criticized it for its deadly assault on a Khartoum protest camp on June 3 – less than a month after he signed a US$6-million contract hiring him to seek money and support for the regime and its military forces.
His comments indicate turmoil in the highest ranks of Sudan’s new military council as it feuds over tactics in its months-long clash with protesters. While moderates have been willing to share power with the protesters in a long-term transition to civilian rule since the military coup, hard-line forces have repeatedly used gunfire and tear gas in an attempt to crush the protest movement.
His version of tensions between himself and the regime is difficult to corroborate, and the regime has rarely given interviews, but it is similar to reports that were circulating in Khartoum last week.
Mr. Ben-Menashe says the military regime is blaming “rogue soldiers” for the massacre last month. The existence of rogue elements in the military casts doubt on the tentative agreement that was reached between the protesters and the regime in negotiations last week, while many opposition activists are already skeptical of the regime’s promises.
Despite the regime’s demands for repayment on the lobbying contract, the dispute was eventually settled and Mr. Ben-Menashe said his contract with the regime is still in place.
Mr. Ben-Menashe, a former Israeli intelligence officer who has lobbied in the past for the Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar and the ousted Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, has promised to obtain favourable media coverage for Sudan’s military regime as part of the contract.
The Canadian government, responding to reports in The Globe and Mail last month, has asked the RCMP to investigate Mr. Ben-Menashe for possible violations of Canadian sanctions on Sudan, which prohibit Canadian companies from facilitating the sale of most kinds of weapons to Sudan.
But the Montreal-based lobbyist insists that he is merely working for a transition to civilian rule in Sudan. “Let them investigate whatever they want to investigate,” Mr. Ben-Menashe told The Globe in a telephone interview from Khartoum this week. “We did not break the law.”
While he would not comment on reports that the regime confiscated his passport and refused to let him leave Sudan during the dispute over the June 3 massacre, he said he is free to leave the country now.
He said the massacre led to a “real fight” between him and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, the deputy leader of the Transitional Military Council that seized power in an April coup.
Gen. Dagalo, who signed the Canadian lobbying contract on behalf of the military council, “went crazy” as a result of their argument, he said.
“I really was genuinely mad at him,” Mr. Ben-Menashe said. “He is surrounded by some very hot heads. I had to give him the benefit of the doubt too because he is a cool guy. He is not a bad guy. … He sort of got off the rails for a while.”
Gen. Dagalo is the commander of the Rapid Support Forces, a heavily armed paramilitary militia that led the massacre of pro-democracy protesters in Khartoum on June 3.
Mr. Ben-Menashe said the general told him that the massacre of protesters on June 3 was committed by “rogue soldiers” rather than the military itself. “I said, ‘Why did you have to even bother with the crowd? Just leave them.’ ”
The Sudanese embassy in Ottawa did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on Mr. Ben-Menashe’s activities in Sudan, his contract with the military council and his allegations about Gen. Dagalo.
The contract between the lobbyist and Gen. Dagalo also calls for efforts to create a partnership between Sudan’s military council and a Libyan militia faction that has led a fierce offensive against the government in Tripoli. More than 1,000 people have died in fighting since that campaign offensive began in April, according to report by the World Health Organization on Tuesday. Last week more than 50 people were killed when a migrant detention centre was bombed, an attack widely blamed on Mr. Haftar’s forces.
Under the terms of the contract, Mr. Ben-Menashe will “strive to obtain funding” for the Sudan regime “from the Eastern Libyan Military Command” in exchange for Sudan’s military help to the Libyan National Army.
As recently as last year, Mr. Ben-Menashe was a lobbyist for the government in eastern Libya, which includes the Libyan National Army, headed by Mr. Haftar. He has also represented Mr. Haftar directly in the past.
Asked if he has any regrets about working for Mr. Haftar previously, Mr. Ben-Menashe said he had none until the warlord’s forces began laying siege to Tripoli this year.
“Honestly, before he entered Tripoli, no,” he said. “He was a strong man that brought some order in the east.”
Mr. Ben-Menashe said he continues to work in Libya for “Western interests,” which he declined to identify.
Amnesty International, in a letter to the federal government last week, warned that Mr. Ben-Menashe’s attempt to build a partnership between the Sudan military and the Libyan militia could be a violation of Canadian sanctions and could deepen the human-rights crises in both countries.
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