A United Nations panel is investigating whether a Canadian lobbying firm has played a “direct role” in the illegal deployment of about 1,000 Sudanese troops to reinforce a Libyan warlord’s assault on Tripoli.
The Sudanese troops arrived in Libya in July, in defiance of an international arms embargo, according to a new report by the UN Panel of Experts on Libya. It said the troops belonged to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a notorious Sudanese militia that has committed atrocities in Darfur under its former name, the Janjaweed.
The UN panel is trying to find out if the Sudanese troop deployment was linked to a US$6-million contract between Sudan’s former military regime and a Montreal-based lobbying firm, Dickens & Madson (Canada) Inc. The head of the lobbying firm is denying any role in the Sudanese deployment.
The lobbying contract was signed by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the RSF and a senior member of the military regime that seized power in a coup last April. He remains the deputy chairman of Sudan’s ruling sovereignty council today.
Under the terms of the lobbying contract, filed with a U.S. government registry, the Canadian firm would assist Sudan in obtaining funds from Libyan warlord Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in exchange for Sudan providing “military help” to Gen. Haftar’s forces.
The UN panel says it “continues to investigate” whether the firm had a “direct role” in the deployment of the Sudanese RSF forces in Libya.
The Janjaweed has a history of atrocities. In Darfur, its massacres prompted the International Criminal Court to file genocide charges against Sudan’s former dictator, Omar al-Bashir. The Janjaweed’s successor militia, the RSF, killed more than 100 pro-democracy protesters in Khartoum in June this year.
Dickens & Madson is headed by Ari Ben-Menashe, a former Israeli intelligence officer whose company has previously served as a paid lobbyist for Gen. Haftar and for former Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail, he denied any role in the Sudanese deployment in Libya.
“We had nothing to do with it,” Mr. Ben-Menashe said. “We had no role in it.”
Mr. Ben-Menashe said he talked to the UN investigators about two months ago. He said they had “issued a statement” saying that they had no evidence against him, but he was uncertain where the statement could be found. “We had a long session about it. They have all the details.”
The 376-page report by the UN Panel of Experts, submitted to the UN Security Council on Nov. 29, contains no statement clearing the company of wrongdoing. It says the investigators sent a letter to Dickens & Madson and that the company responded.
The UN report includes a copy of the US$6-million lobbying contract, signed by Mr. Ben-Menashe and Gen. Dagalo on May 7 and first disclosed by The Globe in June.
Mr. Ben-Menashe said the contract aimed to integrate RSF forces into “peacekeeping” forces in Africa at some future point after Sudan is removed from U.S. sanctions and the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
But there is no mention of this in the text of the contract. Instead it says the lobbying firm “will strive to obtain funding” for the Sudanese regime from Gen. Haftar, in exchange for Sudan’s “military help to the Libyan National Army” – the name of Gen. Haftar’s militia.
Mr. Ben-Menashe acknowledged that Sudan may have sent troops to Libya. “The Sudanese had troops that were pulled out of Yemen, and possibly some of these troops were sent by the [United Arab Emirates] to Libya,” he said.
The UN panel of experts, however, cites several sources confirming that about 1,000 Sudanese RSF troops were deployed to Libya by their commander, Gen. Dagalo, on July 25.
“The initial plan was that the Sudanese troops would guard critical national infrastructure, thereby freeing up HAF troops [Mr. Haftar’s forces] for offensive operations,” the report said.
It said the Sudanese authorities and Gen. Dagalo are both violating the UN arms embargo of Libya.
Four years before its Sudan contract, Dickens & Madson signed a US$6-million lobbying contract with Gen. Haftar and his Libyan partners, aiming to seek international support for them.
Amnesty International has accused Gen. Haftar’s forces of possible war crimes this year, including “indiscriminate rocket salvos” that killed civilians in Tripoli during their assault on the city.
The Libyan conflict, in a country where civilian authority has collapsed in the aftermath of the 2011 intervention by NATO forces, has now emerged as a magnet for foreign troops. It has drawn in fighters or military assistance from Turkey, Russia and several Middle Eastern and African countries, according to the UN panel and recent media reports. The panel calls it a “proxy conflict.”
In addition to the Sudanese troops, the panel concluded that the UAE, Egypt and Jordan are also providing illegal military help to Gen. Haftar’s forces, while Turkey has been illegally supplying the Tripoli-based government, and Chadian mercenaries have fought for both sides.
“Both parties to the conflict received weapons and military equipment, technical support and non-Libyan fighters in non-compliance with the sanctions measures related to arms,” the report said.
“Jordan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates routinely and sometimes blatantly supplied weapons, employing little effort to disguise the source.”
Most recently, hundreds of Russian mercenaries are widely reported to be helping Gen. Haftar make military gains in Tripoli, although this happened after the period covered by the UN report.
Under the contract between Dickens & Madson and the Sudanese regime, the lobbyist promised to gain favourable media coverage of the regime, to seek funds and equipment for its military and security forces, and to request a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.
In July, the federal government asked the RCMP to investigate whether the lobbying firm had violated Canadian sanctions, which prohibit the provision of arms or related technical assistance to Sudan.
Mr. Ben-Menashe declined to comment on any aspect of the RCMP investigation.