Climate wars fuelling genocide in Sudan
Welcome to the genocidal energy transition
Not all genocides are created equally, according to the states after their neighbour’s natural resources. While the world watches in horror at the USA-backed Israeli genocide of the Palestinian people—who happen to sit on $500 billion worth of fossil fuels—another genocide is taking place in Sudan, backed by the very country which first went to the UN Security Council to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.
The United Arab Emirates, in exchange for access to Sudan’s gold, gas and ports, has been supporting the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces (RSF) bid for power, supplying the group with arms, holding their bank accounts, and washing conflict goods onto the international financial network.
And which powerful nation decried the situation as the “haunting echoes of the genocide that began almost 20 years ago in Darfur”?
The United States of America, in a statement branded “a political decision” by Human Rights Watch.
Over 12,000 people have been killed in Darfur since April 2023, and 5.8 million displaced, at the hands of the RSF, led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemetti). Human Rights Watch claim the UAE’s involvement is an open secret, with “senior diplomats raising the issue” with the Gulf state.
“It’s a problem,” said Nicole Widdersheim, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch. “We have asked the U.S. administration, as a security council member, to push for the full implementation of the arms embargo that's been in place on Darfur since the first Darfur genocide.
“We're not clear that the security council was doing everything they could to push for that enforcement and then sanction those that were violating it. The UAE has been on the council this whole last year, so it was almost a political non-starter, which is the hypocrisy of the council.”
RSF now controls more than half of Sudan, and civil society groups warn the UAE plans to exploit the vastly underutilised reserves of gold, other minerals, and Liquified Natural Gas off the Sudanese coast. Through its proxy forces, the UAE has also seized control of two ports on the Red Sea in an area critical to the movement of goods around the world, as evidenced by the United States and United Kingdom’s full-throated attack on Yemen in January. Port Sudan and its Qatari-funded LNG terminal is the last major stronghold of the the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF).
Not only is the Red Sea a strategic passage, accounting for 12% of the world’s shipping traffic, the Sudanese coast is the entry-point for East African fossil fuels to the rest of the world. Yet, while the region is known for its vast reserves, it is equally lacking in processing and refining capacity for both oil and LNG. The UEA is in the planning stage of building a third port on the Sudanese coast, complete with a massive LNG processing facility, ensuring its control over East Africa’s supply to shore up capital and bargaining power in an increasingly unstable world.
“The party's coming to an end,” said Jason Wojciechowski, a Senior Media Fellow at the Center for Impact Communications. “Whether the party's coming to an end because of climate change or just because of running out of resources, there's a mad dash. Strongly dependent fossil fuel countries like Brazil, UAE, Saudi Arabia, they need capital now to put them in a position to transition.”
Welcome to the genocidal energy transition.
The RSF, Favoured by Autocrats
The RSF’s violence began in April 2023, but the group’s roots were created in the genocide mandated by Sudan’s former dictator, Omar Bashir. Losing his grip on power, Bashir empowered groups of militias to kill non-Arab citizens in the Darfur region. One of these militias, Janjaweed, which loosely translates to “terror on horseback” committed genocide against the ethnically African people in Darfur. The international community was in uproar, with major celebrities getting involved in the Save Darfur campaign. But, gradually, the world forgot, and Bashir was only ousted in a coup d’état in 2019 after months of civilian uprising. He was removed from his post by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), the official military of Sudan, who, for the first time in history, were working with the Rapid Support Forces, which had grown out of the Janjaweed.
The RSF and SAF collaboration was due to the children of the RSF fighters, who placed their bodies on the line with the civilian protestors. Unwilling to harm their own children, the RSF agreed to collaborate with the SAF. After Bashir’s removal, it seemed Sudan was on the cusp of peace, given the peace between the two armed groups. However, the military leaders decided to collaborate against the civilians and share military junta power. The RSF massacred protestors. Finally, though, the military leaders turned on one another, exploding the country into endless cycles of violence and conflict, culminating in the outbreak of war in spring 2023.
The UAE had already developed a relationship with the RSF, having hired the mercenaries to fight during the Saudi-Emirati war in Yemen, which enriched the militia group with finances and power. A 2019 report by Global Witness found the UAE was funding the RSF and holding bank accounts for them, giving them access to the global financial markets.
The war in Yemen also introduced the RSF to the Wagner Group, Russia’s mercenary army. This relationships stands in the wings of the international stage to this day. RSF leader Hemetti has long enjoyed control of Sudan’s gold mines, which democratic reform would have taken back under national jurisdiction. Having secured his gold in the coup d’état, Hemetti provided Wagner with hard currency to prop up the ruble for a time during the economic sanctions levied on Russia in response to its attack on Ukraine. Leaders of the RSF went to Russia to meet with Putin themselves, but sources say it was the UAE who brokered the deal. The Wagner group has also been arming the RSF for war against the SAF, and last week it was revealed that Ukrainian special forces are combatting the Russian mercenaries on Sudanese soil.
Corruption, Conflict and Coalitions
Part of UAE’s new offering to the global market is washing conflict goods, claims the Center for Impact Communications. Last year, the UAE became the world’s top importer of conflict diamonds, overtaking Belgium. This is partly in response to its political feud with former ally, Saudi Arabia. Saudi ruler, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), seeks to undermine the UAE and position himself as the ruler of the Middle East, and has recently called for international businesses to relocate their regional HQs from Dubai to Riyadh. With the alliance breaking down, the UAE now needs to compete with Saudi Arabia for Western attention by providing attractive services and fossil fuels. ADNOC, the nation’s state-owned fossil fuel company, is planning to increase its fossil fuel production by 7% in just three years—and offset those emissions with 10% of Liberia’s land mass.
Yet, the UAE’s relationship with Russia attracted the wrong kind of Western attention. In retaliation, it was slapped on the ‘grey list’ of the Financial Action Task Force in June 2022, putting its right to access the international banking system under threat. The FATF is an OECD initiative and essentially controls who has access to the global financial markets (Iran and Myanmar are on the ‘black list’). The UAE was told to scuttle off and prepare masses of documentation proving its clean finances. However, sources say the USA stepped in and offered the Gulf state the opportunity to supply a Russian-gas starved Europe with LNG—if it stopped propping up the ruble with hard currency from Sudan. Mere months later, in September 2022, the UAE and Germany signed a deal for LNG. Austria followed suit in October, and France signed a $1 billion deal with the UAE in May 2023.
The UAE’s FATF case was then reviewed after major lobbying and is set to be removed from the grey list next month. However, during proceedings, a Belgium representative dared state the obvious that the Emirati nation had made no progress in cleaning up its financial services. A coalition of EU states and the USA simply ignored these concerns.
It’s not just the political climate which is unstable. These geopolitical shifts are panicked responses to a world that is heating up and running out of resources. Rather than keep the main source of the Earth’s global heating in the ground, the world’s most powerful nations are scrambling to eke out the very last drop of oil before abusing gas reserves. Marketed as a “transition fuel” by those with vested interests, LNG is just another filthy fossil fuel which the USA hopes will continue to guarantee the Dollar hegemony, given its dominance over gas production, export and supply chains. Even Biden’s latest superficial gas U-turn seems to be nothing more than appeasing young voters ahead of the election in September. Powerful nations face a choice: find your own source to keep your skin in the game and continue growing your economy, or depend on the USA. The gas rush reveals nobody wants to be dependent on anyone in this world.
The USA may have overplayed its hand, though, because on January 1 2024, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt and Ethiopia all joined BRICS, the new political bloc with China at its centre. The more OPEC members BRICS attracts, the weaker the USA’s gassed-up grip on the world’s energy supply becomes. Since its illegal invasion of Iraq, the military superpower has preferred to quietly source what it needs through proxy wars. But the longer it backs Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian people, the easier its allies can resist the USA’s might and gain public approval. In November last year, the then-BRICS nations—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—called for an immediate ceasefire, and South Africa has captured the global public’s heart by taking Israel to the international court for war crimes. A line is being drawn in the sand. The United States and its dependent allies—gas-starved Europe—are on the wrong side.
But some on the side of the oppressed in Palestine are also those guilty of war crimes elsewhere, from Indonesia’s genocide of West Papuans to the UAE-backed genocide in Darfur. These crimes against humanity are often touted as rooted in ideological differences, but the boon of natural resources is always in the fine print. Sudan is an untapped source of fossil fuels with substantial reserves of gold, copper and uranium, all necessary for the “green” energy transition. It also boasts huge stretches of fertile land and abundant water resources, immensely valuable as traditional food supply chains come under stress. A report by the Center for Impact Communications suggested the UAE wants to exploit these resources to position itself as a “major player in the global food market, consolidating its economic power and influence”.
Sadly, these ruthless geopolitical moves are also playing out on the ground with the RSF, typically made up of Arab herders, targeting the African agriculturalists who prevented the desertification of Darfur. Global heating, due to the burning of fossil fuels and abuse of the earth’s resources, almost turned the fertile lands of Darfur into sand. The indigenous peoples saved it—only to be wiped out by a group that desired that land for itself.
This violence is backed by Emirati money and Emirati-sourced arms smuggled into Darfur, despite the arms embargo. The UAE’s involvement is a widely discussed “open secret”, yet Blinken’s atrocity determination failed to mention the Gulf state. The US Secretary of State also did not call a press conference. Civil Society groups say this was to avoid comparisons with Gaza—and questions about the arms sale made to the UAE just two days prior.
“It's pretty rare that the U. S. says officially there's ethnic cleansing and war crimes happening in a conflict,” said Wojciechowski. “The Secretary of State would usually announce this at a press conference and make a point, but you can't do that when you're denying ethnic cleansing and war crimes in Palestine.”
The United States has no official framework for atrocity determinations, and as such the State Department can bend the rules depending on the result they desire. However, each determination does kick-start a legal proceeding, some of which, including the last determination about Darfur twenty years ago, can have immense effect. But this time, the determination was delayed. It is understood this was because of the desire to avoid a demand for the same to be done for Gaza.
“That was really frustrating for those that have been advocating for attention and focus on the crimes in Sudan”, said Widdersheim. “They are completely unrelated crises. The Sudan conflict started in April and a lot of the worst crimes we saw were in June, but there's been various acts, including the bombing of civilian infrastructure by the Sudanese Armed Forces, which calls into question how the U. S. views that when other parties do the similar thing.”
When asked about the effectiveness of an atrocity determination which refuses to point fingers at the regime funding genocide Widdersheim said the United States never traces the roots of enablers: “That has not come up in any atrocity or genocide determinations. One of the basic principles of doing atrocity prevention—this is in the US framework and the UN framework for prevention, it goes back to all the lessons learned from Bosnia and Rwanda—you break down perpetrators, targets, and enablers. The U. S. doesn't seem to have used these determinations as a tool to expose who is enabling genocides.
“There's no set process, and they're often—and I believe this from also working inside the U.S. government—they're often a political decision.”
Last week, experts warned the United States, in finding atrocities in Darfur but not Gaza, risks complicity with Israeli war crimes.
The erasure of UAE’s involvement is likely because in that in the very same week Blinken was holding secret talks with UAE leaders to convince them to once again go to war with Yemen. This attempt to stir up the proxy war was likely due to the desire to control the Red Sea, critical to the safe passage of goods, including gas, around the world—the USA and UK practically confirmed this hypothesis by launching missile attacks on Yemen on January 12, after the Iran-backed Houthis launched a series of missiles at shipping vessels. The Houthis claim they are merely following the Geneva Convention on genocide and doing everything in its power to stop Israel and those who back Israeli war crimes.
Meanwhile, in Washington D.C, Biden’s government wants a $95 billion “aid” package to fund confllict in Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. In contrast, amid another nation-wide internet blackout, the UN last week called for $4.1 billion in aid for Sudan where 700,000 children face deadly malnutrition.
Widdersheim says the Biden administration ignored the Human Rights Watch plea to provide a package to Sudan: “We kept telling The Hill, please make a package when you announce this. We provided them with a list of actions again in December and I was feeding them to the administration prior to them announcing the determination. We were disappointed to see nothing concrete mentioned when they made the Sudan determination.”
© Rachel Donald
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