Over the past week, protesters held demonstrations near the Emirati embassy in Sudan and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the capital Khartoum, accusing United Arab Emirates of luring young Sudanese jobseekers into the war in Libya and Yemen with false work contracts.
“No to mercenary activities”, “No to charlatanism”, “No to deception” read their banners.
Emirati Company Reportedly Luring Sudanese Fighters To Foreign Wars
Black Shield Security Services Company, an Emirati firm, is said to have hired some 300 Sudanese youth with contracts relating to security guards positions. Young Sudanese said they started seeing job advertisement as early as October last year.
The protests rose after the controversy spread on social media, with family members of the victims calling on their government to take action against the United Arab Emirates, a prominent ally to Sudan, for deceitfully taking their relatives to conflict-torn Libya and Yemen.
One of the recruits who returned to Sudan told Sudania 24 TV about how he was taken to a military training camp upon his very arrival to the Emirates, where he said he went through manipulation and psychological preparation ahead of being taken to Libya or Yemen.
‘They Offered Him A Large Sum Of Money’
Following the protests, on Tuesday, January 28, the United Arab Emirates repatriated 50 Sudanese Black Shield had hired, but many remain in the United Arab Emirates while other were said to have been taken to Libya already.
“My brother told me that he was trained in the U.A.E. to handle heavy weapons, and he was given the option to either go to Yemen or Libya after they offered him a large sum of money,” Abdullah al-Tayeb Yusuf told Al Jazeera in another case.
But other jobseekers, who initially applied for jobs relating to security guard positions in the Emirates, said they weren’t even asked to choose between the two war-ravaged countries where the Emirati presence is all the more patent.
Family members also said their relatives were not aware of where they would subsequently serve until last minute.
Black Shield Denies All Reports Of Wrongdoing
Black Shield Security Services Company denied all allegations of “deception and misleading” its recruits.
Wakeep—a Sudanese blog—posted on social media pictures of the alleged contracts, with stamps it said were issues by both the Sudanese embassy in the Arab United Emirates and the U.A.E. embassy in Khartoum. Wakeep also claimed that many recruits were sent to Al-Ghayathi military camp in the desert after the company confiscated their phones.
Other reports claimed recruits were taken to oil refineries in zones control by Haftar’s forces in Libya, such as the Ras Lanuf oil terminal, which is one of the many fields that are blockaded by groups loyal to Haftar.
UAE’s Support For Khalifa Haftar In Libya
The United Arab Emirates has long shown unwavering financial and military support for Haftar. They have strongly backed his offensive against the U.N.-recognized government led by Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli.
Other reports stated the Sudanese recruits were forced to wear R.S.F. military uniforms. With the support of the United Arab Emirates, the Rapid Support Forces (R.S.F.) have fought alongside Haftar’s troops in Libya, having also taken part in the Saudi-led war on Yemen since 2015.
Child Soldiers From Darfur And Chad Recruited To Fight In Yemen
In 2018, the Rapid Support Forces had even hired children from Darfur, the same village that was ravaged by the Janjaweeds (from which the R.S.F. later stemmed) and neighboring country Chad to fight in the war against the Houthis in Yemen in the coalition led by Saudi Arabia—another major ally with whom Sudan also shares sea borders.
After months of previous protests that started in December 2018 against Omar al-Bashir—Sudan’s former president who had served since 1989—the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia also played a determinant role by supporting loyal military officials who eventually toppled al-Bashir.
How Many Sudanese Citizens Are Fighting In Yemen?
Last summer, Sudan’s ruling military council said as many as 30,000 Sudanese militiamen (mainly from the R.S.F.) were fighting in Yemen. The Guardian reported last December that over 3,000 Sudanese fighters were deployed in Libya, taking part in both sides of the conflict—with a majority fighting for Haftar.
Responding to the protesters, Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday, January 28, it was investigating the Black Shield case.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant state institutions affirm their keenness to ensure the safety of Sudanese working for the company and to exert intensive efforts to reassure the families of the citizens concerned,” said the ministry in a statement.
Yet the statement also noted that the issue “will not affect the distinguished relations and existing cooperation between the two countries.”
In April 2019, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia deposited $500 million to Sudan’s central bank, an aid promised to Sudan amid its growing unrest. The two Gulf monarchies also said they were committed to pay $3 billion by the end of 2020.