Continued Detention of Rebel POWs suggests Sudan’s military rulers are not ready to settle with the Armed Opposition

Andrew McGregor

AIS Special Report

May 31, 2019

Sudan Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces Operation in South Kordofan (Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

There was much joy in Sudan in the dying hours of the presidency of Omar al-Bashir when the dreaded National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) announced they were releasing all political detainees in the country (SUNA, April 11, 2019). While there were many scenes of elated families greeting detained protesters and opposition figures after their release, some detainees never emerged from Sudan’s grim prisons. The absence of members of the armed opposition who were taken prisoner while fighting to overthrow the Bashir regime raises two important questions: Did the regime change, or only the head-of-state? And what approach will the new Transitional Military Council (TMC) use to deal with the well-armed opposition movements still in the field in Sudan’s western and southern regions?

Prisoners of War?

Only days after the military removed al-Bashir, the TMC chairman, General ‘Abd al-Fatah al-Burhan, was reminded by an opposition delegation that they were still awaiting the fulfillment of his promise to release members of the armed groups (Sudan Tribune, April 14, 2019). Most of these prisoners belong to the major Sudanese armed opposition groups:

  • The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a Darfur-based group led by Jibril Ibrahim seeking a more inclusive government that is not almost exclusively derived from the powerful Nile-based Arab tribal groups (the Ja’alin, the Danagla and the Sha’iqiya) that have dominated Sudanese politics since independence in 1956. JEM’s leadership and membership is largely but not exclusively drawn from the Zaghawa of northwestern Darfur. Due to the political protests across the country, JEM declined to resume talks planned talks with the Bashir regime in mid-January, declaring they could not “betray the revolution,” though they also feared the talks would be used as propaganda to preserve the regime (Sudan Tribune, January 13, 2019).
  • The Sudan Liberation Movement/Army – ‘Abd al-Wahid (SLM/A-AW), a group based in the Jabal Marra mountains of Darfur and led by the Paris-based ‘Abd al-Wahid al-Nur. The SLM/A-AW is largely Fur.
  • The Sudan Liberation Movement/Army – Minni Minnawi (SLM/A-MM), a Darfur-based group that has operated out of ungoverned southern Libya for several years as a result of military pressure from the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and a government paramilitary initially formed from former Janjaweed members, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The leadership and membership is again largely Zaghawa.
  • The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army – North (SPLM/A-N), based in the Nuba Hills of Southern Kordofan and Sudan’s Blue Nile State. Before South Sudan signed a peace agreement with Khartoum in 2005 that would eventually lead to independence in 2011, the SPLM/A as led by Colonel John Garang sought a unified “New Sudan” that would bring the non-Arab majority of Sudan into the central government. With Garang’s death in 2005, South Sudanese separatists gained political and ideological ascendancy, abandoning those parts of the movement still operating in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, both on the northern side of the new border. These parts of the SPLM/A reconstituted themselves as the SPLM/A-North. The movement split in 2017 over leadership differences between ‘Abd al-Aziz al-Hilu (South Kordofan faction) and two other leaders, Malik Agar (Blue Nile faction) and Yasir Arman (then SPLM/A-N secretary-general). Al-Hilu also felt the needs of the Nuba people (who form the majority of the South Kordofan fighters) were not being addressed by the larger leadership (Radio Dabanga, October 23, 2017). South Sudanese president Salva Kiir Mayardit, who continues to struggle to contain a rebellion in South Sudan’s Equatoria region, made efforts to reunite the two SPLM/A-N factions to better negotiate with the TMC after al-Bashir’s overthrow (East African [Nairobi], May 2, 2019). Agar and Arman were both sentenced to death by hanging in absentia along with 15 other members of the SPLM/A-N in March 2014.

The Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF – a coalition bringing together Darfur’s JEM with the two factions of the SPLM/A-N) has declared that the civilian groups discussing the creation of a transitional government are not representative without including the armed opposition, noting the nation’s future security and democratic transition are at risk without their inclusion (Radio Dabanga, April 30, 2019). The armed opposition calls the detainees “prisoners-of-war” (a term never used by the Bashir regime), but admits that, after years of detention in some cases, it is unsure of the condition or whereabouts of many rebel prisoners (Sudan Tribune, April 16, 2019). Four days after Bashir’s overthrow, JEM demanded the immediate release of all “war-related detainees,” warning that their continued detention was “a call for the continuation of the war” that would delay the ability of the Sudanese to “reap the fruits of the revolution” (Radio Dabanga, April 15, 2019).

Last August, the SLM/A-MM complained that one of its leaders, “prisoner of war” ‘Abd al-Salam Muhammad Siddig, had died at Omdurman’s al-Huda prison after torture that resulted in two fractured legs and internal bleeding that proved fatal after medical treatment was withheld. The movement alleged that the prisoners were suffering a “slow death” in close confinement.  Accusing Khartoum of violating the Geneva Convention, the statement reminded authorities that “the right of the prisoners to receive medical treatment and follow-up… is a legal right and not a grant from anyone.” (Radio Dabanga, August 15, 2018).

The JEM Prisoners

The Bashir regime was shaken to its core when scores of JEM vehicles crossed the desert from Darfur to suddenly arrive on the outskirts of the national capital in May 2008. The army largely failed to appear in defense of the regime, and the raiders were engaged in running street battles in Omdurman with police and pro-Bashir paramilitaries. As JEM was finally driven out of the capital after a fierce struggle, some 70 JEM members were captured and sentenced to death. When JEM and several other rebel movements declined to sign the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), the prisoners were unable to avail themselves of Article 60, allowing for the release of prisoners of war (DDPD, p.63, Article 60, subsection 329, May 2011). Though the death sentences were not carried out, the prisoners are alleged to have endured a kind of living death of torture and abuse in cramped and squalid conditions (Radio Dabanga, August 15, 2013; Sudan Tribune, September 8, 2018).

According to JEM, many of the prisoners languished under sentences of death after their 2008 capture in tiny, vermin-ridden cells, with only a daily visit to the toilet and no access to bathing facilities. JEM has charged that the men are prisoners of war entitled to decent conditions by the Geneva Convention (Hudocentre.org, November 16, 2015).

When JEM detainees in North Khartoum’s Kober Prison went on a hunger strike in 2013 to protest their treatment, the Director General of Prisons arrived to deliver a little regime reality to the desperate prisoners: “We’ve got the power, wealth, aircraft, and vehicles that enable us to do whatever we want… It is our right to act any way we want against any person in all of Sudan… If I kill you all nobody would ask me why” (Radio Dabanga, September 1, 2013).

Kober Prison, North Khartoum (AFP)

Many JEM rebels were released from Kober and other Sudanese prisons after al-Bashir issued an edict on March 8, 2017. As well as those taken prisoner in Omdurman, there were others taken in later battles at Goz Dango, Fanaga, Donki Baashim and Kulbus (Radio Dabanga, March 9, 2017). A sentence of death was lifted from 66 detainees and another 193 granted amnesty. However, in October 2018, Khartoum admitted that seven JEM prisoners and 21 SPLM/A-N prisoners were still being held in Omdurman’s al-Huda prison despite the presidential amnesty of March 2017 (Radio Dabanga, October 11, 2018).

One of those released under the amnesty, JEM field commander ‘Abd al-Aziz Ousher, complained that a number of senior JEM commanders taken at Goz Dango in April 2015 had not been freed by the presidential amnesty (Radio Dabanga, March 9, 2017). Some 180 JEM prisoners taken at Goz Dango were transferred to al-Huda prison in Omdurman in January 2016. Unable to leave their cells, 23 contracted tuberculosis, which went untreated (Radio Dabanga, September 5, 2016).

President Omar al-Bashir Arrives in Goz Dango to Celebrate SAF/RSF Victory

A report released on May 30 by the Darfur Bar Association (DBA) says that 235 prisoners belonging to the SLM/A-MM and the SLM/A – Transitional Council (SLM/A-TC, a splinter group of the SLM/A-AW) remain inside al-Huda prison. These prisoners are alleged to have endured “cruel treatment and torture” as well as starvation rations and an absence of medical treatment for tuberculosis and injuries sustained in battle or through torture in captivity (Radio Dabanga, May 30, 2019). These fighters were taken prisoner in a series of running battles against the RSF and SAF in Darfur when the two rebel movements attempted to cross back into Sudan from their temporary bases in southern Libya.

Post-Coup Developments

Following the coup, the TMC quickly declared a ceasefire in the three conflict areas (Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile State), where many rebel groups were already observing a unilateral ceasefire during the protests for fear the regime would make claims the spontaneous protests were actually planned and executed by the armed opposition. That was exactly the approach the regime took under advice from M-Invest, a Russian company with offices in Khartoum operated by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close associate of Russian president Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. Darfuri students in Khartoum were rounded up and tortured into confessions that they were provocateurs working for both Israel and the Wahid al-Nur’s SLM/A-AW (BBC, April 25, 2019; CNN, April 25, 2019). The regime, however, had scapegoated Darfuri students for all manner of anti-government sentiment for years, so the familiar accusations had little resonance in the streets.

Lieutenant General Muhammad Hamdan Daglo “Hemeti,” TMC deputy chairman and leader of the notorious RSF paramilitary, made the surprising move of thanking ‘Abd al-Aziz al-Hilu and the SPLM-N for extending their unilateral ceasefire, adding (after years of brutal repression by the RSF) that the armed opposition movements were a part of the larger movement responsible for deposing President al-Bashir. According to Daglo, the TMC has made contact with the armed movements, including Daglo’s bitter enemies in the Fur-dominated SPLM/A-AW (Radio Dabanga, May 1, 2019). The existence of such contacts has not been verified by the armed opposition and Daglo’s sudden respect for the rebel movements seems disingenuous.

Musa Hilal and Darfur’s Arab Rebels

Another group that has not benefitted from the general release is composed of former Janjaweed commander Musa Hilal and his relatives and followers who were arrested in November 2017. The nazir (chief) of the Mahamid Arabs of Darfur (a branch of the Northern Rizayqat), Hilal acted as a senior government advisor in Khartoum before a dispute with the regime led to his return to Darfur in 2014. Once home, he began to reorganize the Mahamid members of the Border Guard Force (BGF) into the Sudanese Revolutionary Awakening (Sahwa) Council (SRAC), an anti-regime vehicle for Hilal’s political ambitions. SRAC cleared out the outnumbered SAF garrisons in northwest Darfur and the Jabal Amer goldfields and began to establish its own administration in these areas.

This direct challenge to Khartoum’s authority demanded a response, which came in the form of a massive RSF assault on Hilal’s headquarters in Mistiriyha. Hilal, his sons, three brothers and some 50 supporters were arrested after violent clashes and sent to Khartoum as detainees. [1]

Hilal and a number of imprisoned supporters began a hunger strike on April 25 to protest their continued detention, which, despite the TMC’s commitment to release prisoners of the Bashir regime, has now lasted one and a half years without trial or contact with their families (Radio Dabanga, April 26, 2019). SRAC issued a statement on May 5 calling on the TMC to release all prisoners of war and political detainees in Darfur and Kordofan (Radio Dabanga, May 5, 2019).

Yasir Arman (in white) with SPLM/A-N Commanders (Radio Dabanga)

Yasir Arman Arrives in Khartoum

A “delegation of good intentions” from the SPLM-N Blue Nile faction arrived in Khartoum for talks with the TMC and protest leaders on May 11. SPLM-N Blue Nile deputy chairman Yasir Arman and movement secretary general Ismail Khamis arrived in Khartoum later on May 26 and did not experience any complications at the airport. Arman declared their goal was to “reach a just peace… [and] democracy and citizenship without discrimination and social justice,” while warning the SPLM/A-N would not accept a new military government (Radio Dabanga, May 28 2019). The SPLM/A-N ceasefire has been extended until July 31, unless the TMC chooses to go on the offensive in the meantime (RFI, April 17, 2019).

While waiting for an opportunity to meet TMC representatives, Arman met with US Chargé d’Affaires Steven Koutsis on May 28. This apparently angered the TMC, which ordered Arman to leave the country if he wished to avoid the implementation of his death sentence (Anadolu Agency, May 29, 2019). Arman said he had received no less than five letters from TMC deputy leader Muhammad Hamdan Daglo and one from TMC chairman ‘Abd al-Fatah Burhan demanding his immediate departure from Sudan. Insisting that he had no intention of leaving, Arman described the death sentence hovering over him as “a political ruling par excellence” (Radio Dabanga, May 30, 2019).

Conclusion

The TMC’s warning to Yasir Arman demonstrates that the military council is even less ready to work with the armed opposition than with civilian protest leaders. The plight of the non-Arab POWs who fought for years to remove Bashir is indicative of the enduring elitism of northern Sudan’s Arab population, especially the Nile-based Danagla, Sha’iqiya and Ja’alin tribes. The little-discussed truth of Sudan’s revolution is that many of the pro-democracy demonstrators in Khartoum, like the military, have little interest in the welfare of non-Arab rebels who fought and suffered for years to remove Bashir and the ruling clique. Their plight formed part of Yasir Arman’s agenda for talks in Khartoum, but the TMC’s continuing refusal to even meet with the armed opposition leader suggests the military has little intention of abandoning its anti-insurgency campaigns in Sudan, which provide it with wealth and power at the expense of Sudan’s political and economic development.

Note

[1] See: “Musa Hilal: Darfur’s Most Wanted Man Loses Game of Dare with Khartoum… For Now,” AIS Special Report, December 12, 2017, https://www.aberfoylesecurity.com/?p=4096

 

 

 

Nigeria Seeks Russian Military Aid in its War on Boko Haram

Andrew McGregor

May 8, 2019

Four years ago, Nigerian military sources said a shift to Russian military training and arms supplies was only an “interim measure” after its traditional American and British partners were perceived to lack interest in Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram (Vanguard [Lagos], September 27, 2014). Now, believing that attitudes in the U.S. and UK are unchanged, Nigeria is requesting Russian assistance of a more lasting form in the fight against terrorists and pirates.

August 2017- Mansur Dan-Ali greets Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (MRA Russia/Twitter)

The request was made by Nigerian defense minister Mansur Dan-Ali at the 8th Moscow “Conference on International Security” on April 24. Dan-Ali, a former brigadier in the Nigerian Army, was appointed defense minister in November 2015. He first proposed Russia as Nigeria’s primary arms supplier in the war against Boko Haram in June 2017 (NAN [Lagos], August 2, 2017).

The minister pointed to Russia’s experience in counter-terrorism and suggested that this experience and help in modernizing Nigeria’s arsenal could help defeat the Boko Haram insurgency:

On the security front, Nigeria counts on Russia’s continued partnership in eliminating the Boko Haram insurgents from our sub-region. We wish to leverage on Russia’s experience in counterterrorism operations to bring this scourge to an end. Military and technical assistance in this respect would be highly appreciated (Vanguard [Lagos], April 24; The Nation [Lagos], April 25).

The success of Russia’s ruthless repression of pirates off the Somali coast has been well noted in Nigeria, where shipping and off-shore oil operations are increasingly threatened by pirates. Dan-Ali emphasized the dire security situation in the Gulf of Guinea, asking for Russian assistance to combat piracy, kidnappings, ship-hijackings and illegal dumping of toxic and radioactive waste (Legit.ng [Lagos], April 25). The most dangerous waters in the world for shipping are no longer off the Somali coast, but rather in the Gulf of Guinea; the minister cited figures from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) that indicated violent attacks in the Gulf had doubled in 2018 while pirates were now operating in speed boats as far as 100 nautical miles from shore. Since that report was issued, a further 22 attacks occurred in the first quarter of 2019, including all the world’s 21 reported kidnappings of crew members (IMB Piracy Report, January 16; International Crime Services, April 8).

(International Chamber of Commerce)

Nigeria’s relationship with Russia is much less complicated than its relations with the U.S. and Britain, the former colonial power. U.S. interest in Nigeria has waned in recent years with Nigerian oil imports declining steeply as America develops its own energy resources. China and Russia are increasingly seen in Abuja as more appealing, no-questions-asked partners who can provide affordable and effective solutions to Nigeria’s security and development problems. On May 2, the UK foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, indicated that British military support would be available to Nigeria, “but they are a sovereign nation and they have got to want our help” (Premium Times [Abuja], May 2).

Having outlined Nigeria’s desperate need for help, Dan-Ali surprisingly took the opportunity to brightly proclaim that Nigerian and MNJTF operations had “overwhelmed” Boko Haram, leaving the leadership “decimated” (Legit.ng [Lagos], April 25).  Despite the Nigerian Army’s repeated claims of imminent victory, villagers and forest workers continue to be slaughtered by Boko Haram and the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP – the movement split in mid-2016).

Boko Haram commander Abubakr Shekau (right) in front of a captured Nigerian APC.

Only three days after Dan-Ali’s sunny assessment, ISWAP fighters overran a Nigerian Army outpost in Borno State on April 27, driving survivors into the bush and adding the captured arms and vehicles to their arsenal. The militants attacked using 12 technicals (pick-up trucks fitted with a heavy machine gun), three previously captured armored personnel carriers and dozens of gunmen on motorcycles operating on the flanks (This Day [Lagos], April 28; Defensepost.com [Johannesburg], April 27). Hundreds of Nigerian soldiers have perished in 22 attacks on military posts in the last four years (Guardian [Lagos], April 29).

Nigeria has had military interactions with Russia in the recent past. When Nigerian attempts to buy U.S. Cobra attack helicopters were rebuffed by Washington in 2014, Nigeria turned to Russia, which had no problems selling them 21 Mi-35 attack helicopters and 11 Mi-17 utility helicopters. Nigeria ordered a further 12 Russian Mi-35M attack helicopters in September 2016 (NAN [Lagos], August 2, 2017).  Russian media reported plans to sell Nigeria ten Sukhoi Su-30 multirole fighters in mid-2017, but the sale does not appear to have gone through (Sputnik, June 26, 2017).

Twelve hundred carefully-picked Nigerian security personnel drawn from the armed forces, the police and the Department of State Services (DSS – domestic intelligence) were sent to Russia for advanced anti-insurgency training in 2014 (Vanguard [Lagos], September 27, 2014). The training was apparently meant to be secret – the Nigerian defense ministry only acknowledged the program when the last contingent of 400 security personnel was photographed leaving for Russia at Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport (Defenceweb, [Johannesburg], October 23, 2014).

Nigerian Army chief-of-staff Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai has indicated that Nigeria will soon receive a shipment of advanced military hardware from an un-named country (This Day [Lagos], April 25). As the purchase includes technical training and ongoing maintenance support, Russia would seem to be the most likely point of origin for this shipment.

In the economic realm, Dan-Ali also requested Russian assistance in the construction of pipelines, railways and a nuclear power plant. Nigeria has been in talks with Russian state-owned Rosatom over the development of two nuclear reactors in Nigeria since 2015. Enriched uranium was recently removed from a research reactor by an international team in Nigeria’s Kaduna State over fears the material could be seized by terrorists (This Day [Lagos], April 25).

Meanwhile, despite these developments, Nigeria’s embassy in Moscow is unlikely to entertain Russian visitors any time soon; its unpaid water bill has forced a supply cut-off to the embassy, forcing diplomats to continually borrow water from neighboring embassies to flush the toilets (Punch [Lagos], April 3). Nigeria’s inability to even maintain important foreign embassies is indicative of Nigeria’s ongoing financial crisis. Russia does not need Nigerian oil and has little interest in other Nigerian products. The price of Russian military aid could well be a military base on the Nigerian coast close to some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

This article first appeared in the May 8, 2019 issue of the Eurasia Daily Monitor

 

Who Attacked the Libyan National Army in Southern Libya?

Andrew McGregor

AIS Special Report

May 4, 2019

The attackers emerged out of the desert darkness at dawn on May 4, quickly springing on a Libyan National Army (LNA) training base near Sabha, the capital of Libya’s southwestern Fazzan region. A firefight of several hours ensued before the attackers melted back into the desert. The number of dead LNA troops range from seven to 11; one soldier was beheaded, another showed signs of burning and the others all appeared to have perished from close-range execution-style shots to the head or chest. The dead belonged to the 160th Battalion, part of the loose alliance of militias that compose the LNA under the command of “Field Marshal” Khalifa Haftar. The former CIA asset and Qaddafi-era general has tried to secure the Fazzan in recent months as part of his efforts to expel the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, arrest his political and military rivals, and seize power before elections scheduled for later this year.

An LNA spokesman blamed the attack on an unlikely combination of Islamic State terrorists and Chadian mercenaries operating in south Fazzan. The Islamic State issued a claim of responsibility that insisted 16 soldiers had been killed or wounded, describing the victims as “apostates” who had fallen to the “soldiers of the caliphate” (al-Arabiya, May 4, 2019; The Address [Benghazi], May 4, 2019; Reuters, May 4, 2016). Chadian mercenaries and exiled Chadian rebels (often the same thing in southern Libya) have worked for both the PC/GNA and Haftar’s LNA, but are typically not jihadists and are not known to collaborate with the Islamic State.  The Islamic State claimed an earlier attack on the LNA near Sabha on April 11, insisting six soldiers had been killed. The LNA confirmed the attack but claimed to have suffered no casualties (Reuters, April 11, 2019).

Al-Sumud Front Leader Salah Badi

However, another claim of joint responsibility for this latest attack was issued by two militias operating in Tripoli but originally from the northwestern city of Misrata. The two include the 166th Battalion led by Muhammad Omar Hassan and the Sumud Islamist militia led by warlord Salah Badi, the subject of UN sanctions. The 166th Battalion supports the GNA, but, until recently, Badi’s al-Sumud opposed it, favoring, not Haftar and the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR – a rival government to the PC/GNA with ties to Haftar), but yet another rival government, Khalifa Ghwell’s Government of National Salvation (GNS).

Now, with Haftar’s LNA battling to force their way into the southern suburbs of Tripoli, al-Sumud appears to have joined in a common cause against Haftar, who is widely disliked in the capital. The militias denied carrying out any beheadings and claimed that the LNA was using the Islamic State as a tool in its propaganda (The Address [Benghazi], May 4, 2019; Anadolu Agency, May 4, 2019).

The attack may have been designed to exploit an LNA weakness, as Haftar’s southern-based forces move north to bolster the LNA assault on the national capital. With the LNA assault bogged down in Tripoli’s southern outskirts, there is increasing pressure on Haftar to transfer forces to the Tripoli battlefront. If defeated, Haftar is unlikely to be able to take another shot at replacing Libya’s UN-backed administration, the Presidency Council/Government of National Accord (PC/GNA).

Cauldron of the Wau al-Namus Volcano in the Haruj Region

Haftar’s need for troops in the offensive on Tripoli has already had tragic consequences as Islamic State forces mount violent assaults on desert communities abandoned by the LNA. Al-Fuqaha, 100 km north of Sabha, has been the target of two carefully orchestrated attacks since last October. With little in the way of defense after the most recent attack in April, the town is quickly clearing out, leaving it open to IS occupation (Middle East Eye, April 10, 2019). Al-Fuqaha is on the edge of central Libya’s forbidding Haruj volcanic field, a challenging environment of 150 dormant volcanoes and their blackened lava flows. The region was being used for shelter and refuge by Chadian mercenaries last year and it appears that Islamic State forces may now be using the same region.

There are signs the Islamic State may be trying to take advantage of the turmoil in Tripoli; on April 13, the Rada Special Deterrence Force (a militia acting as Tripoli’s unofficial Islamist police under ‘Abd al-Ra’uf Kara) arrested a Libyan IS member who had arrived from Sabha with the alleged intention of carrying out terrorist acts in the capital (Libya Observer, April 14, 2019).

General ‘Ali Kanna Sulayman

The LNA launched its military offensive in Fazzan in mid-January with the stated goals of driving out jihadists and bandits, securing oil facilities, ending vandalism of stations of the Man-Made River (MMR) project and ending uncontrolled migrant flows across Libya’s southern border. In response, PC/GNA leader Fayez al-Sirraj appointed Tuareg Lieutenant General ‘Ali Kanna Sulayman the commander of the Sabha military zone on February 6 (Libya Observer, February 6, 2019). A former supporter of Mu’ammar Qaddafi during the 2011 Libyan Revolution, ‘Ali Kanna is a fierce opponent of Haftar and is seeking the unification of the armed Tuareg and Tubu opposition to the Cyrenaïcan warlord. [1] ‘Ali Kanna is also believed to have strong ties to Qatar, which, along with Turkey, supports the PC/GNA against the LNA and its Egyptian, Saudi and UAE supporters.

Whether IS or PC/GNA-aligned forces carried out the attack (both detest Haftar and are in need of a victory somewhere in Libya), the Libyan south will present a security threat in Haftar’s rear if he is forced to further reinforce his stalled offensive in the northwest with troops now tasked with securing the south.

Note

[1] For ‘Ali Kanna, see: “General Ali Kanna Sulayman and Libya’s Qaddafist Revival,” AIS Special Report, August 8, 2017, https://www.aberfoylesecurity.com/?p=3999

 

Keeping the Civil War Alive: A Profile of South Sudan’s Rebel General, Thomas Cirilo Swaka

Andrew McGregor

May 2, 2019

General Thomas Cirilo Swaka in SPLA Uniform

A little-known five-year civil war in South Sudan has left up to 400,000 dead and millions more displaced. After the young nation gained its hard-won independence in 2011, only two years of peace followed before latent rivalries between the Dinka and the Nuer (the two largest and most powerful of South Sudan’s 62 recognized ethnic-groups) resurfaced. In December 2013, President Salva Kiir Mayardit (Dinka) accused his vice president, Dr. Riek Machar Teny (Nuer), of planning a coup against the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) (for Machar, see MLM, January 30, 2014). Machar denied it, but was soon leading a largely Nuer army opposed to the government—the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO). In time, other ethnic groups were pulled into the struggle. [1] Many of these smaller groups (especially in Equatoria) had joined pro-Khartoum militias during the 1983-2005 Second Sudanese Civil War, creating a lasting friction with the Dinka who provided the bulk of the rebel SPLA manpower.

The first two years of the war largely avoided Equatoria, the traditional name for the southern third of the nation where there are relatively few Dinka and Nuer. A year-long peace agreement signed in 2015 could not survive growing perceptions that President Kiir’s regime was promoting Dinka superiority at the expense of other ethnic groups. New tribal-based armed movements emerged and the war erupted once more. This time, SPLM-IO forces shifted into the forests of Equatoria, with the government’s Dinka-dominated Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) following them in pursuit. Equatoria’s many ethnic groups were soon forming their own armed self-defense forces gathered into highly fluid alliances.

Fueling the conflict in Equatoria and elsewhere was the regime’s unpopular division of South Sudan’s original ten states into 28 (and later 32). Again, this was perceived as an effort to establish Dinka majorities in various regions, all governed by Dinkas appointed by and loyal to the president. Many Equatorians prefer a return to a single region rather than the current arrangement of nine small Equatorian states imposed in 2017. Southern Sudan is traditionally understood as three distinct regions – Upper Nile, Bahr al-Ghazal, and Equatoria.

With 3.5 billion barrels of proven reserves of crude oil, South Sudan should be enjoying rapid development and significant improvements in living standards. Instead, the ongoing fighting has halved oil production and most oil revenues are spent on military equipment.

A General from Equatoria

The government, the SPLM-IO, and a number of smaller armed groups signed a new peace deal in August 2018, the Revitalized Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS). Leading the armed opposition to the agreement and to the Kiir regime is Lieutenant General Thomas Cirilo Swaka, a member of the Bari tribe (a cross-border group also found in northern Uganda) and a former leading general in the SPLA.

Hailing from the South Sudanese capital of Juba, Cirilo fought against the Khartoum regime during the Second Sudanese Civil War, surviving a landmine blast that left an eight-inch scar on his head. By the time South Sudan gained its independence in 2011, Cirilo was already head of the SPLA’s training and research division. In February 2016, he became the SPLA’s deputy chief of general staff for logistics. Having maintained a fairly low profile, he took some by surprise when he resigned from the SPLA in February 2017, becoming the second highest ranking officer to defect from the SPLA. Cirilo established a new rebel movement, the National Salvation Front (NSF), the following month. The movement is better known as “NAS,” meaning “people” in Juba Arabic. At the time of his resignation, Cirilo claimed President Kiir had turned South Sudan’s military, police and security services into a  Dinka-dominated “tribal army” (African News/Reuters, March 7, 2017).

Cirilo claims he was sidelined during the Kiir regime’s worst abuses and largely powerless to stop them (Reuters, May 5, 2017).  A presidential spokesman, on the other hand, noted that Cirilo had a major command position in the SPLA in those years, was part of the decision-making process and therefore “bears the consequences of what the SPLA as an army has actually done” (February 14, 2017).

Reasons for Rebellion

When he resigned, Cirilo issued a statement claiming “President Kiir and his Dinka leadership clique have tactically and systematically transformed the SPLA into a partisan and tribal army…Terrorizing their opponents, real or perceived, has become a preoccupation of the government.” Cirilo went on to state that extensive recruiting in the security forces was ongoing among the Dinka of President Kiir’s home region and that these forces were being deployed to occupy land belonging to other tribal and ethnic groups using methods involving rape, murder, and torture (February 11, 2017). Allegations of regime corruption, economic mismanagement and an inability to maintain law and order were also made (Pachodo.org, December 2017).

In the overcharged political atmosphere of the national capital it was not surprising that the U.S. embassy in that city was compelled to refute charges in the local press that the CIA was backing Cirilo in order to overthrow the Salva Kiir government (Sudan Tribune, March 16, 2017). These charges were revived in September 2018 by South Sudanese intelligence while Cirilo was touring the United States to raise support for his movement: “We are not sure of why he is gone to the U.S., but we know he is there, being sponsored by the CIA” (East African [Nairobi], September 4, 2018).

War in Equatoria

President Kiir offered Cirilo an amnesty in September 2017 that would have allowed the general to rejoin the SPLA or form his own political party, but the offer was refused (Sudan Tribune, September 5, 2017).

SPLA-IO patrol in Kajo Keji (The Nation, Nairobi).

Cirilo’s troops instead clashed with Machar’s SPLA-IO in mid-October 2017 in the Kajo Keji region close to the Ugandan border. The region, a part of Yei River State where NAS is especially strong, is a strategic transit point for rebel movements and its control allows for the importation of supplies from Uganda (October 19, 2017).

Many clashes occur in remote locations, leaving only the spokesmen for both sides as sources. Typical of the credibility issues this presents was a 2017 clash between SPLM/A-IO and the forces of Lieutenant General John Kenyi Luboron. Luboron had defected to NAS from the SPLM/A-IO only days earlier, citing internal feuds in the SPLM/A-IO leadership, neglect of the forces under General Kenyi and the “unnecessary and random promotion of officers” (Minbane, July 29, 2017; Sudan Tribune, July 30, 2017).

The SPLM/A-IO claimed to have quickly overrun Kenyi’s base at Nyori, forcing the defector and his men to flee into the bush. According to NAS, Kenyi repulsed two SPLM/A-IO attacks on his base before pursuing the attackers (NAS Press Release, August 4, 2017, Reuters, July 30, 2017).

Colonel Nyariji Jermilili Roman repeated charges of military negligence in the course of his own resignation from the SPLM/A-IO, accusing Machar of deliberately neglecting the SPLM/A-IO forces in Equatoria:

“You intentionally failed to supply our forces in Equatoria with arms and necessary logistical support, an act that endangered many of our men’s lives because their capacity to defend themselves was greatly affected, hence the death of General Elias Lino Jada and General Martin Kenyi” (Sudan Tribune, March 13, 2017).

General Martin Terensio Kenyi was killed in a battle in Lobonok (Jubek State) in June 2016 (for General Kenyi, see MLM March 2, 2017). General Elias Lindo was allegedly assassinated together with prominent lawyer Peter Abd al-Rahman Sule by South Sudan security agents in Uganda in 2015. Their remains were never recovered: they were believed to have been thrown into the crocodile-infested waters of the White Nile, a common method of disposing of political prisoners during the rule of Idi Amin Dada (South Sudan Liberty News, August 22, 2015; ).

General Khalid Butros Bora

Initially, Cirilo’s leadership attracted other armed groups in Equatoria. Among these was the South Sudan Democratic Movement (SSDM, aka “Cobra Faction”), led by General Khalid Butrus Bora (Murle). The movement’s former leader, David Yau Yau (Murle), signed a peace agreement in 2015 and joined the government, leaving the Cobra faction in the field (for Yau Yau, see MLM, May 31, 2013). General Butrus, who resigned from the SPLA in 2016, warned that Dinka civilians had been issued heavy weapons and encouraged to attack Murle communities in eastern Equatoria (VOA, March 9, 2017). To counter this, Butrus merged the SSDM with NAS on March 9, 2017 (SouthSudanNation.com, March 9, 2017).

Cirilo’s movement suffers from a near-constant shortage of ammunition, a fact well-known to their enemies. Many NAS fighters are armed solely with bows and arrows. Nonetheless, Cirilo remains defiant: “We’re not going to stop. If Juba thinks that without bullets we’re not going to be able to protect ourselves and our people they’re wrong” (Vice.com, February 15).

NAS has also been vulnerable to defections. On June 15, 2018, Lieutenant Colonel John Kaden Elisa led 137 fighters away from NAS in order to rejoin the SPLM/A-IO. Kaden insisted the men had been ordered by Lieutenant General John Kenny Latio to defect to NAS and fight the SPLM/A-IO, actions that they now regretted. Cirilo’s failure or inability to provide arms and his insistence they fight the SPLM/A-IO rather than regime forces were cited as major reasons for their return to the SPLM/A-IO (Daily Monitor [Kampala], June 16, 2018).

Further defections would follow. In mid-November 2018, the SPLM/A-IO reported that Brigadier Peter Yugu Laku and Colonel Augustino Modi had returned to the SPLM/A-IO with “90% of their fighters” after having defected to NAS in August 2017. A NAS spokesman claimed the SPLM/A-IO had then mounted a joint operation with the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF, the re-named SPLA as of October 2, 2018) against NAS forces in Lobonok, though a SPLM/A-IO spokesman denied the operation existed and suggested that NAS “look after their own mess” (Sudan Tribune, November 20, 2018).

The Brown Caterpillars

South Sudan Foreign Minister Nhial Deng Nhial provided a positive report on human rights in his country to the UN’s Human Rights Council (UNHCR) in April despite a massive cross-border refugee outflow from Equatoria, the biggest crisis of its type in Africa since 1994. In response, Cirilo sent a three-page letter to the council refuting the minister’s claims:

The realities on the ground show that there’s no peace in the country and fighting is going on as we speak… the current tragedy in the Yei River area where tens of thousands of civilians fled their homes seeking safety in the neighboring countries refutes the government’s false claims… NAS forces have come under relentless attacks by the SSPDF and the [Mathiang Anyoor] militia affiliated to it (Sudan Tribune, March 3).

General Paul Malong Awan (Radio Tamazuj)

Mathiang Anyoor (“Brown Caterpillar”) is an ethnic-Dinka militia formed by former SPLA chief of general staff Paul Malong Awan (Dinka) as a personal guard for himself and President Kiir. The group, recruited largely from the Northern Bahr al-Ghazal and the Warrap region, is well-armed, though its direct connection to the army is uncertain. The militia split in May 2017 when Malong was dismissed. Some members joined Malong’s new rebel movement, the South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A), in April 2018 (Sudan Tribune, April 9, 2018). Like NAS, the SSUF/A also refused to sign the revitalized peace agreement. Malong’s attempts to run the movement from Kenya proved unsuccessful when the rest of the movement sacked him as leader in order to join the revitalized peace process (Sudan Tribune, October 8, 2018). [2]

Cirilo claimed to have seen documents showing the government was delivering weapons to Mathiang Anyoor by bypassing military supply lines. A government spokesman retorted that it was unfortunate that Cirilo was going “out of his mind”(Reuters, May 5, 2017).

Initial financing for the militia was provided by the chairman of the Jieng (Dinka) Council of Elders (JCE). The JCE is a regular target of Cirilo, who charged in his resignation letter that the elders had taken command of the SPLA to pursue an ethnic cleansing of South Sudan’s many other ethnic groups (VOA, February 14 2017).

In early January, the SSPDF accused NAS fighters under the command of General Luboron of killing 19 civilians in Yei River State. A spokesman for the NAS-allied People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) led by Hakim Dario accused Mathiang Anyoor of carrying out the killings as revenge for the loss of 15 militiamen in clashes with NAS forces in central Equatoria (Sudan Tribune, January 5). NAS insisted the SSPDF had taken out its anger on local artisanal gold miners after coming off second-best in a skirmish with NAS forces (Gurtong.net, January 4; Sudan Tribune, January 5). Further clashes between NAS and Mathiang Anyoor in the following days resulted in the reported death of 13 more civilians and seven members of the Mathiang Anyoor (Sudan Tribune, February 13).

Opposing the Peace Process

According to Cirilo, the existing system of governance in South Sudan is “nothing but a dictatorship in disguise.” The rebel leader has also criticized the failure to reform the security sector, “which is dominated by one ethnicity [i.e. the Dinka] out of 64 (Sudan Tribune, March 3).

In September 2018, the main warring parties in South Sudan signed a peace agreement in Khartoum, with Cirilo noticeably absent. A NAS spokesman explained the rejection of the revitalized ARCSS (R-ARCSS), sponsored by the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), by calling the document “a recipe for more conflict” (Sudan Tribune, September 1, 2018). [3] Cirilo’s NAS was joined by the PDM, the Pagan Amum Okiech led SPLM-Former Political Detainees (SPLM-FPD) and a number or armed groups in refusing to sign the agreement.

Cirilo became chairman in October 2018 of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA), a largely Equatorian coalition of non-signatory groups. A rival SSOA coalition led by Gabriel Chang Changson favored the R-ARCSS. A reorganization of the non-signatory groups occurred in March, when the PDM left the SSOA in favor of another coalition, the National Alliance for Democracy and Freedom Action (NADAFA). [4] The rest of the SSOA formed the Cirilo-led South Sudan National Democratic Alliance (SSNDA).

Cirilo’s SSNDA consists of NAS, the National Democratic Movement (NDM) of Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin (Shilluk), the United Democratic Republic Alliance (UDRA) of Dr. Gatwech Koang Thich (who identifies himself as a research scientist at the United States Naval Air Warfare Center and a NASA research fellow) and a faction of the South Sudan National Movement for Change (SSNMC) led by Vakindi L. Unvu (Sudan Tribune, February 11). [5]

South Sudan – 10 states.

Green = Bahr al-Ghazal, Yellow = Upper Nile, Blue = Equatoria.

The greatest difference between the rival coalitions is that the SSNDA favors the redivision of South Sudan’s current 32 states to the 10 that existed at independence, while NADAFA favors a return to the traditional three states of South Sudan (Sudan Tribune, March 26). [6]

South Sudan – 32 States

In November 2018, South Sudan Vice President Wani Igga warned that all non-signatory groups would be declared terrorist organizations at the end of an eight-month period. More recently, IGAD has confirmed there will be no renegotiation of the R-ACRSS and Cirilo turned down a personal meeting with IGAD’s special envoy, sending a delegation instead (East African [Nairobi], March 7; IGAD Press Release, March 14).

Conclusion

With IGAD now threatening sanctions against him, Cirilo has little chance of attracting international or even regional support for his wish to strike a more favorable peace deal. Lacking an external source of arms and ammunition, Cirolo’s NAS is now facing growing military pressure. With the regime and Machar’s SPLM/A-IO now reconciled (at least temporarily), the SSPDF joined with Machar’s forces in February to launch an offensive against NAS fighters in central and western Equatoria. In early March, there were reports that troops of the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) had crossed the border into Equatoria, where they were in combat with NAS elements (Uganda is a strong supporter of the Kiir regime) (Observer [Kampala], March 6). Though the advent of the rainy season may provide Cirilo with some respite, the rebel leader may have to ultimately choose between reintegration with the regime or the gradual annihilation of his movement.

Notes

[1] Names and acronyms for South Sudanese rebel movements tend to follow the dual pattern first established by John Garang’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) to emphasize the existence and difference between the political (SPLM) and military (SPLA) wings of the movement.

[2] Malong has made many political alliances through mass-scale polygamy, having over 100 wives.

[3] IGAD, “Revitalized Agreement of the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan,” Addis Ababa, September 12, 2018, https://www.dropbox.com/s/6dn3477q3f5472d/R-ARCSS.2018-i.pdf?dl=0

[4] A new faction of the PDM favoring the R-ARCSS was recently formed. The People’s Democratic Movement for Peace (PDM-P) is led by Josephine Lagu Yanga, daughter of Anya Nya leader Joseph Lagu.

[5] Another faction of the SSNMC, led by Bangasi Joseph Bakosoro, is a partner in the R-ARCSS (SouthSudanNation.com, January 3).

[6] Other NADAFA partners include the Workers’ Party of Upper Nile (WPUN – largely Nuer) and the Federal Democratic Party/Army (FDP/A) of Peter Gatdet Yak (Bul Nuer), the main suspect in the 2014 massacre of 400 non-Nuer people at Bentiu while acting as a SPLA-IO commander (Sudan Tribune, February 9).

This article first appeared in the May 2, 2019 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Militant Leadership Monitor.

 

“Old Wine in Old Bottles?” A Security Q and A on Post-Coup Sudan

Andrew McGregor

April 19, 2019 Yasir Arman (Reuters)

Veteran opposition politician Yasir Arman called the April 11 military coup in Sudan nothing more than “old wine in old bottles.” Arman suggested it had preserved “the political and economic structures of the old system,” the military-Islamist alliance that has ruled Sudan since an Islamist-backed military coup brought Brigadier Omar al-Bashir to power in 1989 (Sudan Tribune, April 12). Al-Bashir’s regime was based on three pillars: Islamism, military governance and Arab supremacy.

Despite the coup, demonstrations and sit-ins continue at military facilities beyond the capital, in places such as Port Sudan, al-Gedaref, Kadugli, al-Obeid, and camps for the internally displaced in Darfur (Radio Dabanga, April 16).

Lieutenant General ‘Abd al-Fatah al-Burhan (Daily Nation)

The coup leaders have formed a Transitional Military Council (TMC) under Lieutenant General ‘Abd al-Fatah al-Burhan, who commanded Sudanese forces in Yemen, where he formed ties to the Saudi military and its Gulf allies. Most recently he was Inspector General of the Sudanese Army. Al-Burhan replaced the first leader of the TMC, Lieutenant General Muhammad Ahmad Awad ibn Awf, who lasted less than 24 hours. Ibn Awf is a prominent Islamist and al-Bashir loyalist who has worked closely with Darfur’s Janjaweed militias (al-Jazeera, April 20). Under U.S. sanctions for his activities in Darfur, Ibn Awf was unacceptable to both Washington and the protesters. The former chief of Sudan’s Joint Staff, Lieutenant General Kamal ‘Abd al-Maruf al-Mahi (a leading Islamist suspected of having political ambitions), was relieved of his post as deputy chief of the TMC at the same time General Ibn Awf was replaced. [1]

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a leading force in the demonstrations, is demanding nothing less than a civilian government (Asharq al-Aswat, April 13). The SPA is part of the Alliance for Freedom and Change, which includes the leftist National Consensus Forces and Nidea Sudan, a Paris-based group including opposition politicians and the leaders of armed movements (Middle East Online, April 16). The army is unlikely to clean house, which will continue to frustrate those demanding significant change.

What is al-Bashir’s fate?

Al-Bashir and his two brothers have been moved to the notorious Khobar Prison in Khartoum North (al-Jazeera, April 17). The military council has stated it will prosecute al-Bashir inside Sudan (APA News, April 12). The military has been repeatedly purged until the officer corps consists mostly of men whose fortunes and views are closely aligned with the ex-president’s. These officers may seek to send al-Bashir to a safe haven outside Sudan and avoid a nasty and public prosecution of regime misdoings. Uganda has said it is willing to consider offering asylum to al-Bashir (Monitor [Kampala], April 16).

Al-Bashir still faces two ICC arrest warrants for “massive human rights violations” including war crimes and genocide. However, the ICC lacks the means to detain the former president, and 33 nations (including China and Russia) have ignored the warrants by allowing al-Bashir to make visits to their countries. The ICC is demanding that the new government in Khartoum must surrender al-Bashir as well as four other individuals wanted on charges related to the Darfur conflict, including NCP leader Ahmad Muhammad Harun, Janjaweed leader ‘Ali Muhammad ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Rahman (aka ‘Ali Kushayb), former minister of defense Abd al-Rahim Muhammad Hussayn and Darfur rebel ‘Abdallah Banda Abakr Nourain (Al-Ahram [Cairo], April 12; for Harun, see AIS Special Report, March 3 ). The military council will not take action on these demands and it would require a massive and unprecedented power shift in Sudan for a future civilian government to surrender these individuals for ICC prosecutions.

What happens to the National Congress Party (NCP)?

Recognizing the hold the ruling NCP had over the Sudanese political system, the SPA has demanded its dissolution and the arrest of its leaders. The TMC has said NCP representatives will not be part of the transitional government (Sudan Tribune, April 15).

What happens to the Rapid Support Force (RSF)?

The RSF (Quwat al-Da’m al-Seri), was created by the NISS in 2013 to absorb Janjaweed gunmen into a more manageable unit with a central control (Terrorism Monitor, May 30 2014). The intent was to deploy the RSF as a counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism force composed mostly of Darfur Arabs. The unit is led by Muhammad Hamdan Daglo “Hemeti” a member of the Mahariya branch of the Northern Rizayqat Arabs of Darfur. Daglo is now the deputy chief of the TMC.

Ahmad al-Harun, Omar al-Bashir and Muhammad Daglo Hamdan

Though reviled by many Sudanese for its methods, the RSF has had some success in counter-insurgency operations in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile State. It operates in large numbers along the border with Libya, where it hunts Darfuri rebels and interrupts the flow of illegal migrants from east Africa through Sudan to Libya and on into Europe. It has also been deployed in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, where Daglo served under al-Burhan, who may now rely on the RSF’s support.

There have been calls in Sudan to disband the RSF since its creation and its use of violence in the streets of Khartoum to repress the anti-regime demonstrations has not made it any more popular.

The appointment of Hamdan as deputy leader of the TMC does not indicate major change in the power structure and will anger the Darfur rebel movements who accuse him of ordering atrocities. Nonetheless, Daglo has been meeting with US and UK diplomats as the TMC’s representative (Anadolou Agency [Ankara], April 14).

What happens to the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS)?

The SPA and many demonstrators have called for the dissolution of the much-feared NISS (Jihaz al-Amn al-Watani wa’l-Mukhabarat) and the regime’s paramilitaries, such as the RSF, the Popular Defense Forces (PDF) and the Haras al-Hudud (Border Guards) (Reuters, April 16). NISS director Salah ‘Abdallah Muhammad Salah (Salah Gosh) resigned on April 13 but was not detained. He was replaced by Lieutenant General Abu Bakr Mustafa, putting the intelligence agency under military control for now. (Reuters, April 14; AFP/France24, April 14).

Ex-NISS Director Salah Gosh (al-Arabiya)

Gosh was NISS director from 2004 to 2009 but was suspected of plotting against al-Bashir in 2012. He was brought back into the fold in February 2018, when he was once again made chief of the NISS to subdue dissent. The NISS used rubber bullets, tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the demonstrators (Al-Jazeera, April 8). Roving squads of agents in pick-up trucks seized individuals and took them away to “ghost houses” where their unrecorded detention usually included torture. The NISS announced the release of all political prisoners on April 11, but there are reports that many protesters remain in detention (Radio Dabanga, April 16).

The snipers who continually took shots at demonstrators from buildings outside the army’s compound in Khartoum were believed to be NISS agents who defied the army by engaging in firefights with soldiers (Middle East Monitor, April 9). The clashes were indicative of the serious differences the NISS has with the military. The NISS was given extraordinary and extrajudicial powers to act as al-Bashir’s personal protection and enforcement unit. The opportunities for enrichment presented by NISS membership created a sore point with the poorly paid military.

There is no consensus in the opposition as to what should be done with the NISS. The Islamist Popular Congress Party (PCP), led by Dr. ‘Ali al-Haj, is calling for the dissolution of the NISS and the transfer of its responsibilities to the police (Radio Dabanga, April 16). However, the Umma Party of two-time Sudanese prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi and the center-left Sudanese Congress Party (SCP) of Omar Yusuf al-Digair have called for only a change in the NISS leadership (Sudan Tribune, April 16).

The U.S. will watch Salah Gosh’s fate carefully – the notorious NISS director cooperated closely with the CIA on counter-terrorism issues and was even welcomed in Washington.

Will armed opposition continue?

Since independence, Sudan has been dominated by three powerful riverine tribes from Sudan’s north, the Ja’alin, Danagla and Sha’iqiya (al-Bashir is Ja’alin). This has created enormous internal tensions as Khartoum tries to control restive non-Arab ethnic groups in guerrilla-friendly regions such as Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile State. While a host of armed opposition groups operate in Darfur, the armed opposition in Blue Nile State and South Kordofan consists of two factions of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), led by Malik Agar and ‘Abd al- Aziz al-Hilu respectively (for al-Hilu, see MLM, July 2011).

Most of the major rebel movements have refused to engage with the regime for years and appear ready to wait for a new civilian government to renew negotiations, likely under AU mediation.

Malik Agar, leader of the rebellion in Blue Nile State (Sudan Tribune)

Al-Burhan’s appointment as head of the TMC has angered many in Darfur, who accuse him of being “the architect of the genocide” in Darfur and regard his new role as “a play of the Islamists to retain power” (Radio Dabanga, April 15). Burhan is well known in Darfur for his threats to exterminate the Fur people. A leading Darfur rebel, ‘Abd al-Wahid al-Nur (Fur), said that the Sudan “we dream of, cannot come through these racists like ‘Abd al-Fatah al-Burhan, Awad Ibn Awf, Omar al-Bashir and their ilk” (Sudan Tribune, April 16).

‘Abd al-Aziz al-Hilu, leader of the rebellion in South Kordofan (Nuba Reports)

The South Kordofan and Blue Nile factions of the SPLM/A-N declared a unilateral three-month ceasefire on April 17 to give the military “a chance for a peaceful and quick transfer of power to civilians” (al-Jazeera, April 17). Nonetheless, there are reports of escalating violence in Darfur, where hundreds of thousands of displaced indigenous Africans see an opportunity to take revenge on regime associates and reclaim land seized by the regime and given to Arab settlers, many from outside Sudan (al-Jazeera, April 17).

Darfur’s rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) has demanded the release of all war-related detainees from Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile State, saying that a refusal to release them “Is a call for the continuation of the war” (Radio Dabanga, April 15).

What about the Army?

The Army has invited the opposition groups to nominate a new civilian prime minister, but the question is whether the PM would serve under or above the TMC, which is unlikely to relinquish control until arrangements have been made for leading military and security figures to make a post-coup “soft-landing.”

During the demonstrations outside military headquarters in Khartoum, low-ranking troops and junior officers emerged at times from the military headquarters to interact with the demonstrators or offer refuge from NISS snipers. Al-Burhan listened to the demonstrators, but he and other officers will view their ongoing role as preventing the disintegration of the country, by whatever means necessary.

The military says it is only interested in holding the defense and interior ministries, which could remove the security sector from civilian oversight and bring the police and intelligence services under military control (Africanews, April 15).

Can the Islamists use the coup to their advantage?

Much of the Islamist political elite has been put under arrest, including al-Bashir loyalist and former prime minister Muhammad Tahir Ayala, leading NCP member Awad al-Jaz and two former vice-presidents, Berri Hassan Saleh and ‘Ali ‘Uthman Muhammad Taha, the latter a powerful Islamist who can call on his own supporters for political muscle. It should be recalled, however, that such arrests are often for show – the Islamist behind al-Bashir’s 1989 coup, Dr. Hassan al-Turabi, was sent to prison for several months after al-Bashir’s coup 1989 to disguise the Islamist nature of the new regime.

‘Ali al-Hajj, leader of the Islamist Popular Congress Party (PCP) (Alleastafrica)

The military has excluded Islamist parties from talks on Sudan’s political future. Islamists and supporters of the old regime are painting the demonstrators as secularists intent on attacking Sudan’s traditional Islamic faith. (Middle East Monitor, April 9). The dissolution of the NCP would weaken the Islamist grip on Sudan, but the movement has proved to be highly resilient in the face of setbacks.

Besides hosting Osama bin Laden and his followers in the 1990s (they were eventually expelled), religious extremists outside of Khartoum’s control were kept largely in check through most of al-Bashir’s rule. Neighboring states fear a new regime might allow extremists to operate in Sudan, whether deliberately or through negligence. According to an Egyptian government source, Cairo “cannot afford a leadership emerging in Libya or Sudan that tolerates, or even worse condones, militant Islamic activity. This is why we… are keeping a close eye on any possible transition of power in Sudan” (Al-Ahram [Cairo], April 10).

What of the Economic Crisis?

The security situation in Sudan cannot be eased until the uncertainty created by the ongoing economic crisis is resolved. The problems are many, and include a declining currency, raging inflation, massive unemployment, inability to replace oil revenues lost with the separation of South Sudan and the cost of fighting endless rebellions in the provinces.

If the general staff possesses any economic skills, they have yet to be revealed. Unfortunately, most of the TMC’s attention will be drawn to carefully watching their colleagues and rivals for signs of a counter-coup, a persistent danger in these conditions. The generals will also be concerned for their own future; as indicated by their demand for the defense and interior ministry portfolios in a future civilian government, they will work hard to ease their own safe transition into a new regime.

Note

1.The TMC, as announced by General al-Burhan, consists of:

General ‘Abd al-Fatah al-Burhan, President

Lieutenant General Muhammad Hamdan Daglo “Hemeti,” Vice President

Lieutenant General Shams al-Din Kabbashi Ibrahim Shanto, member and spokesman

General Omar Zine al-‘Abdin Muhammad al-Shaykh, member

General Jalal al-Din al-Shaykh al-Tayib, member

General Mustafa Muhammad Mustafa Ahmad, member

General Yassir ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Atta, member

Airforce General Salah ‘Abd al-Khalig Said ‘Ali, member

Police General al-Tayib Babikir ‘Ali Fadl, memberRear

Admiral Engineer Ibrahim Jabir Ibrahim, member (Sudan Tribune, April 16).

This article first appeared in the April 22, 2019 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.

The Terrible Tale of Bloody Bill Anderson: Rebellion and Revenge on the Missouri Frontier

Andrew McGregor

A Talk given to the Civil War Roundtable, Royal Canadian Military Institute, Toronto on April 3, 2019.

Part One

William “Bloody Bill” Anderson

A low level conflict had already been raging in the Missouri-Kansas borderlands in the years preceding the outbreak of the Civil War. Fuelling this conflict was a dispute over whether Kansas should be a slave-holding state or not. By the time the war started, Missouri’s pro-rebel guerrillas were known as “Bushwackers,” while their pro-Federal counterparts in Kansas were known as “Jayhawkers” or “Redlegs” from their preference for red pants as a type of uniform. The Jayhawkers typically had access to Union arms and supplies while the guerrillas depended on foraging and the support of pro-secession families.

Early Anderson

Bill Anderson arrived in Kansas as a child in 1857 along with his Southern parents, two brothers and three sisters. When the war started, the 21-year-old Bill appeared to be running a business in stolen horses with his younger brother Jim. Soon Bill was mounting small raids into Missouri, though his devotion to the Confederate cause was questionable – he told a friend he was trying to recruit that he didn’t care anything about the South, but there was good money in bushwacking.

In May 1862, Bill and Jim took revenge on a man named Baxter who had killed their father in a dispute. Both Baxter and his 16-year-old brother-in-law were wounded by the Andersons, who then locked them in the cellar of their house and set it on fire. Baxter shot himself in the head to escape death in the flames, and the boy escaped through a window but soon died from his terrible injuries. It was the first public sign of the combination of vicious anger and callous regard for life that would characterize his short career as a guerrilla leader.

The War Begins

While it is possible that at least half the Missouri population were against secession, repressive measures by out-of-state Union forces turned many into reluctant supporters of the Southern cause. The activities of the Jayhawkers were even more counter-productive – Union General Henry Halleck complained that their outrages had done as much for the enemy in Missouri as could be done by 20,000 Confederate troops.

Senator Jim Lane

Senator Jim Lane, for example, led his Jayhawkers into Missouri in September 1861. There they burned down the entire town of Osceola and executed nine male civilians. Lane became known as the “Grim Chieftain.”

Halleck issued an order in March 1862 that declared the Confederate guerrillas to be outlaws subject to summary execution. The guerrillas responded with a policy of no quarter, and black flags began to appear in the rebel ranks. A further order forcing the conscription of all able-bodied men into Union militias convinced many young men in Missouri to join the guerrillas instead. Still, some 52,000 recruits of questionable value and loyalties were impressed into the Union ranks.

Both Confederate president Jefferson Davis and his Secretary of War Judah Benjamin were opposed to the existence of guerrilla bands outside government control, but with ever larger parts of the Confederacy passing beyond the control of regular forces, the guerrillas presented a lone if distasteful alternative.

Pea Ridge

After some initial Confederate victories in Missouri, Confederate forces under General Earl Van Dorn were defeated at the two-day Battle of Pea Ridge. The rebel army was driven south into Arkansas and would not return to Missouri for over two years. This left the field open to independent guerrilla commanders who took little if any direction from Confederate authorities.

Quantrill

In the Fall of 1862, Bill and Jim ran afoul of guerrilla leader William Quantrill, who took their horses as punishment for robbing Southern sympathizers as well as pro-Unionists. In May 1863 the brothers discovered their family home was nothing more than charred ruins, courtesy of the Kansas Jayhawkers.

Anderson joined Quantrill’s guerrillas. A school teacher from Ohio, Quantrill became one of the most notorious figures of the US Civil War. Beginning with a small group of men fighting the pre-war Kansas Jayhawkers, Quantrill eventually came to lead hundreds of guerrillas. Though it is a matter of some dispute, Quantrill may have held a Confederate commission as a captain of partisan rangers. His guerrillas certainly did not operate in the same way as the commands of partisan rangers such as John Singleton Mosby and John Hunt Morgan, which were much more tightly integrated with the CSA.

In late 1862, the Union ordered the imprisonment of all women known to be related to the guerrillas. Bill’s 16, 14, and 12-year-old sisters were imprisoned upstairs in a 3-storey building in Kansas City. After Union troops removed the supports for the building’s central girder on the main floor, leading to the building’s collapse and the death of four women, including one of Anderson’s sisters. His other two sisters suffered crippling injuries and disfigurement.

Quantrill’s outraged band blamed the federal troops. Anderson was beside himself with anger and now became dedicated to a single purpose; the killing of as many Union soldiers as possible. If this could be done while inflicting fear and pain, all the better. The aims and reputation of the Confederacy would henceforth play little if any role in determining his strategy and tactics.

John Noland, Quantrill’s Chief Scout

Quantrill and his followers decided that revenge would be had for the girls’ deaths, and the location would be the Kansas town of Lawrence, an abolitionist hotbed and home to Jayhawker Senator James Lane, who had led the raid on Osceola. A reconnaissance of the town was done by John Noland, a black Confederate and one of Quantrill’s most trusted scouts. Noland was one of five known Black Americans who rode with the Missouri bushwackers.

The guerrillas rode into Lawrence on August 21, 1863, shouting “Remember Osceola.” Over 200 civilian men and boys were killed in four hours. Anderson was seen coolly killing fourteen men even as they begged for mercy. “I’m here for revenge,” said Anderson, “and I have got it.”

The Union responded to the Lawrence massacre by driving away the population of three Missouri counties and allowing Jennison’s Redlegs to torch everything left.

Lieutenants and Allies of Bloody Bill

By July 1863 Anderson had entered the historical record of the war as commander of a group of 30 to 40 guerrillas. Let’s have a look at some of his allies and lieutenants, keeping in mind the very fluid organization and command structure of the guerrilla bands.

Captain George Todd

Todd was born in Montreal and was probably the only Canadian amongst the guerrillas. A man of action, it was said that Quantrill planned, but Todd executed.

Though he was described by various sources as being crude, illiterate, hot tempered, callously brutal, a deadly shot, and uncontrollable when drunk, his personal bravery and thirst for action were unquestionable.  He was wounded nine times before his death and was described as “a maniac in battle.” Todd wrested control of Quantrill’s band in the spring of 1864 before allying himself with Anderson. He eventually died leading a charge while attached to General Price’s forces in 1864.

Captain Dave Poole

Dave Poole was one of Quantrill’s lieutenants and seems to have thought of himself as quite witty. Once he and his men caught nine Union soldiers in a schoolhouse and killed them. Poole propped the bodies up and “instructed” them at the chalkboard for an hour before complimenting them on their close attention. When Todd died in 1864, Poole took over his command.

Lil’ Archie Clements

Here we have teen-aged Archie Clements. 130 pounds and five feet of perpetually grinning malevolence, Clements was once described as Bloody Bill’s “chief devil.” Clements’ family home had been burned down and his brother murdered by Union militia, leaving Archie with a thirst for Union blood. He delighted in taking scalps and slitting throats.

The James Brothers, 1866

Frank James was an early member of Quantrill’s band. Jesse, at sixteen, later joined Anderson’s band when Frank was still riding with Bloody Bill. The James Brothers, needless to say, used the skills they acquired as bushwackers to become two of the most famous American outlaws in the post-war period.

Guerrilla Weapons and Tactics

A common trait of the guerillas was a distaste for discipline. Most had never joined the army, were paroled prisoners or even deserters. Discipline was light but failure to turn up for an operation could mean death.

Colt Navy .35 cal., 1861 pattern.

As mounted fighters, the guerrillas shared General John Hunt Morgan’s opinion that sabers were “as useless as a fence post.” The guerillas’ weapon of choice was the Colt Navy .36 cal., either in the 1851 or 1861 pattern. The Navy Colt was lighter than the Army Colt and thus preferable to men trying to carry as many as three to six at a time, which provided them with enormous firepower in battle.

Revolvers used in close provided overwhelming firepower in any clash with Union troops and the guerrillas carried as many as six each. Pre-loaded six-shot cylinders were carried in the pockets of their guerrilla shirts, allowing the guerrillas to quickly reload their weapons by swapping out the empty cylinders for full ones. The weapon of choice was the .36 caliber Navy Colt, favored over the heavier Army Colt. Their favorite long-arm was the breech-loading 1859 Sharps rifle, easy to handle on horseback, especially in its carbine version. The Sharps were large bore single shot rifles with a reputation for long-range accuracy. By 1863 both the guerrillas and the Union cavalry were carrying this weapon. The popularity of the weapons made it an icon of the “Old West” before production stopped in 1881.

Sawed-off shotguns were also in use and the personal arsenal was usually completed with Bowie knives and tomahawks for hand-to-hand fighting.

Guerrilla Shirt – Connections to Home

The guerrillas did not have access to Confederate uniforms, but in any case preferred to wear captured Union uniforms, which allowed them to confuse Union pickets and get close to their enemy, where their rapid-firing revolvers made the difference against muzzle-loading rifled muskets. When not wearing Union blue, the well-dressed guerrilla sported a slouch hat with a jaunty feather or squirrel tail, knee-high riding boots and the ubiquitous “guerrilla shirt.” Like the guerrillas’ long hair, the durable pullover shirt with its large pockets was a borrowing from the Great Plains hunters, who in turn had borrowed much of their style from the native Indians.

The Guerrilla Shirt: A Link to Home

The Guerrilla shirt could be “read” by anyone familiar with the code of different flowers, their arrangement and the color thread used for ornamentation. The shirt indicated the relationship the wearer had with its creator, mother, wife, sister or girlfriend and was a symbol of the important role women played in sustaining the guerrillas and nursing their wounds.

Missouri was known for the quality of its horses and the bushwackers always had better mounts than the indifferent nags and worn-out plow-horses sent to Union troops in a Civil War backwater like Missouri. This was a major factor in the guerrillas’ success in tying down large numbers of Union troops. For shelter, they would dig or find a cave in an inaccessible spot deep in the woods and conceal the entrance. Cooking was done only at night to avoid the smoke being seen and riders would enter or leave individually, each taking a different route and then reuniting at a pre-planned location. In winter, when concealment was difficult, the guerrillas would head south to Texas until the foliage returned in Missouri, though they did not leave drunkenness, mayhem and murder behind in their Texas sojourns.

The Charge

As the name “bushwacker” implies, the main tactic of the guerrillas was the ambush, sudden attack followed by a quick withdrawal and dispersal on fast mounts into country best known to the guerrillas.

The Guerrilla Charge

At other times the guerrillas could make ferocious frontal attacks on Union infantry, the rapid fire of their revolvers dealing death and panic among troops armed only with slow-firing muskets and bayonets. Many witnesses described the guerrillas charging with reins between their teeth to enable revolver fire with both hands, but Frank James dismissed this in 1897 as “dime novel stuff… It was as important to hold the horse as it was to hold the pistol.”

Use of Terror

The bushwackers never missed a chance to enrich themselves through the war, robbing stagecoaches, trains, shops, storehouses and riverboats alike. Hand-in-hand with this was the terrorization of the civilian population by murder, torture and property destruction. Anderson’s reputation actually helped in recruitment; according to Jim Cummins, a member of Anderson’s band: “Having looked the situation over I determined to join the worst devil in the bunch, so I decided it was Anderson for me as I wanted to see the blood flow.”

Union supporters or relatives of soldiers could expect little mercy. Germans (who were called “Dutch” by the guerrillas) were routinely murdered by the bushwackers, who regarded all of them as Unionists. In one case, a German was found at the last moment before his hanging to actually be a Confederate supporter. Anderson simply replied: “Oh, string him up. God damn his little soul, he’s a Dutchman anyway.”

Bill offered some simple advice to the citizens of Missouri: “If you proclaim to be against the guerrillas I will kill you. I will hunt you down like wolves and murder you. You cannot escape.”

Counter-Measures

Union counter-measures included the death penalty for interfering with the railroads. Cutting the telegraph led to one captured guerrilla executed and the torching of every home within a ten-mile radius of the cut. With so many guerrillas wearing Union blue, federal troops relied on an elaborate and ever-changing system of hand signals and passwords to separate friend from foe, but Anderson and his lieutenants always appeared to be up to date on these signals.

In January 1864, Union authorities recognized that the actions of the Jayhawkers were ineffective in countering the guerrillas but exceptional in turning the people against the Union by their murder, looting and arson. They were replaced in January 1864 by the Second Colorado Cavalry which, unlike the Jayhawkers, were eager to come to grips with the guerrillas rather than just civilians.

Quantrill’s guerrillas spent the 1863-64 winter with the Confederate Army in Texas. However, as details of the Lawrence massacre seeped in, Quantrill and his unruly gang were increasingly treated with disdain by the CSA officers. They were glad to see Quantrill, Todd and Anderson head back north to Missouri in March 1864.

Quantrill’s band broke up in the spring of 1864 after the guerrilla leader backed down from a challenge from George Todd. Lacking any real authority from the Confederate Army, bushwacker chieftains relied on respect, charisma, courage and ferocity to hold their commands. Anderson set off on his own with 20 men in March 1864. Anderson’s biggest objection to Quantrill was that he wasn’t intent on killing enough Unionists. When Quantrill executed one of Anderson’s men for robbing and murdering a farmer, that was the last straw for Bloody Bill.

By 1864 most of the older guerrillas who fought for the Confederacy had died, gone home or joined the regular Confederate army. Most of the bands now consisted of reckless and ruthless teenagers with lots of violent energy but little judgement. Many were illiterate farm boys who followed whoever could provide them with revenge, adventure, whiskey and loot. Politics provided only a veneer of legitimacy for their violence and descent into depravity.

Angered by incidents of scalping by Kansas Jayhawkers, the guerrillas took it up themselves in the summer of 1864. None were more enthusiastic about the practice than always smiling Lil’ Archie Clements.

The Battle at Centralia

As Sterling Price began his last attempt to retake Missouri in September 1864, he encouraged the guerrillas to mount attacks on garrisons and disrupt communications. Anderson’s group performed well, cutting telegraph lines and striking the Union supply lines. A Union patrol caught up to a group of seven of Anderson’s men, killed them and scalped them. The guerrillas swore revenge, and took it on September 27, 1864 at the Missouri town of Centralia.

Arriving in the morning, the guerrillas looted the town, drinking all the whiskey they could find. A stagecoach rolled in and was promptly robbed before a train arrived. All the passengers were robbed and some murdered except for 25 unarmed Union soldiers. These men were stripped and Anderson made a small speech, letting them know “You are all to be killed and sent to hell.”

Anderson ordered Clements to “muster out” the naked prisoners. Clements opened fire on them and the rest of the bushwackers joined in. All were killed, save one sergeant, who spent several unhappy weeks as Anderson’s prisoner, the only one Bloody Bill was ever known to have taken.

Deployments at the Battle of Centralia

After Anderson left the town, he was pursued by a Union major, AVE Johnston, and 240 men of the 39th Missouri mounted infantry, a force roughly equal to the guerrillas. Johnston unwisely left half his force at Centralia to chase a small group of bushwackers led by Dave Poole, who led them into a large clearing in the midst of a forest. At the other end of the clearing were Anderson’s men, waiting by their horses. Unknown to Johnston, many more guerrillas lay in wait in the woods. The rifled muskets carried by the Union cavalry were unwieldy on horseback, so Johnston ordered his men to dismount and form a line, with a quarter of his force held back to hold the horses. As Anderson launched a furious charge, the Union volley went high. Before they could load again, Anderson’s men were among them with pistols blazing as scores of guerrillas poured out of the woods. Frank James later claimed his brother Jesse was the one to kill Major Johnston, but this is questionable – Jesse may not have even been there. On the other hand, Frank would later claim that he wasn’t there, admit that he was there, or say he was there but missed the events that followed as he was busy pursuing fleeing Union troops.

Most of the Union prisoners begged for their lives. After killing their captives execution-style but shots to the head, the guerrillas brought out their Bowie knives and tomahawks and spent the coming hours in what a witness described as a “carnival of blood,” dismembering, scalping, mutilating and decapitating their near-naked victims. It was considered good sport to switch the decapitated heads to different bodies or impale them on fence posts. The bodies lay so thick that Dave Poole amused himself counting them by jumping from body to body.

When the slaughter ended the guerrillas headed into Centralia to finish off the rest of Johnston’s command. The final death toll was three guerrillas to at least 116 Union dead. There were only two Union wounded, and these only survived the massacre because they had managed to flee,

The Centralia battlefield was excavated by archeologists, who published their report in 2008.

See Part Two at: https://www.aberfoylesecurity.com/?p=4438

The Terrible Tale of Bloody Bill Anderson: Rebellion and Revenge on the Missouri Frontier: Part Two

Andrew McGregor

A Talk given to the Civil War Roundtable, Royal Canadian Military Institute, Toronto on April 3, 2019.

 For Part One of this talk, see:  https://www.aberfoylesecurity.com/?p=4425

General Price’s March Through Missouri

Price’s Failed Campaign

General Sterling Price led the last Confederate attempt to secure Missouri in September 1864. The plan was to take St. Louis, but it was too heavily defended. Instead Price began a meandering march in which he wasted his strength in a series of pointless battles. Price was strongly criticized by Jefferson Davis and others for his misuse of the guerrillas. Price sought to incorporate most of them into his column rather than dispersing them throughout the state to draw off Union troops.

Anderson’s command rode into General Price’s camp on October 11. Perhaps showing some detachment from reality, Bloody Bill rode up to Price and Governor Reynolds with scalps hanging from his saddle. The general and governor both erupted with rage at the display and told Anderson the CSA would have nothing to do with his band until all scalps disappeared.

Price and Anderson met again later that day. Instead of dismissing Anderson and his wild bushwackers, Price, desperate for support, issued a written order to “Captain Anderson” to destroy the North Mississippi Railroad. Bill gave Price a stolen set of fine pistols, which the general accepted.

Westport – October 23, 1864

Largely relieved from having to pursue guerrillas by Price’s choice to attach them to his force, Union troops were able to concentrate in a force much stronger than Price’s at Westport. By this time, discipline had broken down in Price’s army and the expedition increasingly occupied itself with looting, murder and rape, especially of German women.

The battle at Westport was the turning point of the campaign, with Price’s Army of Missouri badly defeated. The general was chased into Indian Territory, and by the time he returned to Arkansas he had only half the 12,000 men he had started with.

The Last Days of Bloody Bill

Bloody Bill’s reign of terror came to an end on October 27, 1864 at Albany Missouri. Lieutenant Colonel Samuel P. Cox had been assigned the task of eliminating Anderson. As one of the few regular officers to bother studying guerrilla tactics, Cox was the man for the job and was given men experienced in fighting bushwackers. Anderson, typically, decided direct action was appropriate. He led a charge expecting results similar to those at Centralia, but the veteran Union troops laid down a withering fire that brought the charge to a halt at 100 yards distance. Only two riders continued, plunging hell for leather through the Union line, but the troops turned round and brought both men down dead. One of these men was Bloody Bill.

Bill’s grey mare was found adorned with Union scalps. On his person was a letter from his wife with locks of hair belonging to her and their child, $600 in gold and greenbacks, $15 in Confederate script, a small Confederate flag presented to him by a friend, and Price’s written order to “Captain Anderson.” There was also a silk cord to which Bill was said to add one knot for every man he killed by his own hands. The cord had 53 knots.

Bloody Bill Anderson in Death, Still Wearing a Guerrilla Shirt

Shortly before his death, Bloody Bill announced, “I have killed Union soldiers until I have got sick of killing them.” Most of the Missouri population was sick of Bloody Bill as well; as a local newspaper proclaimed, “An avenging God has permitted bullets fired from Federal muskets to pierce his head, and the inhuman butcher of Centralia sleeps his last sleep.” (St. Joseph Morning Herald).

Anderson’s Grave

Cox put Bloody Bill’s body on display in Richmond Missouri. Hundreds of people lined up to see it. The local dentist, who doubled as the town photographer, was summoned to take two shots of Anderson’s corpse propped up in a chair. Both photos show that his left ring finger has been cut off, likely to retrieve his ring. After the photo-op, Anderson was decapitated and his head stuck on a telegraph pole. The rest of his body was dragged through the streets. The remains were eventually gathered and placed in a shallow grave.

Jennison’s Jayhawkers later became enraged when they saw his grave in Richmond covered in flowers. Never having the nerve to face him in life they destroyed what they could with their horses and finished by urinating on what was left.

After a local request, the US government provided a new headstone for Anderson’s grave in 1969.

What Happened to Anderson’s Band?

Various experiments in counter-insurgency strategies failed to drive the guerrillas from the field by the end of the war. The ferocity and brutality of a conflict waged between neighbors and families precluded the possibility of an easy transition into a post-war peace. Murder, mutilation, looting and arson were not quickly forgotten crimes and there was little chance they could be considered as simply the fortunes of war. While some guerrillas attempted to start new lives, others had developed a taste for theft and butchery that could not be sated in peace-time.

At the war’s end, many of the guerrillas surrendered after receiving assurances they would not be hanged by the army but would still be subject to civil prosecution. The Kansas City Journal proposed that the bushwackers should be “decently treated, decently tried, decently convicted and decently hung.”

Some, like Lil’ Archie Clements, were unable to obtain favorable conditions and thus remained under arms. Many had no homes left to go to, and there was always the danger of being waylaid by vigilantes. Some of the guerrillas were unwilling to live under Union occupation and joined General Jo Shelby’s brigade as they crossed into Mexico to offer their services to Emperor Maximillian.

Others, like the James brothers, the Younger brothers and the Shepherd brothers, found the transition into peacetime difficult, both because they enjoyed the bushwacking life, but also because they were forced to live in constant fear of arrest or lynching by vigilantes. As bushwackers they had learned how easily banks and trains could be robbed and the hard life of a farmer held little appeal by comparison. These men went on to epitomize the lawlessness of the “Wild West” and their post-war violence has been both glorified and villainized in  popular culture ever since.

Of the Jayhawkers who had burned and murdered their way through Missouri without ever confronting the Confederate guerrillas, Dr. Charles Jennison was court-martialled in 1865 for looting western Missouri, while Jim Lane, who had narrowly avoided death in the Lawrence raid, shot himself in the head a year after the war ended.

After a last winter in Texas, Archie Clements, Dave Poole and Jim Anderson headed back up to Missouri. Clements was soon back to taking scalps and leading a band of as many as 100 men in a rampage of murder, arson and robbery even as the Confederate Army collapsed elsewhere.

With the war over, Clements began hanging out in Lexington saloons with Dave Poole, who was now robbing banks. There was a $300 reward on Archie’s head, but no-one had the nerve to try and collect. By late 1866 there was such an upsurge in violence in Missouri that all men of military age were again ordered to report for registration in the militia. As a joke, Clements, Poole and 25 heavily-armed former bushwackers rode into Lexington in military formation to report for militia duty. The garrison commander did not appreciate their humor but added their names to the roles as required and ordered them out of town.

Grave of “1st Lieutenant” Archie J. Clements

Clements, however, returned to town to have a drink with a friend. A squad of militiamen was sent to arrest him, but Clements burst out of the saloon firing furiously. He mounted his horse and got part way down the street before falling prey to sharpshooters who lined the rooftops to prevent his escape. Clements was only 21-years-old when he died on December 13, 1866.

Bloody Bill’s brother Jim disappeared around 1867-68. He was killed either by Dave Poole’s brother William or by guerrilla George Shepherd, who was reported to have cut Jim Anderson’s throat on the courthouse lawn in Sherman Texas.

As for Quantrill, he was captured after being badly wounded and died in prison in June 1865. His body suffered numerous indignities, his bones were stolen, some put on exhibit, and his skull served duty for decades as a prop in a college fraternity’s initiation rites. Eventually his remains were collected though they still occupy two separate graves, one in Ohio and one in Missouri.

Confederates or Bandits?

In March 1864, General Price reportedly made Quantrill a colonel in the CSA in exchange for turning over a large number of his men to the army. As a result Todd became a captain and Anderson a lieutenant, but these ranks existed only within the unit and do not appear to have ever been commissioned officially by the CSA.

General Jo Shelby, a Missourian and one of the Confederacy’s best fighting generals, held a low opinion of the guerrillas: “They are Confederate soldiers in nothing save the name… No organization, no concentration, no discipline, no law, no anything.” Bloody Bill even denied “the name” part, stating:   “I am a guerrilla. I have never belonged to the Confederate Army, nor do my men.” That was in July 1864, before Anderson accepted the October 11 1864 order from General Price’s staff addressed to “Captain Anderson.” While he did little about the contents, Anderson still carried it with him at his death 16 days later.

Anderson’s ally and sometime rival George Todd once told a captured Union officer that he was not a Confederate officer, but was a bushwacker, and “intended to follow bushwacking as long as he lived.”

Cultural Heritage

Bloody Bill, the guerrillas and the bloodshed along the Missouri Kansas border all became fodder for novels and films in the 20th century. Here we can see posters from some of these highly fictional films, Quantrill’s Raiders, Kansas Raiders, The Bushwackers, and The Outlaw Josey Wales, in which the 24-year-old Anderson was played by the 55-year-old John Russell.

This poster (Generale Quantrill: The Human Beast) is actually for an American movie called Dark Command, with Walter Pigeon playing “William Cantrell.” The film’s Italian distributors apparently felt Quantrill was more marketable, restoring his real name, making it the title and promoting him to General in the process.

A more recent film, Ride with the Devil, was a fictionalized version of Bloody Bill’s campaign that worked much harder than its predecessors to get details of the guerrilla’s style and tactics correct.

Reunion

The Old Guerrillas Gather Round a Portrait of Quantrill

As passions faded over the post-war decades, the Missouri guerrillas began to hold reunions in 1898 like other Confederate units. Familiar faces at these events included Cole Younger, Frank James and John Noland, Quantrill’s loyal Black-American scout. Thirty-two such reunions were held, with the image of William Quantrill adopted as a kind of icon for the veterans, who posed with his portrait and wore ribbons with his image.

Conclusion

For the mostly teenage gunmen of Missouri, the war was more a matter of personal rebellion than political rebellion. If we assess their significance in the conduct and the outcome of the war, the best we can say is that they drew off large numbers of troops that might have been used elsewhere. However, most of the soldiers fighting the guerrillas were young, inexperienced conscripts of the Missouri militia. One of the main units engaged against Anderson, the 17th Illinois Cavalry, was described by their commanding general as unreliable and “almost worthless,” so the idea that these second-rate troops might have made a difference elsewhere is very much open to question. Once the hardened Second Colorado Cavalry took the field against them in 1864, the guerrillas began to take significant losses.

If we look at success or failure in the bushwackers’ own terms, the situation is different. By the summer of 1863, it was obvious the war in the West was lost. From this point on, the guerrillas fought in their own interest, not the Confederacy’s. Their flag was the black flag of no quarter, not the Stars and Bars. Anderson kept his Confederate battle flag carefully folded amongst his personal effects, like a memory of an earlier time and purpose.

The surviving guerrillas might even have judged their campaign as a success in their own terms: Was bloody revenge dealt out to the Union troops and their supporters? Were they able to loot stores and rob civilians? Was there plenty of whiskey and hootin’ and hollerin’ and shootin’ things up? Did they enjoy the fear they saw in their victims’ eyes? Did the war give them license to ignore the laws of both man and God?

The answer is yes to all. By war’s end the guerrilla war in Missouri had descended into a kind of Confederate version of the Lord of the Flies in which teenagers and young men used revenge as justification for operating outside the laws of war and conventional morality. Some, like the veterans attending the bushwacker reunions under Quantrill’s vacant gaze, managed to adjust to post-war life. Others, like William Anderson, had already entered a dark abyss from which there was no return and no escape except death.

And that is the terrible truth of the story of Bloody Bill Anderson.

A Note on Sources

It should be noted that much of our knowledge of the guerrillas and their methods of warfare is based on memoirs and interviews provided by the guerrilla veterans. These rarely agree in details and are usually colored by the perceived legal, political or personal need for the veteran to present his story in a certain fashion, resulting in a variety of contradictory accounts. Many guerrilla leaders, like Quantrill, Anderson and Todd, did not survive the war to give their own views and recorded nothing of consequence when alive (other than Anderson’s three letters to newspapers). The very nature of warfare in Civil War Missouri, often unseen and unrecorded, has rendered it difficult to produce a definitive account of the guerrillas despite the best efforts of many highly competent historians.  The speaker, an interested amateur in Civil War studies, has relied heavily on the following sources:

Barton, OS: Three Years with Quantrill: A True Story Told by His Scout, John McCorkle, Norman, Oklahoma, 1914

Beilein, Joseph M. Jr.: Bushwackers: Guerrilla Warfare, Manhood, and the Household in Civil War Missouri, Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio, 2016

Brownlee, Richard S.: Gray Ghosts of the Confederacy: Guerrilla Warfare in the West, 1861-1865

Castel, Albert: William Clarke Quantrill: His Life and Times, New York, 1962

Castel, Albert: General Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West, Baton Rouge, 1968

Castel Albert: “Quantrill’s Bushwackers: A Case Study in Guerrilla Warfare,” Winning and Losing in the Civil War: Essays and Stories (Columbia, University of South Carolina Press, 1996), pp. 133-44.

Castel, Albert and Thomas Goodrich: Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla, Lawrence Kansas, 2006

Colton, Ray C.: The Civil War in the Western Territories, Norman, Oklahoma, 1959

Goodman, Thomas M., and Captain Harry A. Houston (ed.): A Thrilling Record, Founded on Facts and Observations Obtained During Ten Days’ Experience with Colonel William T. Anderson (the Notorious Guerrilla Chieftain), Des Moines, Iowa, 1868

Goodrich, Thomas: Black Flag: Guerrilla Warfare on the Western Border, 1861-1865, Indiana University Press, Bloomington Ill., 1995

Leslie, Edward E.: The Devil Knows How to Ride: The True Story of William Quantrill and His Confederate Raiders, New York, 1998

McLachlan, Sean: American Civil War Guerrilla Tactics, Oxford, 2009

Oates, Stephen B.: Confederate Cavalry West of the River, Austin (3rd ed.), 1995

Sutherland, Daniel E.: A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War, Chapel Hill N.C., 2009

Thomas D. Thiessen, Douglas D. Scott and Steven J. Dasovich: “This Work of Fiends”: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives on the Confederate Guerrilla Actions at Centralia, Missouri, September 27, 1864, Lincoln Nebraska, March 2008, https://www.scribd.com/doc/267011623/doug-scott-report?secret_password=JA9mGQDVbs3Yvzd6ENoX#fullscreen&from_embed

Wood, Larry: The Civil War Story of Bloody Bill Anderson, Fort Worth, Texas, 2003

Younger, Thomas Coleman: The Story of Cole Younger by Himself, Provo Utah, 1903

 

Yahya Abu al-Hammam: France Eliminates Leading Saharan Jihadist

Andrew McGregor

March 5, 2019

French commandos tore through the desert north of Timbuktu on February 21, in hot pursuit of a leading jihadist who had been detected as part of a three-car convoy by a Reaper surveillance drone. As the commandos caught up, the militants opened fire. Five French helicopters moved in and quickly destroyed the convoy, killing 11, including the main target, Algerian Yahya Abu al-Hammam (a.k.a. Djamel Okacha), a top al-Qaeda financier and strategist (Jeune Afrique/AFP, February 22; Defense.gouv.fr, February 22).

Yahya Abu al-Hammam

Al-Hammam was the second-in-command of Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wa’l-Muslimin (JNIM), al-Qaeda’s Sahel/Sahara affiliate. There are reports that al-Hammam may have been ill and decided to seek medical treatment elsewhere (Malijet, February 23). According to a Malian security source, Abu al-Hammam had been tracked for three months through his telephone (AFP, February 22). Al-Hammam was the third JNIM leader to be killed within a year as French forces work to decapitate the JNIM leadership in the hopes of destroying the Salafi-Jihadist movement in the Sahara/Sahel region.

The announcement of al-Hammam’s death came only hours before French Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe arrived in Mali, where French troops have been fighting militants and terrorists since 2013. An upbeat Phillipe told a gathering of French, Malian, British, and Estonian troops that they had “managed to destroy [the jihadists’] means of combat, to intercept their logistical flows, to dry up their resources… every day our enemies suffer significant losses…” (Ouest-France, February 24).

Born on May 9, 1978, in the Reghaïa commune of Algiers province, al-Hammam began his career in 1998 as a militant with the Algerian Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA – Armed Islamic Group) and later, after 18 months of imprisonment, the Groupe salafiste pour la prédication et le combat (GSPC – Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat).

Al-Hammam arrived in northern Mali in 2004 with the controversial GSPC commander ‘Abd al-Razzak al-Para (Malijet, February 23). From bases there, al-Hammam left an explosive trail through Mauritania, where, under the direction of Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Abu Hamid ‘Abd al-Zaïd, he and his fellow militants exploited Mauritanian military weakness in a series of deadly attacks that killed dozens of Mauritanian troops between 2005 and 2008 (Malijet, February 23). In 2009 he was a suspect in organizing both the murder of American missionary Christopher Leggett and a suicide attack on the French embassy in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital.

In 2009, as commander of the Katiba al-Furqan, al-Hammam ordered the assassination of Mali’s intelligence chief in northern Mali, the Timbuktu-based Colonel Lamana Ould Bou, a Bérabiche Arab. Though the killing was a setback for security forces, it reportedly provoked a disagreement between al-Hammam and his former sponsor, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who had spent years cultivating relationships with the Bérabiche of northern Mali (Malijet, August 13, 2014).

From 2009, al-Hammam became heavily involved with kidnappings, particularly those of Western tourists or workers.

Al-Hammam led AQIM gunmen into Timbuktu in April 2012 as part of the Islamist uprising and occupation of northern Mali. As governor, he oversaw a rigidly strict Shari’a regime that destroyed much of the city’s Islamic heritage and applied corporal and capital punishments to its people for offenses against their interpretation of Islam.  He was rewarded in October 2012 when AQIM leader ‘Abd al-Malik Droukdel (a.k.a. Abu Mus’ab ‘Abd al-Wadud) appointed al-Hammam the new amir of AQIM’s Saharan affiliate in October 2012. (Agence Nouakchott d’Information, October 4, 2012; Le Monde, February 22). Unlike many of his fellow militants, al-Hammam survived the 2013 French-led Operation Serval that dispersed the Islamists and assumed ‘Abd al-Hamid Abu Zaïd’s command when the latter was killed by a Franco-Chadian patrol in February 2013.

The founding of JNIM: Yahya Abu al-Hammam (left), Iyad ag Ghali (center), Abu Hassan al-Ansari (right, killed by French forces in February 2018).

Remaining aloof from the rival Islamic State group, al-Hammam appeared in the March 2017 video that announced the establishment of the al-Qaeda-affiliated JNIM alliance of four Sahara/Sahel jihadist groups under veteran Tuareg militant Iyad ag Ghali (al-Akhbar [Nouakchott], January 10, 2016, MaliActu, March 2, 2017).

Al-Hammam last appeared in a November 8, 2018 video, in which he sat alongside ag Ghali as Amadou Kufa, the Fulani leader of the Force de libération du Macina (FLM – Macina Liberation Front), and called on his fellow Fulani to “make jihad” wherever they are (Le Monde/AFP, November 9, 2018). Two weeks later Koufa died in the Wagadou Forest after being mortally wounded by a French attack. With al-Hammam now gone as well, the priority of French forces will be the elimination of JNIM leader Iyad ag-Ghali. Al-Hammam could be succeeded by Abd al-Rahman Talha al-Libi, the current commander of the Katiba al-Furqan, though there are rumors that Talha may have been one of those killed in the attack on al-Hammam’s convoy (Malijet, February 23).

This article was first published in the March 5, 2019 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Militant Leadership Monitor.

 

Who is Ahmad Harun, the New Leader of Sudan’s Ruling Party?

Andrew McGregor

AIS Special Report, March 3, 2019

Sudan’s embattled president, Omar al-Bashir, appeared to take a small step back from his authoritarian rule of Sudan on February 28 when he resigned as leader of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP – al-Mu’tamar al-Watani). However, his newly-appointed successor, Ahmad Muhammad Harun, is a long-time Bashir loyalist who, like his patron, is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and therefore has little interest in any regime change that could lead to arrest.

Ahmad Muhammad Harun as Governor of South Kordofan

Harun, a 54-year-old trained as a lawyer, will serve as party chief on an interim basis until the next NCP convention. The promotion came only one week after Harun was appointed deputy chief of the party by al-Bashir and puts Harun in the unusual situation of automatically becoming the party’s next presidential candidate according to party rules (AFP, March 1, 2019). Of course Harun might be replaced at the party’s next convention, but the appointment signals that al-Bashir may be reconsidering his controversial bid to be re-elected president in 2020.

Harun’s promotion comes in the midst of a wave of administrative changes that accompanied the imposition of a state of emergency to deal with the continuing protests against the military-Islamist regime. All of the nation’s 18 provincial governors have been replaced by army officers or officials from the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).

Harun has long been the NCP’s point man on its most difficult files. His talent was spotted early, when he was made Sudan’s youngest minister of state (April 2003 – September 2005). His appointment as NCP chief shows the confidence al-Bashir has in Harun as someone who can keep a strong grip on the ruling party at a time when many members might be tempted to look at different political opportunities.

Harun first proved his usefulness to the regime in the 1990s, when he was involved in the organization and operations of the Murahileen, Arab militias living in the borderlands between north and south Sudan during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005). Harun and others were able to persuade Missiriya Arab tribesmen to raid and displace their long-time Ngok Dinka neighbors in an effort to control the massive oil reserves along the border between South Kordofan and Bahr al-Ghazal provinces. It was a blueprint that was later used in Darfur, where some Arab tribesmen were convinced by government agents that the looting and murder of their non-Arab Muslim neighbors was not only permissible but also well-rewarded.

The Darfur Security Desk was put under Harun’s control from April 2003 to September 2005, placing him in a command position over the activities of security services and pro-government militias. According to ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, it was during this time that Harun boasted he now had “all the power and authority to kill or forgive whoever in Darfur, for the sake of peace and security.” (Sudan Tribune, February 28, 2007). Harun later denied making the statement.

Janjaweed Gunmen in Darfur, 2008 (Andrew Carter)

According to Harun, the atrocities in Darfur were the work of rebel groups that had been unsuccessful in attempts to confront the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and its Janjaweed militias on the battlefield. In consequence, he alleged, the rebels targeted civilians while blaming the government for the atrocities in international forums and media: “They started putting pressure on civilians to move out of villages, they killed their children, women they abducted, they destroyed the infrastructure and means of people’s livelihood, and caused the mass migration of people into refugee camps” (Guardian, December 4, 2008).

ICC charges against Harun were first announced in February 2007 and an arrest warrant was issued in April of the same year. After the charges were laid, Harun made a public appearance to demand the ICC prosecutors first charge US President George W. Bush and former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with war crimes (Sudan Tribune, February 28, 2007).

Charges were filed at the same time against former Harun associate and Janjaweed commander ‘Ali Kushayb (a.k.a. ‘Ali Muhammad ‘Ali). President al-Bashir was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2008.  Like the United States, Sudan is not a signatory to the ICC statutes and has refused all appeals to cooperate with the court.

Among the ICC charges were 51 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including 14 counts of murder, ten counts of rape and the torture of 60 people (Telegraph, June 5, 2008). Most of the charges related to Khartoum’s ruthless counter-insurgency in Darfur during the period 2003 to 2005. Harun was Sudan’s interior minister at the time and responsible for internal security. In 2006, al-Bashir surprised many of those following the Darfur conflict by appointing Harun as Sudan’s new Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, putting Harun in charge of relief efforts for the hundreds of thousands displaced by his own activities in Darfur. In September 2007, Harun was placed in charge of an investigation of human rights abuses in Darfur.

Moreno Ocampo deplored Harun’s appointment to Minister of Humanitarian Affairs: “Formally, [Harun] shares responsibility for the safety and well-being of the displaced population. In reality, he joins in constant abuses against them” (IPSNews, February 6, 2009).

Commander ‘Abd al-Aziz al-Hilu (Paulo Nunes dos Santos/Polaris)

In May 2009, Harun was given a more familiar role as governor of South Kordofan province, where a rebellion was raging. Anti-government guerrilla actions were (and continue to be) led by the mainly Nuba fighters of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army – North (SPLM/A-N, which split-off from South Sudan’s SPLM/A when the south gained independence in July 2011). The movement is led by veteran opposition leader ‘Abd al-Aziz al-Hilu, who lost the May 2011 gubernatorial election to Harun (the NCP candidate) in a contest that was transparently rigged in the last hours when it appeared ‘Abd al-Aziz would be the certain winner. Another division of the SPLM/A-N operates in Blue Nile province; both sections are allied to the main rebel movements in Darfur.

A spokesman for Darfur’s rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) was unsurprised at the time that Harun had been appointed governor of South Kordofan: “Having orchestrated the Darfur genocide, Harun is the right choice for the Government of Sudan to complete the unfinished job to ethnically cleanse the Nuba People and bring in Arabs to occupy their lands” (Sudan Tribune, June 21, 2011).

In April 2012, al-Jazeera obtained footage of Harun encouraging SAF troops in Southern Kordofan to take no prisoners during an offensive into rebel-held territory: “You must hand over the place clean. Swept, rubbed, crushed. Don’t bring them back alive. We have no space for them” (Al-Jazeera, April 1 2012).

For the moment, the rebel movements of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile state have extended a unilateral ceasefire, attempting to allow a popular uprising to continue without providing the regime with an opportunity to claim the protests are the work of rebel infiltrators (something security authorities have already done).

Harun maintains that everything he did in Darfur to preserve the regime and the state was his legal duty (Guardian, December 4, 2008). It is an approach al-Bashir will expect as the regime struggles to right itself in the midst of a popular uprising that threatens the president’s three-decade old rule.

“A Revolution Not Like the Others”: Directions in Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in a Post-Bashir Sudan

Andrew McGregor                                                    

March 1, 2019

Ten weeks into massive street protests in Sudan, anger at the three-decade-old regime of President Omar al-Bashir has begun to spread well beyond Khartoum. Unsure of support from the army (supposedly his powerbase), Bashir has unleashed counter-terrorist paramilitaries against the demonstrators. Though the 75-year-old Bashir continues to resist calls for his resignation, he is unlikely to continue his iron-hand rule of Sudan for much longer. With religious extremists active in Sudan and continuing insurgencies throughout the country, there is a strong possibility the nation might experience a rapid deterioration in security following a regime collapse, one which would quickly have regional consequences.

While al-Bashir might survive the latest protests through brute repression, he has experienced ill-health in recent years and is facing opposition even amongst his base against running for re-election in 2020. The  circumstances raise the question of whether terrorism and counter-terrorism will develop in new or novel ways in a post-Bashir Sudan.

Foreign debt, economic mismanagement, inflation and shortages of foreign currency have plagued Sudan since the separation of South Sudan in 2011 and the consequent loss of the enormous oil revenues supplied by wells in the south. Protesters have connected this economic deterioration with the authoritarianism of the regime in their calls for immediate change. The growing death toll on the streets of several Sudanese cities reflects how serious the regime takes these protests – popular uprisings supported by elements of the army succeeded in deposing Sudanese regimes in 1964 and 1985.

The Governing Military-Islamist Alliance

Sudan’s rather unique military-Islamist regime is the result of Sudan’s Muslim Brotherhood (the Ikhwan) seeking firepower and muscle to enable them to overthrow the elected but ineffectual government of Sadiq al-Mahdi and establish an Islamic regime in 1989. Finding little support for this project amongst the military’s senior staff, Brotherhood leader Dr. Hassan al-Turabi (1932-2016) turned to more junior officers, especially Omar al-Bashir, who would leap from Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) major to Sudanese president overnight as the figurehead of the coup.

One of the major grievances of Sudan’s highly diverse population is the nation’s political domination since independence by members of three Nile-dwelling Arab tribes from North Sudan – the Danagla, the Sha’iqiya and the Ja’alin (al-Bashir is a Ja’ali).

The Islamist movement that propelled al-Bashir to power split in 1999, with its leading member, al-Turabi, leaving to form the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP). Other Islamists remained with the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), which has seemed more dedicated to preserving the regime than promoting an Islamic social transformation in Sudan.  The NCP is currently preoccupied with internal rifts.

Shaykh al-Zubayr Muhammad al-Hassan

The NCP is supported by the Sudan Islamic Movement (SIM), which is intended to provide ideological guidance. In the midst of the economic crisis, SIM leader al-Zubayr Muhammad al-Hassan praised the regime for creating a “much better economic situation” and drastically lowering poverty rates. In reality, the country has been propped up in recent years with heavy financial assistance from the Gulf States. Few Sudanese could agree with al-Zubayr’s perception, but many would agree with his observation that opportunities had been created for “a number of Islamists” (Radio Dabanga, August 28, 2018).

Ansar Protesters Gather outside the Hijra Wad Nubawi Mosque in Omdurman (Radio Dabanga)

Mosques have become gathering points for protesters, particularly after Friday sermons denouncing the “tyranny and corruption” of the regime. As a result, various mosques have been stormed by security forces firing tear gas, including the Hijra mosque in Wad Nubawi (Omdurman), home of the powerful Ansar Sufi movement led by two-time prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi (Radio Dabanga, February 17).

Tear Gas strikes the minaret of al-Hijra Wad Nubawi Mosque on January 11, 2019 (Pan-African News-wire)

A Partner in Counter-Terrorism?

Khartoum has enjoyed quiet U.S. support as a counter-terrorism partner despite the regime’s Islamist base. To reward Sudan for cooperation on the counter-terrorism file and progress on several other issues, U.S. President Barack Obama lifted a long-standing American trade embargo in one of the last acts of his presidency. [1] Sudan, however, has remained a designated state sponsor of terrorism since 1993 and is still subject to certain sanctions as a result.

Sudanese Foreign Minister al-Dardiri Muhammad Ahmad visited Washington in November 2018, where he claimed to have convinced Trump administration officials that Sudan has made major progress on human rights and counter-terrorism issues. However, some of al-Dardiri’s remarks were somewhat disconcerting, such as when he insisted Osama bin Laden had “nothing to do with terrorism” during his presence in Sudan. Al-Dardiri claimed Bin Laden was only occupied with developing an airport with his construction team (VOA, November 1, 2018). Al-Dardiri also pointed out that Khartoum understood the world is no longer unipolar. China, Russia and Turkey were all ready to step up with aid and debt write-offs without regard to Sudan’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism (Foreign Policy, November 8, 2018).

Islamic Extremism in Modern Sudan

The Bashir regime has had an ambiguous relationship with extremist groups inside Sudan, partly as a result of the ebb and flow of Islamist influence within the government. In 1991, Muslim Brotherhood leader Hassan al-Turabi persuaded the regime to host Osama bin Laden and his followers until they were expelled in 1996 when they came to be identified as an internal threat. The sporadic emergence of other Sudanese extremist groups in some cases came to be recognized as little more than paper claims for the deeds of others.

A group called “al-Qaeda in Sudan and Africa” claimed responsibility for the July 2006 kidnapping and beheading of Muhammad Taha Muhammad Ahmad, the Islamist editor of Khartoum’s al-Wifaq newspaper, for “dishonoring the Prophet.” Authorities instead hanged nine members of the Fur ethnic group for the offense, despite claims by the suspects that they had been tortured into confessions. Their motive was alleged to be revenge for Muhammad Taha’s articles claiming that well-documented reports of mass rape by government security forces in Darfur were nothing more than consensual sex (Sudan Tribune, April 14, 2009; Sudan Tribune, April 16, 2009).

In 2008, gunmen belonging to the small Ansar al-Tawhid (Supporters of Monotheism) group murdered USAID employee John Granville and his Sudanese driver in the streets of Khartoum. The attack on Granville came only one day after then U.S. President George Bush signed the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act, a bill drafted in response to Khartoum’s alleged genocide in Darfur. Suspicions of official sanction for the attack were reinforced when four members of the group made a video-taped escape from North Khartoum’s Kober Prison in 2010 while awaiting execution. It was the first escape from the colonial-era prison. Suspicions were revived when two men convicted of orchestrating the escape from outside were given early presidential pardons (Sudan Tribune, August 15, 2015; Radio Dabanga, April 7, 2016). The attack was also claimed by an apparently imaginary group called “al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Niles,” but ultimately none of the suspects were charged with membership in a terrorist group (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, October 12, 2008).

One of the escapees in the Granville case was ‘Abd al-Ra’uf Abu Zayid Muhammad, the son of the leader of Ansar al-Sunna al-Muhammadiya, the largest Salafist group in Sudan. Sudanese Salafism is primarily of the quietest type with minimal political involvement, consistent with Salafist beliefs in the legitimacy of political leadership in Muslim nations, which can only be challenged in extreme circumstances such as the repudiation of Islam. However, there exists a strong rivalry with Sufism, the deeply rooted and dominant form of Islamic worship in Sudan, as well as between different Salafist groups. Ansar al-Sunna became engaged in a doctrinal dispute with the Salafist Takfir wa’l-Hijra (Renunciation and Exile) movement in the 1990s, leading to a series of three attacks on Ansar al-Sunna mosques that left a total of 54 people dead (see Terrorism Focus, February 6, 2009).

In December 2012, Sudanese security forces fought an eight-hour gun battle with Salafi-Jihadists at their training camp in Dinder National Park in Sinnar Province (east Sudan). The group was composed largely of university students from Khartoum but was not associated with al-Qaeda, according to authorities (Akhir Lahza [Khartoum], December 4, 2012).

Muhammad ‘Ali al-Jazouli

In 2015, it was learned that medical students, primarily dual-citizens from the UK, Canada and the United States, were being recruited from Khartoum’s University of Medical Science and Technology to serve in Islamic State medical facilities in Syria (Sunday Times, February 5, 2017). At the time, a prominent Khartoum imam, Muhammad ‘Ali al-Jazouli, was advocating for the Islamic State and encouraging Muslims to kill “infidel” women and children. The imam was jailed for eight months and then quickly re-arrested after it became apparent his beliefs had not changed (Radio Dabanga, July 1, 2015).

The following year, Sudan’s Interior Minister admitted there were as many as 140 Sudanese Islamic State members (mostly operating abroad in Syria, Iraq and Libya), adding that they did not present a threat to Sudan (Assayha.net, July 14, 2016). The actual number could be significantly higher.

Is Intervention by the Sudan Armed Forces Possible?

Opposition calls for the army to step in and depose al-Bashir have had little apparent resonance so far. After repeated purges, the officer corps of the SAF is largely Islamist and has little interest in enabling regime change for any other party. With the exception of a few members of al-Bashir’s inner circle, the SAF appears to be taking a wait-and-see approach to the street demonstrations, offering little in the way of open support or opposition to al-Bashir. The most likely scenario for an early exit by the president could involve transferring power to the army in preparation for new elections. Al-Bashir has hinted he would have no objection to handing over power to “a person wearing khaki” (a military man) but has otherwise held to a defiant course, maintaining that the protesters were only hired mercenaries and heretics (Sudan Tribune, January 9; Arab News, January 21).

Lieutenant General Kamal ‘Abd al-Marouf, SAF chief-of-staff

Soon after reports emerged of military officers joining protests in three Sudanese cities, SAF command released a statement confirming that it “stood behind the nation’s leadership” (Anadolu Agency, December 24, 2018). National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS – Jiha’az al-Amn al-Watani wa’l-Mukhabarat) chief Saleh Gosh and the SAF’s chief of general staff, Kamal ‘Abd al-Maruf, publicly proclaimed the army’s full support for al-Bashir, with the latter dismissively insisting the army would never hand over the country to “homeless” protesters (Sudan Tribune, January 30; Sudan Tribune, February 10).

The regular army has had little direct involvement in repressing the street protests, which are dealt with largely by elements of the pro-Bashir police, the NISS and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF – Quwat al-Da’m al-Seri), the latter a poorly disciplined paramilitary composed mostly of Darfur Arabs. Some are veterans of the notorious Janjaweed. The president’s security institutions have used all the tools of a repressive state to control and suppress Islamist extremists (or even manipulate them when desired), but unleashing the “counter-terrorist” RSF against unarmed civilians will not be viewed favorably by most Sudanese.

The NISS is a pervasive and pernicious presence in Sudanese society, enjoying broad immunity from prosecution while deploying their extensive powers of arrest, censorship, property seizure and even indefinite detention and abuse in so-called “ghost houses” that exist outside the judicial system. Of late, the NISS has been receiving training from Russian mercenaries (see EDM, February 6).

The director of the NISS is Saleh Gosh, a Sha’iqiya Arab and top intelligence figure who was retrieved from the political wilderness to provide unflinching support to the regime. Gosh, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who was the regime’s point man with Bin Laden during his time in Sudan, later became close to the CIA during his first tenure as NISS chief, supplying important information about al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups. As Gosh revealed in 2005 during the regime’s brutal suppression of the revolt in Darfur: “We have a strong partnership with the CIA. The information we have provided has been very useful to the United States” (LA Times, April 29, 2005).

Gosh had a major role in purging the regime of al-Turabi’s supporters in 1999 but lost his job a decade later when his rivalry with presidential advisor Nafi al-Nafi began to weaken the regime. In November 2012, NISS agents arrested Gosh and several senior Islamist officers of the SAF—including the popular General Muhammad Wad Ibrahim ‘Abd al-Jalil, former commander of the presidential guard—on suspicion of preparing a coup d’état. [2] Gosh was released several months later due to a lack of evidence but remained uncritical of the regime. He was rewarded in February 2018 when al-Bashir re-appointed him as NISS director (Fanack.com, March 28, 2018). Gosh has since cleansed the NISS of those not completely loyal to al-Bashir, even though Gosh himself remains a potential presidential successor.

President Omar al-Bashir (left) with ‘Ali Osman Muhammad Taha

Another possible Islamist successor is ‘Ali Osman Muhammad Taha (Sha’iqiya), a civilian who was once Hassan al-Turabi’s chief lieutenant in the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood. Taha re-aligned himself behind al-Bashir and the NCP after the 1999 Islamist split.  Sudan’s Foreign Minister in the turbulent 1990s, Taha was appointed first vice-president in 1998, a post that he held twice until his final dismissal by al-Bashir in 2013. Since then, there has been a trend away from civilian Islamists in the nation’s top posts toward the appointment of Islamist-inclined senior army officers. Taha remains highly influential in Sudan’s Islamist movement, though his international reputation was damaged by his central involvement in the regime’s ethnic cleansing of Darfur (Fanack.com, November 30, 2016). Opposition members have accused Taha’s Islamist supporters (the “unregulated brigades” he warned protesters about) of assault on demonstrators and the use of live-fire (al-Sharq al-Awsat, January 21).

Unresolved Rebellions

Most of Sudan’s budget is dedicated to its endless internal conflicts, with over 70 percent of spending allocated to defense and security matters (Radio Dabanga, August 28, 2018). In effect, the regime devotes nearly all its resources to defending itself from internal opposition.

The SAF is engaged in the expensive repression of long-standing rebellions on three fronts: Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile State. The four leading rebel movements, grouped as the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), renewed their unilateral ceasefire for a further three months on February 9 (Sudan Tribune, February 10). [3] Though somewhat exhausted from years of campaigning, these groups are still capable of confronting government security forces and may be using Khartoum’s focus on the protests to replenish and rebuild. Despite the viciousness with which these conflicts are fought, Sudan’s rebel movements continue to eschew urban terrorism in favor of more “conventional” guerrilla tactics.

On December 28, 2018, the Sudanese government claimed to have captured armed members of Darfur’s SLM/A-AW rebel group in the North Khartoum suburb of al-Droushab, over 500 miles from the group’s normal operational zone in the Jabal Marra region of Darfur. Security forces broadcast footage of young detainees confessing their intention to kill protesters, destroy property and attack public institutions. The SLM/A-AW refuted the charges, calling them “blatantly fabricated allegations” while insisting the movement’s operations were confined to Jabal Marra  (Sudan Tribune, December 30, 2018).

Security Prognosis

Sudanese insularity and widely based self-perception as leaders rather than followers in the development of political Islam (dating back to the anti-imperialist Mahdist movement of the late 19th century) has helped to inhibit the local growth of foreign-based extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Nonetheless, Sudan’s economic crisis will not suddenly cease if al-Bashir steps down, leaving a moderate possibility that foreign terrorist groups may try to exploit political instability to establish a presence in Sudan.

Islamists may find it hard to find space within a new post-Bashir regime, much as was the case when the Islamist-influenced President and former general Ja’afar Nimeiri was overthrown in 1985. Closely tied to al-Bashir, there is a good chance the NCP could collapse soon after a change in the presidency, leaving room for new actors and the traditional parties to explore after years of exclusion from power. Convinced of their religious duty, Islamists have turned to violence elsewhere after being ejected from power. Certain Islamist factions will thus remain a danger to the emergence of a more secular government, but a descent into urban terrorism remains unlikely, due in large part to the broader population’s revulsion for the targeting of innocents. The carefully-planned coup, the lightning raid and the protracted defense of rough terrain are all more acceptable methods of armed struggle in Sudan, though the growth of terrorism in neighboring countries means new strategies of violence are never far away.

Shortly before his death, former Muslim Brotherhood leader Hassan al-Turabi made a terrible prediction for the future of Sudan: “The revolution, if there is any, will not be like [the earlier uprisings]. The whole Sudan now is armed, though any violence will quickly spread across the whole country, and the situation will be worse than Somalia, Iraq, because we are from different tribes, and types” (Sudan Tribune, July 7, 2015). So far, the uprising has had more of a unifying effect, but the potential remains for a general security breakdown with daunting prospects for regional security.

Notes

1, See: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/13/executive-order-recognizing-positive-actions-government-sudan-and January 13, 2017.

2. See: Andrew McGregor, “Sudanese Regime Begins to Unravel after Coup Reports and Rumors of Military Ties to Iran,” AIS Special Report, January 7, 2013, https://www.aberfoylesecurity.com/?p=141 

3. SRF members include Minni Minawi’s Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A-MM), al-Hadi Idris Yahya’s Sudan Liberation Movement – Transitional Council (SLM-TC), Malik Agar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army – North (SPLM/A-N) and the Justice and Equality Movement led by Jibril Ibrahim.

This article first appeared in the March 1, 2019 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.