"It's the same regime as the old regime" is one of several mantras concerning this moment in Sudan's history. Since arresting their own leader Omar al-Bashir in April, the country's ruling Military Council has continued violent Bashir-era policies without skipping a beat. Humanitarian blockades are still violently enforced, the specter of war looms over Sudan's oppressed periphery regions, and protesters are being locked up and tortured.
In today's world, governance by brutality comes with negative press for the oppressor. Authoritarian regimes have been increasingly creative over the past several years with how they deal with looking bad for, well, being bad. Hiring an international lobbying firm is a go-to method nowadays, which is exactly what the junta in Sudan has done. Buckle up though: this case is especially crazy.
The self-declared name of Sudan's current regime is the Transitional Military Council. To be clear, there is nothing transitional about this junta. The group is made up entirely of army and security officers who have participated in war crimes, genocide, and terrorism for many years. Sudan's former dictator Omar al-Bashir was the powerful figurehead of this junta for just shy of three decades; however, after months of massive protests across Sudan, he was peacefully arrested in April by several members of the Council.
On June 3, a powerful militia that reports directly to the Military Council, the Rapid Support Forces, began massacring unarmed and peaceful protesters in Khartoum. Regime crimes that had long been committed in the oppressed hinterlands of Sudan, crimes like mass rape, mass murder, and torching and theft of civilian property, had finally come to Sudan's all-powerful capital. The massacre was immediately met by an outraged international community, and what little hope remained that the junta could be negotiated with evaporated.
Oddly, the contract between lobbying firm Dickens & Madson Canada Inc. and the Military Council was signed well before the June 3 massacre, on May 7. It's still unclear when the junta or core junta elements decided to slaughter protesters in Khartoum, but the hiring of a lobbying firm only weeks before the killings were committed raises eyebrows. The contract also bears the signature of Rapid Support Forces commander Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemeti, whose forces committed the bulk of the Khartoum killings.
As is always the case with this regime though, the truly terrifying devils are in the details. This deal between a genocidal government and a lobbying firm is disgusting, but it also gets strangely specific at certain points.
The Highlights Of The Deal
You can read the full deal between the Military Council and Dickens & Madson Canada Inc. in this U.S. Justice Department document here, but we'll summarize the main points below with some brief analysis that is italicized.
According to this contract, Dickens & Madson will lobby basically anyone anywhere on behalf of the Military Council to try to benefit the junta and prevent international policy that would hurt the regime. The document specifically mentions lobbying the United States and Russia, but also includes a number of very concerning, specific entities and actions:
- Asking a redacted person to visit Sudan by the end of May. The redacted name comes right before trying to setup a "public" meeting between President Donald Trump and the regime, so we assume this is another American official. It's likely that this individual is former Representative Jim Moran, who was recently in Sudan slavering praise on Rapid Support Forces commander Hemeti. Yea, really.
- Pushing international and Sudanese media to "correct" unfavorable media coverage of the Military Council and create favorable coverage. Yikes.
- Seeking financial assistance for the Military Council from countries around the world, and specifically the United States in a joint Sudan-South Sudan oil project. The company name(s) or certain industry types that could be useful in oil and gas deals have been redacted. It comes right on the heels of seeking American funding, so it is possible these are American companies or industries. Um, no. Heck no.
- Seeking funding from the Eastern Libyan Military Command in exchange for military assistance to the Libyan National Army. Due to the Rapid Support Forces operating as guns for hire in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, we assume this means Rapid Support Forces troopers and child soldiers will be traded in Libya for money. The UN also has an arms embargo on Libya right now, so such a move would most likely be illegal. Disgusting.
- Obtaining urgent meetings with "Middle Eastern Governments" to resolve outstanding issues. This is probably the Military Council trying to get more money from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who represent two of the three biggest international enablers of the junta.
- Working to get all remaining U.S. sanctions lifted and the American State Sponsor of Terrorism designation on Sudan dropped. Hopefully the State Department sticks to its words and does neither, especially since the bilateral normalization process was frozen a while ago. There is also a global effort underway to see the U.S. government declare the Rapid Support Forces a terrorist organization and sanction them, which it easily meets the criteria for.
- Working to "assist" integrating South Sudan to Sudan in a way that is similar to the European Union. Some in the junta and other Sudanese power structures are still bitter that South Sudan was allowed to declare independence in 2011. At the very least, this is going to raise eyebrows in Juba. At its worst, this is a sign that some in Sudanese power circles are laying the groundwork for reinserting northern control over South Sudan. This is a huge red flag either way.
The Bottom Line
Following the June 3 massacre in Khartoum, ongoing regime intransigence with regards to moving Sudan toward a real civilian government, and the recent hiring and firing of government officials, reading this contract shows the true intentions of the Transitional Military Council. The junta has no plans to hand decision-making authority over to civilians.
On top of all of this is an insane reality: Sudan's economy has crumbled due to regime-instigated wars, vast government corruption, and the outright incompetence of top junta officials. When protests began in December, they were directly linked to Sudan's free-falling economy. The fact that the Military Council is dropping $6,000,000 on a lobbying firm to try to clean up their image when millions of Sudanese don't know where their next meal is coming from is outrageous.
Our advice to public servants, reporters, and we guess the whole world? If Dickens & Madson Canada Inc. comes knocking, send them packing.
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