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Sudan’s Armed Group Has a New Enemy

A Sudanese militia that once drew international condemnation for spearheading a bloody anti-insurgency campaign in the western region of Darfur has a new, unlikely message: Please wash your hands. As Sudan girds for another sort of battle, this time against the coronavirus pandemic, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo  is taking centre stage. The paramilitary force is building on its rise to near the top of Sudan’s transitional government after backing 2019’s overthrow of one-time sponsor, former president Omar al-Bashir. The militia that emerged from Darfur’s Janjaweed — the “devils on horseback” — and was accused of killing 100 protesters in June now runs a quarantine centre, disinfects the streets and distributes equipment and medical advice, lavishly promoting it all on social media. One cartoon on Facebook shows its fighters squaring off against a monstrous fanged depiction of the virus clinging like King Kong to the egg-shaped Corinthia Hotel in Khartoum, the capital.