As Sudan’s latest conflict intensifies, artisanal gold miners are caught in the crosshairs – by Philip Obaji Jr. (Equal – May 24, 2023)

On 17 April 2023, just before sunset in al-Ibaidiya, a Sudanese mining town on the banks of the River Nile about 400 kilometres north of Khartoum, four soldiers stormed the home of Omar Sheriff and dragged him out of his house. For hours, according to Sheriff, two of the soldiers searched his home, while the others held him hostage outside of his compound.

“They [the soldiers] falsely accused me of working with Russian merchants to smuggle gold out of Sudan,” Sheriff tells Equal Times. “They were hoping to find documents relating to gold smuggling operations at my home, but they couldn’t find anything incriminating.”

Ever since fighting broke out on 15 April between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), headed by Sudan’s de facto ruler General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and paramilitaries from the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), headed by General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo (popularly known as ‘Hemedti’), dozens of artisanal miners in al-Ibaidiya have been harassed by government forces who accuse them of conniving with gold merchants from a nameless firm.

Known by locals only as ‘The Russian Company’, the gold company is said to be owned by the Wagner Group, a Russian private military organisation that initially “secured the exploiting and exporting of Sudanese gold to Russia,” according to the Council of the European Union, by supporting and collaborating with the SAF, before switching sides and providing training and military support to the RSF.

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