Where did the cars looted from Khartoum arrive?
This article is translated from the original Arabic, published by Darfur 24 on August 30, 2023.
“For the girl with braids I will ride a boxy [Hilux 4x4 pickup]”
These words are from a clip of a popular song from the heritage of one of the Arab tribes in western Sudan. Because of this clip, which spread more widely with the outbreak of war between the army and the Rapid Support Forces on April 15, 2023, numbers of armed civilians supported the Rapid Support Forces in their war with the Armed Forces in the capital and some states. They seized cars or looted them from citizens, government institutions, or humanitarian organizations, according to testimonies obtained by Darfur 24.
In a statement, the Sudanese police said that the number of cars stolen from the capital, Khartoum alone, amounted to 153,572, while a traffic police officer who preferred to withhold his name believes that that number is too small compared to the actual number of lost cars, noting that the police may have counted only vehicles already reported stolen. He said that there were hundreds of cars stolen and their owners were unable to file reports, either due to the lack of police stations in the area of jurisdiction, or the absence of the car owners.
The roads of the cities and countryside of Darfur and Kordofan were filled with thousands of cars looted from the war zones, and the city of El Daein accounts for almost half of the cars coming from Khartoum. Among these, cars of famous people appeared in some cities of Darfur.
The owner of a maintenance workshop in the city of El Daein, Fadl Saeed, told Darfur 24 that he found in a vehicle official documents for leader of a major political party, and a vehicle with the name of one advisors to the Rapid Support Force commander in the city of El Geneina, while Al Jazeera journalist Abdel Baqi Al Dhafer informed Darfur 24 that he had two vehicles, one of which was a 2022 Toyota Boxy, which were stolen, one of them from his family’s home in Mamoura and the other from Riyadh neighborhood in Khartoum. In late May, activists published a video clip showing a group of armed men wearing RSF uniforms in a Khartoum neighborhood forcing a woman to hand them her car keys, and then they took it from her despite her repeated pleas.
Dagalo family's cars stolen
The Rapid Support Forces absolve themselves of car thefts and say that they have nothing to do with this phenomenon, and indicate that the thefts extended to the house of its second commander, Abdul Rahim Dagalo, in Kafouri, in addition to the theft of about a thousand cars from the parking of Taiba camp, in addition to the looting of all the cars Al-Junaid Company, affiliated with the Dagalo family.
Society in the states of Darfur met the phenomenon of theft and looting of cars with rejection and disapproval. The stolen cars were called “Shamlan,” which is a type of cheap cigarette imported from a neighboring country, while some families refused to allow their children to enter their homes with these cars. Darfur 24 monitored that a person from the western Asalaya region of the city of El Daein, the capital of East Darfur, called the owner of a car with a phone number that was found among the identity papers of the vehicle and asked him to send someone to retrieve his car that was looted by his son, while the owner of the car replied that he was in Port Sudan and could not return, but he asked him to keep the vehicle at his disposal if he returned to receive it. If he doesn't come back, it is his property.
Darfur 24 correspondent reported that he witnessed an incident where an elderly woman refused to take advantage of one of the stolen vehicles being used as a bus on the Al-Firdus-Al-Daein road, as she kept asking, before paying the ticket price, whether the vehicle was stolen from Khartoum or existed before the war? After making this inquiry, the old woman said that she would not ride with her lawful money in a stolen vehicle, and this money should be paid to the owner of the vehicle, not to the thief.
The looted cars did not find a popular market in Darfur. One of the brokers in the unregulated vehicle market, “Boko,” said that the demand for buying stolen cars is weak for fear of prosecution if the security situation stabilizes. He explained to Darfur 24 that most of these cars are sold outside the market at low prices. He gave as an example that a ‘Boxy’ vehicle (Hilux), whose price is 30 million Sudanese pounds (about 39,000 US dollars), is sold for about 7 million, equivalent to $9,000, while some “Boko” cars are sold in South Sudan to citizens there.
According to Darfur 24’s monitoring, some of the stolen cars go to other areas in northern and eastern Sudan. Last June, Wad Al Haddad police station in the south of Jezira State was able to seize two stolen cars, according to police reports, while the Nile River State police seized them on July 31.
Darfur 24 obtained information indicating that there are professional gangs with ties to neighboring countries behind the theft of four-wheel drive vehicles. Information indicated that these gangs bring the looted cars to the Libyan border and, in coordination with other gangs, carry out an in-kind sale of other cars coming from Libya in order to avoid any expected legal procedures, in addition to the fact that the price of cars coming from Libya in the markets is high compared to those stolen from Khartoum.
Although Chadian President Mohamed Idriss Deby had reassured the Sudanese owners of stolen cars, and said that we would return any car that entered the Chadian border, there are merchants who appear to be influential in the country of Chad who buy specific models of cars and cross them into Chad.
RSF fighters’ involvement
Darfur 24 talked to the political advisor to the Rapid Support Commander, Ali Al-Tahir Sharif, to ask about the involvement of Rapid Support members in seizing cars in war zones. He admitted that there are outlaws from the Rapid Support Forces, who carry out acts that he described as bad, and that they have imprisoned.
Meanwhile, about 2,500 people are under guard because they committed crimes. The Commander of the Rapid Support Forces formed a committee to combat negative phenomena, headed by Major General Issam Fadil, and it was able to arrest some members of the RSF and a large number of gunmen supporting the RSF and put them in prison. The committee also seized more than 2,000 vehicles belonging to citizens.
Sharif said that any citizen who proves ownership of one of the seized vehicles should hand over his vehicle immediately, and called on the owners of the missing vehicles to move to Riyadh neighborhood in Khartoum to see the existing vehicles.
The song "عشان ام قرون بركب الحديد بكسي" (“For the girl with braids I will ride a boxy, i.e. Hilux pickup") means that the young man will own a boxy to appease the girl with the braids. Has that song been a motivation for thousands of young men from the Arab tribes in Kordofan and Darfur to fight on the side of the Rapid Support Forces?
Eyewitnesses indicate that these volunteers, along with some members of the RSF, seize cars after the end of any battles, preferring “boxy” over others.
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