Last month, Sudanese Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo signed a contract with Canadian lobbying firm Dickens & Madson in an effort to improve the international reputation of the controversial Transitional Military Council (TMC) currently ruling Sudan. General Dagalo, better known by his nickname Hemeti, is infamous for his role in commanding the Janjaweed militia that has committed genocide against Sudan’s ethnic minorities. Last week, the Canadian government announced an investigation into this seemingly nefarious agreement, which Canadian officials believe may have violated Canadian international sanctions law.
The TMC has ruled Sudan since President Omar al-Bashir’s ousting in April, an arrangement that many pro-democracy protesters see as a threat to the nation’s transition to civilian-led democracy, especially given the prominent role of known warlords like Hemeti.
Montreal-based lobbying firm Dickens & Madson, the firm that has agreed to assist Hemeti and the TMC, is led by the eccentric and notorious lobbyist, Ari Ben-Menashe.
But why would a Canadian lobbyist agree to help a known Sudanese warlord? Who is Ari Ben-Menashe?
Ari Ben-Menashe was born in 1951 in Tehran to a family of Iraqi Jews. As a teen, Ben-Menashe moved to Israel, where he eventually worked for the elite Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate.
In 1989, Ben-Menashe was arrested in the United States on charges that he allegedly attempted to sell three military aircraft to the Iranian government. He spent a year in U.S. federal prison before his acquittal in 1990. In 1992, Ben-Menashe published his controversial memoir, Profits of War: Inside the Secret U.S.-Israeli Arms Network, which outlined a number of non-verifiable claims about the secret dealings of Israeli and American politicians, including covert meetings involving Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Ben-Menashe became a citizen of Canada in the early 1990s during his brief marriage to a Montreal woman. Ben-Menashe, who has been married three times, currently lives in Montreal with a female friend of Latvian descent.
Ben-Menashe gained further international notoriety for his role in the 2002 Zimbabwe presidential election, in which he offered to assist opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai. Later, it was revealed that Ben-Menashe and Dickens & Madson were really working for incumbent leader Robert Mugabe, a known strongman wanted for crimes against humanity. Ben-Menashe double-crossed Tsvangirai, who was then put on trial for alleged treason against the government of Zimbabwe.
Why would Ben-Menashe work for Mugabe, a Marxist-Leninist dictator known for violating his own people’s human rights? It was later revealed that Ben-Menashe was paid handsomely by African drug lord Paul Le Roux to preserve the political status quo in Zimbabwe in order for Le Roux to maintain his drug operation in the country.
Ben-Menashe has taken on many other questionable clients over the years, such as a little-known Cameroonian presidential candidate and an oil company run by the Libyan government that sought to strengthen ties with Russia in 2014.
These and an extensive history of other controversial dealings have earned Ari Ben-Menashe the nickname “the warlords’ favorite lobbyist,” a nickname that seems only more appropriate following Ben-Menashe’s agreement with Sudan’s Hemeti.
The agreement, which can be viewed by the public in its entirety thanks to FARA regulations, contains several disturbing provisions, given the known histories of both Hemeti and Ben-Menashe.
Here are just a few of the services that Ben-Menashe has agreed to provide Hemeti, according to the document:
- To lobby the United States, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Nations, the African Union, and others to “devise…policies for the beneficial development of [Hemeti’s] political aims.”
- To achieve international recognition of the TMC as “the legitimate transitionary leadership of the Republic of Sudan”
- To arrange a meeting between US President Donald Trump and the leaders of the TMC, including Hemeti himself
- To set up meetings with leaders of Middle Eastern governments who will cooperate with the TMC’s leadership of Sudan
- To correct unfavorable international media coverage concerning the TMC
- To assist in the integration of South Sudan with Sudan in the form of a Sudanese Union
- To consolidate the Sudanese and South Sudanese oil industries under a single entity within three months
These aims, which should cause significant alarm in the international community, offer a firsthand account of the ways in which Ben-Menashe will attempt to thwart Sudan’s transition to civilian-led democracy.
The price tag for these services: $6 million. The international community should question how Hemeti accumulated the funds to pay this fee, which per the terms of the contract, must have already been paid to Ben-Menashe. Perhaps that should be the subject of further research on this topic.
In fact, that is exactly what the Canadian government will do: the Canadian government recently recommended that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigate the agreement made between Ben-Menashe and Hemeti in order to determine if the deal violates Canadian international sanctions law. The investigation is likely ongoing, but little is known about its findings or implications so far.
For Ben-Menashe, an enigmatic figure known for maintaining no allegiance to any particular country, the investigation could result in further prison time or other penalties. However, threats like these don’t seem to have deterred him from making shady dealings in the past.
Now that Sudan’s TMC has reached a power-sharing agreement with pro-democracy protesters to facilitate a transition to civilian-led democracy, it is unclear how the agreement made between Ben-Menashe and Hemeti will be implemented moving forward. But, lobbying efforts or not, the United States and the international community should remain strong in support for the civilians, the force for real freedom and real change in Sudan.