January 20, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese capital Khartoum was preoccupied on Friday by the wedding ceremony of Chad’s President Idriss Deby, and daughter of Sudan’s Janjaweed militia leader, Musa Hilal, which took place at a top hotel and was attended by a host of dignitaries led by President Omer al-Bashir.
- The bride Amani Musa Hilal and Chad’s President Idriss Deby
The polygamous Chadian leader became engaged to Hilal’s daughter, Amani, during his most recent visit to Khartoum in November. According to press reports, Deby paid a $26 million dowry of which $25 million was paid to Musa Hilal and the rest to his daughter in the form of gold and jewellery.
Hilal is the poster boy of the fearsome Janjaweed Arab militias which were mobilised by the Sudanese government to quell an insurgency that broke out in Sudan’s western region of Darfur in 2003.
That counter-insurgency campaign, which mainly targeted African ethnic groups on account of their affiliation to the insurgents, has led to the death of approximately 300,000 people and the displacement of more than 2.7 million, according to United Nation figures.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) imposed travel and financial sanctions on Hilal and three other individuals in April 2006. However, unlike other individuals including Sudan’s president, he is not wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Deby was not present during the wedding ceremony which took place at Rotana Hotel on Africa Street in Khartoum.
Security was increased at the five-star hotel from the early in the morning, with more than 100 police personnel involved, sources told Sudan Tribune.
The hotels guests were barred from getting close to the swimming pool area which witnessed the celebrations following the contract of the marriage, in which president Bashir represented the bride while Deby was represented by a family relative named Abdo Ongi.
The wedding was originally scheduled to take place on 10 January but was postponed due to travel commitment of president Bashir and Deby.
- Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (L) celebrates with tribal leader and father of the bride Musa Hilal after the wedding ceremony between Amani Musa Hilal and Chad President Idriss Deby in Khartoum January 20, 2012 (REUTERS PICTURES)
Sudan Tribune has learned that the ceremony was attended by 400 VIPs including Bashir and the head of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) General Mohamed Atta. Also present at the wedding was the chief of the United Nations - African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), the peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Ibrahim Gambari.
Deby belongs to Al-Zagawa ethnic group, whose members straddle eastern Chad and western Sudan. His relationship with Bashir’s regime, which helped his rise to power in 1990, has been characterised by tension and mutual accusations of supporting rebel groups.
In 2009, however, the two countries ended their protracted hostilities and signed a deal that saw Deby ceasing his support for Darfur rebel groups and Khartoum expelling their Chadian counterparts.
Deby, in his 50’s, has been married several times and has at least a dozen children. The most famous of his wives is Hinda, who is known as Chad’s First Lady. Born in 1977, she belongs to the Arab branch of Al-Zagawa ethnic group.
The new wife, Amani, is a new university graduate in her 20’s. She denies rumours that she’s been forced to marry Deby.
“No one has forced me into this marriage, we are not in the Stone Age,” she told the local press following reports of her engagement.
Similarly, Hilal denied charges that he sold his daughter for the money because of the age gap. He told the press that there are no political motives behind the marriage. “We in Darfur and peripheral areas intermingle and intermarry, that’s the norm of life in these areas”.