Khartoum descended into chaos. Since April 15, an armed conflict has erupted between two enemy factions, the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), with civilians in the middle. Many expatriates have been exfiltrated by different authorities. France alone was able to secure 538 people, including 209 French. On Wednesday morning, 245 French and foreign nationals landed at Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport.
If the air rotations between Khartoum and Djibouti organized by the Ministry of the Armed Forces and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs began last Sunday, private security companies specializing in crisis management had already launched operations on the Monday following the first fighting. This is particularly the case of Comya Group, the company headed by Alexandre Benalla who, after giving his agreement for an interview, suddenly became unreachable, Amarante, who defines itself as the leading French security groupor Algiz Security.
An obstacle course
“Many of these companies intervene upstream of the crisis”, explains to 20 minutes Philippe Chapleau, journalist with the international service of West France, and specialist in defense issues. They are called upon by their clients, including insurance companies, companies, NGOs and sometimes individuals, to help them in the event of complications in a foreign country. In this case, Sudan. “We are right in it”, sums up 20 minutes Sascha Kunkel, the founder and owner ofAlgiz Security which has already carried out a dozen evacuations of the country, including those of French people, residents of France and Europeans. “We had the first requests at the very beginning of last week, he continues, then it took 48 hours of preparation to start the movements on site. »
A complex organization in a city where clashes cause chaos “where nothing is clear, where there is no coordination between the belligerents and where the warlords do what they want”, insists Sacha Kunkel. The fights are moving and the risks of ending up in an ambush are real. When it is necessary to pick up people “barricaded in their homes or in hotels”, the operation can be very delicate, underlines Sascha Kunkel. Some evacuations are even done on foot because the road is impassable, but the objective is always to accompany the client in safety. This can be to the rallying points decreed by the French authorities, to the airport, to the border and even to the home. But sometimes reality deviates from the plan. For example, during a mission for an NGO, when the agents of Sascha Kunkel’s company arrived, there was no one left.
Former military executives in the field
All this is not done behind the backs of the authorities. “In the context of Sudan, these companies are obliged to work with the official authorities on the spot”, affirms Philippe Chapleau. Indeed, according to the owner of Algiz Security, “we are in contact with the various governments through the NGOs with which we work, we hide nothing, they know very well what we are doing on the spot. However, contacted by 20 minutesthe Ministry of Defense indicates that it has not had any contact with these companies and refers to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which did not respond to our requests.
Beyond official links, there are informal relations since, for example, many agents who make up Algiz Security are former soldiers from European countries. “They are the most trained to intervene in a crisis area, and they are never armed”, specifies Philippe Chapleau. The Amarante company was also founded by former executives of the French armed forces. Some teams are sometimes made up of former local police or military personnel. “We also find taxi drivers, we need people of confidence and courage and who know the place”, explains Sascha Kunkel.
Security even outside of conflict
His company has been in existence for 16 years now, and Sascha Kunkel has been specializing in countries at war for between 25 and 30 years. Algiz Security also participated in evacuations in Ukraine, when the war broke out in early 2022, at the request of companies.
Outside of periods of conflict, these crisis management companies will also participate in exfiltrations, but more discreetly, such as for sick and injured people, in much smaller proportions than what is currently happening in Sudan. They can also accompany people on the spot, for example journalists, and secure the return journey. “We do prospecting, we secure places, we also do security in France for companies and individuals”, further develops Sascha Kunkel. How many of these companies are operating in Sudan or elsewhere remains mysterious. Some prefer to remain discreet.