What is happening in Sudan?

Sudan has become the battlefield for the power struggle of two generals; one-time friends and now turned enemies. During scrolling down Twitter, I noticed both rival factions; Rapid security forces (RSF) and Sudan Armed Forces are making the other side responsible for stimulating the war and impeding democracy. The conflict which started two weeks ago in Khartoum has taken the lives of more than 528 people  and over 4600 people have been injured till yet and the figure is still staggering. In Khartoum, people are out of the necessities of life since 15 April. Several Truces have been declared of 72 hours, first for the days of EID and, then after it on Thursday but none  is out of violations. The tweets of the warring parties reflect, these temporary truces are only for the foreigners so, they could evacuate easily. But where Sudanese are concerned, no one cares about them, most victims of the situation, who are living in the most terrible conditions nowadays.

Historical overview

The recent crises had its seeds in the times of Omer Al Bashir, a genius who ruled Sudan for three decades from 1989 to 2019. Omer al Bashir raised a paramilitary force named Rapid Security Forces (RSF) from the Janjaweed movement; militias that were instrumental in curbing revolt against him in the Darfur region in the 2000s alongside the Sudanese regular army. RSF got a legislative position in 2013 by Al-Bashir. After it, both factions worked side by side in the Sudan. Al Bashir was using the technique of coup proofing; a strategy in which a dictator or a leader strengthens any group alongside the regular army so the military cannot launch a coup against him.But this coup proofing could not save him and a military coup in 2019 ousted the Al Bashir government as democratic protests prolonged against him.Coup was orchestrated by RSF and the military jointly. Both forces, then to bring the country back on the track of democracy and to inwardly clean their hands from the 2019 Khartoum massacre made a sovereign council with forces of Freedom and Change. The council that will rule the country until scheduled elections in July 2022. This council was the amalgamation of the military as well as civilian leaders; Transitional Military Council and Forces of Freedom and Change_led by a renowned economist Abdullah Hamdok and his cabinet. Sudan’s army head Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan appointed himself Chairman and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hameti as his deputy. In reality, Burhan and Hemedti formed the council to give their rule a little democratic touch. Here Sudan entered into a shared democracy. The sovereign council proved incompetent in managing issues as differences of opinion started to arise on the power-sharing structure and it became almost impossible for all factions to get on the same agenda.A coup was staged by both forces against their democratic partners on 25 October 2021.The cabinet was dissolved alongside the constitution. Protests started for democracy again countrywide. As International condemnation grew council was reinstated.

A History of Sudan Coups” by Statista is licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0.

An agreement for the transition to democracy was arranged by international partners. The final signs are to be signed in April 2023. The agreement also calls for the integration of RSF into Sudan’s army as two forces cannot run in any country side by side. Here a contention arose on the time period of integration. Hemediti said integration should be held in 10 years while al Burhan was in favor of two years. Integration means loss of power for Hemedti. He has built a large business empire including interest in gold mines, investment, steel, rental cars, etc He has power as well as resources. After the coup, he is also projecting himself as a national figure in Sudanese politics. So, why would he lose his power?

Fighting erupted after RSF deploy their personnel in Khartoum and other areas of Sudan. In response, SAF started to bombard the compounds of the RSF leaders in Khartoum. RSF  blames SAF for trying to bring back Islamist factions loyalists to Al-Bashir. So, he is calling his enemies radical extremists also because so its narrative would seem appealing to  Western media and civil society.

The international community must take action now and intervene against the crimes of Sudanese General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, a radical Islamist who is bombing civilians from the air. His army is waging a brutal campaign against innocent people, bombing them with MiGs.

RSF views the military as making the ground fertile so it can bring back Omar Al Bashir to power. Hemedti doubted the situation when Al Burhan initiated the process of re-instating al Bashir loyalists to their former positions after the 25 October coup. Hemedti knows Bashir loyalists will not trust him as he has betrayed Omer Al Bashir. Also, Abdullah Haroon a great loyalist to al Bashir was able to get out of prison during the recent war which also posed a question mark on SAF.

Interests of regional and international players

Interests of other regional powers also have been fluctuating since the beginning of the conflict. Most are waiting for the victorious party so they can shake hands with it. Saudi Arabia is most in troubled waters because it has good relations with both factions. Now Saudis want peace in the red sea so they can achieve their economic vision of 2030. The Sudan conflict has been initiated at a very wrong moment because Muhammad Bin Salman (Crown Prince of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) is getting most middle eastern countries on the same page. Saudi-Iran’s recent relationship normalization is a big example. China is also getting a bigger role in the middle eastern politics. All these actors want to excel in economic matters and war like this is detrimental to their efforts. The Sudan conflict is testing the diplomacy of Gulf powers. United Arab Emirates is believed to be backing Hemedti’s forces. There are several reasons for it. Half of Hemedti’s money is in UAE. Gold refineries in UAE are instrumental in bringing Sudan’s gold (stolen by Hemedti) into the world market by laundering. Even the Facebook account of Hemedti is running from UAE.

If the situation aggravates conflict will sweep into the neighboring countries in the whole of the Horn of Africa, an already volatile region for the conflict also anticipated by the United States Institute of Peace. Other countries with vested interests in Sudan will get in as the situation gains its heights. US-Russia rivalry can also start for dominance in Sudan.

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