By: Hitti Chopra, Research Analyst, GSDN
The city of Sudan for almost a month is under a civil war where the two military factions are in a power struggle over a wavering transition to a civilian led government. The intense confrontations between Sudan military and paramilitary force have led to civilians paying a heavy toll. The nation is experiencing heavy looting, killing, fleeing of over more 3,00,000 people to neighbouring countries (according to UN Agencies).
The civil war is led by Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, while the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) follow the former warlord Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo also known as Hemedti.
Despite truces, ceasefires agreed by both sides, have been regularly violated, the fight between the two factions continues in the capital city of Khartoum. According to the NY Times “The most of the fighting now appears to be taking place in Khartoum and in the western region of Darfur. The army, which has access to planes, dominates much of the country, including Port Sudan. But most of central Khartoum is controlled by fighters with the Rapid Support Forces. Analysts say that in the view of dominance, the power struggle has led to political and social instability in the region.
The Rapid Support Force (RSF) was formed by Bashir 20 years ago to suppress the rebellion that arose in Sudan because of political and economic marginalisation in Darfur. Locally known as Janjaweed, RSF has been under scrutiny for committing serious atrocities. In 2013, RSF was formed as a paramilitary force and was deployed to repress the rebellion in South Darfur. In 2019, RSF was led by Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and general armed forces under Burhan cooperated to oust Bashir.
Sudan had been looking forward to a democratic, civilian led nation since the overthrow of dictator Omar al-Basher in 2019.The civilians of Sudan demanded supervision over the military and the integration of RSF in the general armed forces. Moreover, civilians have been seeking justice over war crimes by the military and its allies in Darfur since 2003.The trials of Basheer and other suspected Sudanese are undergoing in the International Criminal Court. The attempt was short lived and disrupted by a coup led by Al-Burhan in October 2021. It was directed against the transitional government led by Abdalla Hamdok which further led to suspension of international funding leading to humanitarian crisis in Sudan. The nation experienced political and economic instability, protests resulting to hundreds of deaths and injuries. In 2022, the military and civilian groups aligned for a democratic transition but before the framework could be finalised, Sudan experienced clashes between Al Burhan and Hamdam Dagalo.
THE REGION IN LIMELIGHT
Sudan sits at a key yet unstable position in the African continent. It has a considerable coastline on the Red Sea and is surrounded by seven countries — the Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Egypt, Libya, Chad and South Sudan who themselves have been experiencing political upheavals and conflict. The civil war possesses a threat to not only the reordering in Sudan but could be a start to new chaos in the region. The disputed farmland along the borders of Sudan and Ethiopia has further strained their relations. Many Sudanese refugees have fled to the neighbouring countries.
Sudan bordered by the Red Sea, Horn of Africa and the Sahel region makes it a strategic location and a contention between various regional power plays which complicates the chances of transition of the nation to a civilian led government. Sudan is rich in valuable natural resources which put the African nation in limelight such as China, Russia and USA.
The West since the beginning of civil war has sponsored mediation in and has backed a permanent ceasefire in the war region. The west has negotiated and pressed the Generals in Sudan for a transition to a civilian-led government.
Russia is eyeing for setting up a naval base in Sudan, linking Moscow to the Indian Ocean. Khartoum in 2019 during oust of Al-Bashir became the second largest buyer of Russian arms in Africa. The West fears the Russian naval deal to which the Sudanese military has shown openness. According to a CNN investigation, Russia is allowed to mine gold in different parts of Sudan which has cushioned the Russian economy amidst the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. Russia has maintained to act neutral in the ongoing civil war in Sudan.
Like Moscow, Turkey seeks to increase its naval presence in the Red Sea and maintains its soft power through charities, educational institutions with Sudan. Turkey ensures a constructive perception in the Sudan region through its soft power.
The two Generals in the country could not come to a consensus and every ceasefire agreement has been momentary since mid-April. The nation amidst this power struggle is facing a huge humanitarian, economic crisis along with mass displacement in the region.