The Battle of Armies in Sudan Ends One Year


One year has passed since the war of armies suddenly erupted in the capital Khartoum on April 15 last year. The balance sheet is extremely heavy: 15,000 dead (4,000 civilians), tens of thousands wounded, 8.5 million displaced, 2 million of whom have sought refuge in neighboring countries such as Egypt and Chad. The worst part is that, after a year, no one can predict when the conflict will end, and efforts to do so are not encouraging.

The international community is silent and indifferent to Sudan

The war has repercussions beyond the balance sheet above: 10 million Sudanese still face the threat of starvation due to the disruption of agricultural production, the number of people in need of international assistance is 24 million (half the population), schools and hospitals are closed in conflict zones. There are serious obstacles to aid delivery. Unfortunately, the atrocities and humanitarian tragedy that have been taking place in the country for the last year have escaped the attention of the international community. There is a general silence and indifference towards this strategically important country in the Horn of Africa, which is located on the Red Sea coast. Last week, on the first anniversary of the civil war, France, Germany and the EU organized a humanitarian conference for Sudan in Paris with the cooperation of France, Germany and the EU, and pledged 2 billion euros in aid, which is very pleasing and hopefully will be followed up.

Sudanese people oust dictator after 30 years

If you take a look at my articles published in T24 last year on the conflicts between the regular army and the paramilitary forces (Rapid Support Forces-RSF), which are the parties to the war to take over Sudan and become the absolute rulers of the country, you will easily agree with my opinion that the military is the country’s biggest problem. Until 2019, during the 30 years that military dictator Omar al-Bashir was in power, Sudan was extremely badly governed, all the negativities happened, non-Arabs were massacred in Darfur, the International Criminal Court charged genocide, the country split in two in 2011. After 30 years, the tide finally turned, people took to the streets in Khartoum, and after months of regular protests, the dictator was forced to leave power in the spring of 2019. The opportunist leaders of the army and the RSF, who had been monitoring the situation, eventually sided with the protesters and shared in the popular victory. A civilian-dominated government, in which the military also had a say, took over to organize elections within 3 years. The international community provided moral and material support to this mixed government, helped it to succeed, canceled debts and gave loans.

Two armies that were expected to unite went to war

In the fall of 2021, Al-Burhan, the head of the army and the state, inexplicably dissolved the interim government and imprisoned ministers. However, under international pressure, he was forced to back down and handed power back to civilians at the end of 2022. It was agreed to organize elections within two years. On the other hand, while a compromise was being worked on to integrate the militia (RSF) into the army, the worst-case scenario materialized: On April 15, 2023, the RSF launched attacks on strategic points in the capital, and the two armies went to war. Attempts by the United States and Saudi Arabia, the African Union and other actors to reconcile the sides failed, and the ceasefires announced were not respected by both sides.

Al-Burhan has gained the upper hand in the last 3 months

Looking at the situation on the ground as of April 2024, on the one-year anniversary of the conflict, the parties have not yet achieved decisive superiority over each other, while in the first 9-10 months, RSF forces, thanks to their high mobility, had the upper hand in the greater Khartoum region (including Bahri and Omdurman), Darfur and Al-Jazira state, It is noteworthy that in the last 2-3 months, the situation has been reversing and the regular army has been making gains and gaining the moral superiority in Khartoum and Al-Jazira province, thanks to the contribution of Iranian UCAVs and local and Islamist armed groups that started to fight in the ranks of the army.

Saudi Arabia and the US failed to reconcile the sides

Arabia and the United States have been criticized for monopolizing these efforts (the Jeddah process) and seeking to establish credibility, while Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and the African Union have been taking independent peace initiatives, leaving the field open to the duo, resulting in different competing processes (forum shopping complaints), and this confusion has begun to undermine efforts to bring peace to Sudan.

Which countries support which side?

When asked who supports which side in the battle of the armies, the following points can be made: Egypt and S. Arabia supports the regular army (General Al-Burhan), the UAE favors the RSF (General Mohammad Hamdan Daglo-Hemeti), the United States stands at an equal distance from both sides and tries to maintain a dialogue with both fronts, Iran favors Al-Burhan by selling UCAVs to the regular army, It is known that the big neighbor Ethiopia, tired from the Tigray civil war, leans towards the RSF because of its closeness with the UAE, Russia is closer to the RSF because Wagner and the Hemeti family cooperate in the gold trade (conjecture), the United Nations recognizes the Al-Burhan administration as the official government of Sudan, while the African Union does not recognize either side as legitimate governments.

Al-Burhan in Port-Sudan, Hemeti abroad

Despite Al-Burhan’s distant attitude towards ceasefire and peace initiatives, we observe that Hemeti has a positive attitude towards mediator delegations and is not closed to dialogue. There is a widespread belief that Al-Burhan, who refers to the RSF forces as “genocidal militia”, will not come to the negotiating table until he has the upper hand on the ground. Al-Burhan has moved his headquarters from the capital to Port-Sudan, where our embassy is located, while Hemeti’s location is unknown, he is usually abroad. People living in the areas where the fighting has intensified are suffering from both sides, as their lives and order have been disrupted. RSF members, however, are worse: they have become known for bribery, theft, looting, rape and murder.

Islamist groups favor the army

In recent months there has been an increase in recruitment to the ranks of the regular army among the population (especially from Darfur), which is clearly due to widespread resentment and hatred of the RSF forces. However, the presence of Islamist groups among these volunteers is a source of serious concern both within the army and among the “Forces for Freedom and Change”, the most powerful civil society organization. Islamist militias bring to mind the bad experiences of the al-Bashir era.

Efforts to bring peace to Sudan must be inclusive

On the one-year anniversary of the Battle of the Armies, the international community is expected to act more constructively and inclusively to find a solution to the Sudanese crisis, learning from the mistakes made. The United Nations Secretary-General appointed Ramtan Lamamra, an Algerian diplomat and former foreign minister who knows Africa well, as his special envoy for Sudan. The African Union has appointed a High Level Panel on Sudan. Washington sent Perriello, a politician with experience in Africa, to the region to work for peace in Sudan. I assume that the next Sudan meetings in Jeddah will be attended by representatives of the 5 countries concerned, as well as the UN and the African Union, without exclusion.

What to do?

The first thing to do is for the 3 Arab countries supporting the 2 rival leaders to unite without delay, to act together, to stop the supply of arms, to force the parties to first cease fire and then to sit down at the peace table. The US pressure on these three countries, with which it has very good relations, will facilitate the achievement of results. Let us immediately emphasize that a ceasefire and peace between the warring parties will not mean Sudan’s return to peace and democracy. Peace and democracy can only be achieved by disbanding the militias and returning the troops to their barracks. Sudan, after what has happened, deserves an army that serves its people, not oppresses them. Democratic elections under an impartial team of technocrats, at the end of a transition period of sanity, is the recipe for Sudan’s salvation. The key to peace and prosperity is the absolute abolition of military privileges, the end of ethnic and religious divisions, and the entrustment of the country’s governance to civilian governments in perpetuity. Considering that the civilian government formed after the 2019 protests was a genuine grassroots democracy project, and remembering that it was disbanded by the military, it would be the fairest, most reasonable and most practical choice to recall the legitimate and legal administration led by Abdalla Hamdok, who assumed office 5 years ago, for an interim period, without the threat and shadow of the military.

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