The Sudanese army and its paramilitary organization called Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are at war with one another that if unchecked may soon lead to collapse of the African nation. Read everything about Sudan Crisis.
What Led to Sudan Crisis?
A coup in 2021 overthrew the transitional government that was established after the tyrannical reign of Omar al-Bashir. Since then Sudan has been governed by the army under the leadership of General Abdel-Fattah Burhan as the de facto president. And they were supported by the RAF…until now.
The RSF under the command of General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, had cooperated with the Sudanese army to maintain military rule. After Bashir was overthrown elections were expected to be held by the end of 2023 with Burhan vowing a switch to a civilian administration.
However now neither Burhan nor Dagalo is willing to cede their positions of authority. The situation has now developed into a violent power battle since April 15, 2023.
What is Happening in Sudan?
Clashes between the RSF and the Sudanese army have occurred throughout the nation, including in Khartoum, the nation’s capital. The violence has increased dramatically over the past three days. Conflict about integrating RSF paramilitaries into the Sudanese army was the recent background of the violence. After the RSF began sending personnel nationwide and into Khartoum without the army’s formal consent, tensions reached a breaking point.
But in actuality, tensions in Sudan have been building for some time due to worries that the RSF may be attempting to gain more control over its economic resources, particularly its gold mines. The recent changes in Sudan are unfavourable for the country’s stability or chances of making a democratic transition.
Where does the power equation stand?
Since Sudan’s independence in 1956, the military has dominated the country, carrying out coups, waging internal conflicts, and acquiring economic interests. Distrust between the military and civilian parties persisted throughout the 2019–21 power-sharing arrangement. A tenacious protest movement and backing from some members of the international community provided legitimacy to the civilian side. Additionally, Bashir’s government veterans who joined the civil service after the coup and rebel factions profiting from a 2020 peace agreement supported the military.
The army was restored to power following the coup, but it was met by weekly protests, a rekindled sense of isolation, and worsening economic conditions. General Mohamed HamdanDagalo, the head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the deputy chairman of Sudan’s ruling council since 2019, backed the proposal for a fresh transition, which stoked tensions with Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the president of the ruling council and the army. Hemedti is the alternate name for Dagalo.
Major Faultlines in Sudan Crisis
- Army’s unconditional support to local militias groups
- Monopoly of the military over major industries – civilians have demanded transfer of lucrative military holdings in trade, agriculture, and other businesses.
- Lack of investigation into military’s war crimes during Darfur War (2003) – The people of Sudan had expected that Bashir and other accused would be punished for the wae crimes committed by them at the International Criminal Court (ICC). However the present government’s has shown no intention towards fulfilling this.
- 2019 murder of pro-democracy protestors – On 3rd June 2019 a military personnel was accused of committing the murder of pro-democracy protesters. However repeated delays in the investigation have infuriated family members, activists and civic organizations.
- Widespread demand of justice for the protesters slain by security personnel since the coup in 2021.
How is Sudan Economy Doing?
A significant factor in Bashir’s fall was the deteriorating economic crisis that drove the currency to tumble and caused severe shortages of food and oil. The 2019 – 2021 Transitional Government successfully sought debt relief and attracted international funding by implementing severe, quick changes under the IMF’s supervision. However, after the coup in 2021, billions of dollars in foreign aid and debt relief were suspended, slowing development efforts, taxing the national budget, and escalating the already grave humanitarian situation.
Situation in the Neighborhood
The Red Sea, the Sahel, and the Horn of Africa border Sudan, which is located in a volatile area. The nation’s strategic importance and wealth in agriculture have drawn regional power struggles, making the odds of a smooth transition more difficult. Several of Sudan’s neighbours have experienced political unrest and conflict, notably Ethiopia, Chad, and South Sudan.
Several issues have soured Sudan’s relations with Ethiopia, including the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, contested farmland along their shared border, and unrest in the Tigray region, resulting in thousands of refugees entering Sudan.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two powerful nations in the region, have viewed Sudan’s transformation as a means of fending against Islamist influence.
Meanwhile, the Western nations are concerned about the possibility of a Russian facility on the Red Sea, which Sudanese military officials have said they are open to.
Why Sudan Crisis is Important to the Rest of the World?
Fighting in Sudan between groups loyal to two prominent generals has raised the possibility of its collapse and may have repercussions well beyond its borders. Both sides possess tens of thousands of fighters, outside financial support, mineral wealth, and other assets that may protect them from sanctions. It is a recipe for the protracted strife that has wreaked havoc on other nations in the Middle East and Africa, including Libya, Ethiopia, Lebanon, and Syria. Millions of people are stranded in cities, seeking safety from gunfire, explosives, and looters. And so many more have sacrificed themselves for a better life with democracy.
The Nile River is shared by Sudan, the third-largest country in Africa by area. With regional powerhouses Ethiopia and Egypt, it uncomfortably shares its waters. Ethiopia is building a sizable upstream dam, frightening both Cairo and Khartoum. Egypt depends on the Nile to support its population of nearly 100 million people. Egypt has tight connections with Sudan’s armed forces, which it views as an ally against Ethiopia. Cairo has contacted both sides in Sudan to urge a cease-fire, but it is unlikely to remain silent if the military is defeated.
Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, and South Sudan are the other five nations that border Sudan. South Sudan broke away in 2011 and seized 75% of Khartoum’s oil reserves. Almost all have ongoing internal battles, and there are several rebel organizations swarming the open borders.
According to International Crisis Group’s Alan Boswell, “What happens in Sudan will not stay in Sudan.” “South Sudan and Chad appear to be the most at risk for immediate spillover. But the longer the Sudan crisis continues, the more probable there will be significant outside intervention.