The seed for the current Sudanese crisis was sown after the civilian revolt of December 2018 under the leadership of civil society groups and political activists. The revolution ousted military dictator Omar al-Bashir, who had been in power for 30 years. However, the struggle for civilian rule paved the way for military adventurism as the Sudanese generals attempt to retain their influence in the Transitional Military Council (TMC).
The power struggle between the military generals and the civilian representatives of the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) has dominated the political landscape in Sudan. The TMC, which was formed after the removal of Bashir, is led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, with General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo as his deputy. Dagalo, also known as Hemeti, leads the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group accused of human rights abuses and war crimes in Darfur.
One of the major issues in the power struggle between the military generals and the civilian representatives is the role of the security forces in Sudan. The military generals are unwilling to relinquish control of the security forces, which they have maintained for decades. The RSF, which is under Hemeti’s direct control, is a key player in the power struggle. The RSF is accused of attacks on protesters, detention and torture of opposition members, and involvement in the war in Yemen.
The civilian representatives of the FFC have called for the disbandment of the RSF and the establishment of a professional, civilian-led security force. The military generals, however, are opposed to such a move, arguing that the RSF has played a key role in maintaining law and order in Sudan, and that disbanding it would destabilize the country.
Another issue in the power struggle is the timing of elections. The civilian representatives of the FFC have called for elections to be held as soon as possible, while the military generals are advocating for a longer transition period. The military generals argue that Sudan needs time to stabilize, to draft a new constitution, and to implement reforms before elections are held. The FFC is concerned that the military generals are using the transition period to consolidate their power and to delay the transition to civilian rule.
As at Wednesday the fighting has intensified in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, and elsewhere in the country as the vicious power struggle within the country’s military leadership is threatening to degenerate into a full-blown civil war.
The clashes are between the regular army and a paramilitary force called the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
The main sticking points are plans to include the 100,000-strong RSF into the army, and who would then lead the new force.
The violence began on April 15 following days of tension as members of the RSF were redeployed around the country in a move that the army saw as a threat.
There had been some hope that talks could resolve the situation but these never happened.
It is disputed who fired the first shot but the fighting swiftly escalated in different parts of the country with more than 400 civilians deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
Even though the conflict appears to be around the control of key installations, much of it is happening in urban areas and civilians have become the unwitting victims.
Several ceasefires have been announced to allow people to escape the fighting but these have not been observed.
Formed in 2013, the RSF has its origins in the notorious Janjaweed militia that brutally fought rebels in Darfur, where they were accused of ethnic cleansing. Since then, Gen Dagalo has built a powerful force with close ties to the Russia’s Wagner Group and has intervened in conflicts in Yemen and Libya. Dagalo has also developed economic interests including controlling some of Sudan’s gold mines.
Gen Dagalo has reportedly said that Gen Burhan’s government were “radical Islamists” and that he and the RSF were “fighting for the people of Sudan to ensure the democratic progress for which they have so long yearned”.
On the other hand, Gen Burhan has said he supports the idea of returning to civilian rule, but that he will only hand over power to an elected government. Some suspect him of having links to ex-President Bashir and his allies, which the army has denied.
There are suspicions that both generals want to hang on to their positions of power, unwilling to losing the wealth and influence that go with them.
But what are other countries doing? There are fears that the fighting could further fragment the country, worsen political turbulence and draw in neighbouring states.
Diplomats, who have played a crucial role in trying to urge a return to civilian rule, have been trying to find a way to get the two generals to talk.
Soon after the fighting began a regional bloc agreed to send three presidents – from Kenya, South Sudan and Djibouti – to Khartoum, but the mission never happened.
There are several foreign countries and organizations that have been involved in the Sudan crisis:
Firstly, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been providing financial aid to the military council that is currently ruling Sudan. They have also been supporting the crackdown on protesters and the opposition forces.
Secondly, Egypt has been a key player in the politics of Sudan for many years. It shares a border with Sudan and has a vested interest in maintaining stability in the region. Egypt has been trying to mediate between the military council and the opposition forces.
Thirdly, Russia has been supporting the military council in Sudan by providing military equipment and training. It has also been using its influence in the United Nations to prevent the imposition of sanctions and other measures against Sudan.
Other countries like the United States, France and the United Kingdom have been openly calling for a peaceful resolution and transition of power in Sudan but many observers have pointed accusing fingers at the Western powers as major culprits in the crisis.
These countries have fueled conflicts across Africa, to perpetrate their interests on the premise of promoting freedom and democracy. Sudan is now entrapped in the web of deceit and destruction , and plunged into social unrest and disorder no thanks to the vain and vanities of the power-seeking elites and the greed of gun-slinging generals