Sudan’s descent from the promise of freedom to the brink of genocide has come at dizzying speed. The revolution that led to the military ousting the dictator Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 was followed by a coup that removed civilian leaders – and then, this spring, by the outbreak of war between the Sudanese army and paramilitary forces.
At a relentless pace, the clash between the army under Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) under Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, has spread across the country. More than 10,000 people are estimated to have been killed so far, and 4.8 million displaced internally, with another 1.2 million fleeing to neighbouring countries. The UN humanitarian coordinator for the country, Clementine Nkweta-Salami, said earlier this month that the violence against civilians is “verging on pure evil”. Greed for resources and power, and longstanding rivalries and hatreds, all fuel the fire.
More than 1,000 members of the Masalit community are believed to have been killed in Ardamta, West Darfur, in early November by the RSF and allied Arab militias. It led the EU to warn that the world cannot allow a repeat of the genocide of the early 2000s, through which the Janjaweed militia rose, later formalising into the RSF. New reports of the enslavement of women and men are emerging.
What looked for some months like a stalemate in the wider war has morphed with dramatic gains by the RSF over the last few weeks in Darfur and elsewhere in the west, and advances into former army strongholds. US, European and African officials believe arms shipments from the United Arab Emirates as well as via the Wagner Group have been key, though the UAE says it does not equip either side. Egypt’s support for the Sudanese army, though less sustained, has also deepened the conflict. Western governments should pressure Abu Dhabi and Cairo to pull back.
One prospect is that Sudan could effectively become divided into two zones, as Libya has been. Another is perhaps even more disturbing – that rather than splitting, it may splinter, leaving those on the ground in ever more danger. The RSF has no experience in governing, and apparently little interest. Some think there are cracks in the coalition under Gen Burhan.
Yet all of this is happening with minimal interest or attention from the outside world, which is consumed by the wars in Gaza and Ukraine and broader geopolitical rivalries. The difficulties of reporting from Sudan have further enabled this neglect. Even the basic task of feeding refugees is not adequately addressed: the UN has warned that food for the half a million who have fled to Chad will run out next month without extra funding. Little wonder that they feel abandoned.
Officials as well as analysts warn of the lack of international engagement and urgency when it comes to finding an exit from this conflict, even if greater leverage were available. Though both sides apparently wanted to resume narrowly focused talks in Jeddah, hopes for a breakthrough are low. The RSF has no reason to make concessions as it advances. Gen Burhan denies the need to make them. Amid all of this, the innocent are terrorised, and the aspiration to civilian rule appears a receding dream. But the generals have shown they are neither fit to govern Sudan, nor capable of doing so.
Source: The Guardian