Post a Comment Print Share on Facebook

Sudan ravaged by a year of war

The first shots tore Khartoum apart in the early morning of April 15, 2023.

- 5 reads.

Sudan ravaged by a year of war

The first shots tore Khartoum apart in the early morning of April 15, 2023. The clash between the army and a militia was almost expected, as the clouds had been accumulating for months, announcing the storm. Allies of circumstance to first dethrone, in 2019, the old despot Omar el-Bashir then to monopolize power at the expense of civilians, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the army and president, and his former vice-president. President General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, at the head of the powerful Rapid Support Forces (RSF), have never hidden their ambitions. At the start of 2023, tensions explode when, in the negotiations to return power to civilians, the question of the future of the RSF arises. “The army did not want to see them join their ranks and Hemedti feared losing his means of pressure,” recalls Raphaëlle Chevrillon, researcher at the Research Institute for Development (IRD).

However, no one expected that the clash would last so long or spread to almost the entire country, throwing 8.6 million civilians, or 16% of Sudanese, on the road according to data from the UN. A year later, a conference was held in Paris to try to come to the aid of these forgotten refugees while the peace talks, opened since May 20 in Jeddah, were bogged down.

The army, pillar of successive regimes since independence, however seemed too powerful to be challenged. Especially since General al-Burhan, a fine connoisseur of Sudanese politics, did not come across as naive. And Hemedti, this almost illiterate militiaman, from a family of breeders, did not seem able to resist. But the RSF, which is estimated to number 100,000 men, have, on the contrary, very quickly gained ground. In the first weeks, the militiamen, killing and pillaging, took control of large parts of the capital, Khartoum, and its twin city of Omdurman. “Now the historic city centers of Khartoum and Omdurman are destroyed,” assures Suliman Baldo, founder of the Sudan Transparency and Policy Tracker think tank. Very quickly the war spread to other regions, particularly Darfur, in western Sudan, a stronghold of the RSF.

The militia is in fact the direct heir of the janjawid, who, at the dawn of the 2000s, ravaged Darfur, causing the death of at least 300,000 people. In this province in the east of the country, the RSF, who also inherited the Arab supremacist ideology of their predecessors, are waging an extremely brutal struggle. The main cities come under their control. If in North Darfur, el-Fasher resists, in the fall, the “capital” of West Darfur, el-Geneina, falls. This offensive gave rise to atrocious massacres against the Massalit populations who live there. According to Jeremy Laurence, of the UN human rights office, the militiamen “tortured displaced people who they executed in large numbers”. Which very much resembles ethnic cleansing in this very poor region and characterizes this war which is “being fought essentially against civilians”, as Roland Marchal, researcher at Sciences Po, points out.

At the same time, the RSF went so far as to control almost the entire west of the country. The army retreats, abandoning Khartoum to establish itself in Port Sudan, which has become the de facto capital of a ravaged state. The militia continued their breakthroughs and, on December 18, took Wad Madani. The fall of the main city of the state of al-Jezira, Sudan's breadbasket, is a terrible setback for the military. “For the Sudanese of the north and center, this sounds like a humiliation,” underlines Roland Marchal. Especially since in Wad Madani, the militiamen, most often very young and illiterate, behave with their usual brutality. “This victory has, in fact, also shown the limits of the RSF. In the city they only pillaged and raped, showing their incapacity to manage, which led to a complete rejection by the populations,” analyzes Suliman Baldo.

In fact, since January the military seems to have recovered. In March, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) were able to regain ground in Omdurman, breaking their encirclement. They are also on the offensive in the province of al-Jezira. This renewed vitality in the face of the paramilitaries is also due to external aid. On the part of Egypt, on the one hand, which although slowed down by the United States, has not broken its traditional alliance with the Sudanese generals.

But the latter can also count on a new ally: Iran. The Islamic Republic, which has used Port Sudan for years to supply arms to Hamas and Hezbollah, directly supports the government. Tehran, ignoring the severance of official relations with Khartoum, supplied Mohajer 6 drones and other lighter models. “But that’s not the real change,” says Clément Deshayes, IRD analyst. The rallying of several armed groups to the military has had a significant impact. On April 12, Minni Minnawi's Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and Jibril Ibrahim's Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), based in el-Fasher, announced they were joining the army. Malik Agar's SPLM-North and several Islamist militias were already fighting under the army banner. “This gives the FAS the necessary infantry. But this also signals a dangerous “militianization” of the country because these groups all have their own agenda,” notes Clément Deshayes.

For their part, Hemedti's RSF can count on military aid from the United Arab Emirates, which transits through Chad, and on a large war chest. Several experts believe that Russia and Wagner's mercenaries, present in Sudan since 2015, could join the RSF camp. Arms have already been supplied to the RSF, via Libya and General Khalifa Haftar, close to Hemedti and Moscow. To defeat this Russian pawn, Ukraine, for its part, deployed some special forces in Port Sudan. “All of this demonstrates that both Hemedti and al-Burhan believe that a military solution to this conflict is possible. But this is not the case,” laments Suliman Baldo.

Avatar
Your Name
Post a Comment
Characters Left:
Your comment has been forwarded to the administrator for approval.×
Warning! Will constitute a criminal offense, illegal, threatening, offensive, insulting and swearing, derogatory, defamatory, vulgar, pornographic, indecent, personality rights, damaging or similar nature in the nature of all kinds of financial content, legal, criminal and administrative responsibility for the content of the sender member / members are belong.