Three days of fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) resulted in over 200 casualties, hundreds of others wounded and assaulted and extensive destruction of an already collapsed infrastructure. It is time to wake up from the trance that affected everyone post the 2021 coup and face the reality. There is no pro-democracy or pro-transition side among the parties in this conflict. It is a fight between two partners in one crime, the 25 October 2021 coup, over the spoils of their crime. This is a war between two evils who both don’t have the interest of this country in their hearts.
Hemetti’s war was inevitable. The RSF is an abnormal appendix to the state’s normal organisational structure. With its independence, military nature, and the ambition of its leader, it posed a continuous existential threat to the state. The 2021 coup exaggerated Hemetiti’s lust for power and pushed his competition with Burhan and the army over control. Later, his engagement in the dysfunctional political process as a natural and independent political actor further fed his ambitions to continue preserving his military and political influence. The recognition of some domestic actors and international sponsors to the process of his irrational demands, as negotiable political stances, such as a decade to resolve the issue of his forces, gave him a growing sense that he could re-position himself as a legitimate political actor both locally and internationally. RSF’s regional and international ties also fed his illusive sense about his legitimacy and the legitimacy of his forces and their equal status with the national army.
On the other hand, SAF leaders were not genuine about the restoration of the transition. Their coup in 2021 is not the only evidence of that although it’s enough, but also their attempts to destabilise the government during the past transitional period and their continued contacts with the Islamists and remnants of the deposed regime. Under the pressure of the international community, they engaged in a political process but continued to manipulate it to avoid genuine reforms to the military and security establishment that put it under civilian oversight. They managed to reduce the discussions about the security sector reform process to become only about the integration of the RSF, ignoring the big other flaws in their institutions. They utilised the fatigue of some of the civilian actors to force them to concessions regarding other important issues such as transitional justice and accountability. The army should go back to barracks, Militia are supposed to be dissolved and the military should be subjected to civilian oversight. This package is one comprehensive package that does not accept partitioning.
Moreover, both parties, the Army and the Rapid Support Forces, were equally complicit in the country’s most recent political crime, the 2021 coup. Their current conflict is a battle over the spoils of this crime. And just as the army leadership is not sincere in its call for the security sector reform process, neither is Hemediti, the leader of the RSF, in his statements of support for civil transition and democratic transformation in Sudan. Hemediti uses this discourse as a bloody shirt to maintain his influence and military forces for future use. The current extortion with armaments to advance a political agenda is the clearest illustration of this. No one should fall victim to both parties’ claims. They should only be evaluated based on the veracity of their actions, not words. And the shooting and bombing all over Khartoum and other cities of Sudan speak for their action.
Since the beginning, the design of the political process was flawed. Its main focus was the participants, not the issues. FFC – central council agreed with Burhan and Hemiditi on the list of participants in the process before the agenda or the objectives of it. They continued to describe that list as their bible and blueprint for the political solution! It was an actor-based process not an issues-based one. Its design was about who sits at the table rather than what problems it addresses. Eventually, with such a design, its objective became quickly about distributing power seats between the participants, allowing the military components -who are already in power- to fight over the real issue of their interest. And the military settles their differences only with guns.
The international actors participated in the creation of this situation, by their continuous pushing for the formation of a government, any government without thinking about the capacity of this government to address the issues of the transition. Things went further with the worshippers of the process to attempt stigmatising and discrediting any criticism of the failing process by linking it to the deposed regime. And sometimes even by using personally coordinated whispering attacks. There is no doubt that Islamists will try to use any opportunity to destabilise and even destroy the transition. But this should not allow for confusion with the reforms issue of the transition. RSF’s enmity with the Islamists is not about his commitment to democracy. RSF as well as the army leadership sided with the change in 2019 merely as a survival strategy and for RSF in particular upon directives from its foreign allies, mainly UAE who was fed up with the Bashir regime at the time. The issues of transition and reform should be addressed and faced with utmost clarity about the objectives of the revolution and away from such mixing.
Addressing the crisis in Sudan now needs a different strategy that is activated quickly to address the sober realities. The international community needs to interfere aggressively now before it’s too late to force the two fighting sides to put down their arms and cease-fire and get their troops outside the civilian and residential areas. The international community should form a panel of high-level and influential personalities who carry the weight of their countries and have the skills and knowledge to address such a situation to mediate an immediate cease-fire. This should take place within a mandated framework that threatens those who insist continue fighting. This panel should have sufficient international, regional and continental representation, but the personnel on it should be accepted to the Sudanese street. The panel should work with former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok who already announced efforts to address the situation and include other well-respected figures across the board Sudanese personalities. Following a such ceasefire, Sudan needs a structured issue-based political process with effective and informed mediation. The cost of the previous failures might have made this the last chance to save Sudan from slipping into a dark long abyss of instability.
Political actors should stop attempts to accumulate and conceal influence cards in order to use them later to influence the transitional path. The priority is to stop the war and then launch a political process that addresses the actual issues and risks of Sudan’s democratic transition, not one that is concerned with the distribution of power shares. Similarly, populist rhetoric that strives to obfuscate concerns, denigrate them, and reduce them to generalities is, at its core, a totalitarian discourse that implies guardianship over people. This revolution was carried out by the people, in public, and in the eyes of witnesses from all over the world. It will not achieve its objectives unless it continues in the same manner.
May God save Sudan and the people of Sudan
By Amgad Fareid Eltayeb
Courtesy: Sudan Tribune