The fighting between the Sudanese army led by Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, Chairman of the Sovereignty Council and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, Vice President of the Sovereignty Council, is no surprise. Events since Al-Burhan staged his 2019 coup against President Omar Al-Bashir more or less predicted the clash between the two generals.
After the major disagreement between them over Al-Burhan’s conditions for merging the RSF within the Sudanese army, for example, the army issued a statement on 14 April, the day before fighting broke out, in which Hemedti and his militia were accused of rebellion, breaking the law, going against legitimacy, and being hostile to the state. Al-Burhan, meanwhile, was portrayed as a peaceful man who is preserving Sudan’s unity and security, and the safety of its citizens. This indicated the rising tension between the two over who governs Sudan, and how it is governed.
“It is the armed forces’ constitutional and legal responsibility to maintain and preserve the security and safety of the country, with the assistance of the various state agencies,” said the army. The statement noted that Sudanese law regulates how this assistance is provided, and so senior officers felt the need to sound the alarm that the country is going through a dangerous juncture. “The risks are increased by the RSF command mobilising forces inside the capital and some cities without the approval of the Armed Forces Command or even coordinating with it.” This sparked panic and fear among citizens, exacerbated security risks and increased tension between the regular forces. The RSF mobilisation, said the army, violated its regular operational system as well as the law, leading to more tension and the breakdown of security in Sudan. “The armed forces seek to find peaceful solutions to these violations in order to preserve public peace and prevent an armed conflict that destroys everything.”
The statement angered Hemedti, who felt that it was incitement against him and dismissive of his role in ruling the country, and a prelude to his exclusion from Sudanese politics. It was also a deliberate disparagement of the RSF’s role, without which Al-Burhan would not have been able to succeed in his coup against Al-Bashir.
“The Rapid Support Forces are spreading and moving throughout the country in order to achieve security and stability, combat the phenomena of human trafficking and illegal immigration, combat smuggling, drugs and transit crime, and confront armed robbery gangs wherever they exist,” said Hemedti. He added that he now regrets the coup and supports the transitional agreement backed by the UN, the West, and the Gulf to prevent the return of Islamists loyal to Al-Bashir. After a joint meeting by phone with special envoys from the US, Britain and Norway, he said that he is keen to reinforce stability and work to support the democratic transformation process in the country, adding that he remains committed to what was signed in the framework agreement in December 2022.
As it is clear from Hemedti’s statement, he wanted to flirt with the West that is hostile to the Islamic movement and say that he is working to exclude Islamists from the army and other state institutions, after Al-Burhan recently incorporated some within the army and gave others some important positions in the state. He is also trying to win over to his camp the civil forces which are against political Islam, which is represented by the Forces of Freedom and Change, the political component that led the revolution against Al-Bashir in 2019, and which Al-Burhan used as civilian cover for his coup.
These forces are made up mainly of the Sudanese Professionals Association, the National Consensus Forces and the South Sudan Opposition Alliance, but the communists, and the left-wing in general, took over. They reduced the revolution to them alone and spoke in its name. Despite outdated policies, they found protection with the army in order to obtain power. They are the so-called elites who live in ivory towers, lording it over the people who must submit to them and be ruled, even by force. That’s why they allied themselves with the army. Meanwhile, they humiliate the people, reduce their political awareness, and deny them free and fair elections because, as a small minority in Sudan, they are unlikely to win a democratic election. Knowing that they can’t take power through the ballot box, their wishes are aligned with those of the military council, which has realised that the people reject military rule, so they overthrew their commander and leader (Al-Bashir) to extinguish the popular uprising that almost eliminated them all.
The revolutionary masses seek to uproot the military from political life, and demand a civilian government. The communists hindered this process and sought the help of the army, on condition that they are involved in the eventual military government. They justified this by saying that it was a transitional phase for the stability of the country, after which a healthy democracy and civilian rule will return. When the military council — whose generals, headed by Al-Burhan, pretended that they are supporters and protectors of the revolution — announced that the transitional period would be one year in an attempt to tempt the people and reassure them, the “elites” feared for themselves, and demanded that it be extended for two years, and then came back and asked for it to be extended for four years. They got what they wanted.
Today, four years later, Al-Burhan is refusing to sign the agreement between the military and civilians to end the crisis that the country has been experiencing since the 2019 coup. He holds Hemedti and his militia responsible for hindering the agreement and dragging the country into a war that could lead to total civil war in Sudan. The corrupt elites have now disappeared in the midst of the violence; we don’t hear their voices, of which we have grown sick.
The bloodshed in Sudan places its people at the most dangerous juncture that the country has ever witnessed.
According to an Egyptian proverb, “There is nothing worse than my grandfather but my grandmother.” This could be Al-Burhan and Hemedti; each one is worse than the other. They both want to have a monopoly over the government of Sudan and seize power for themselves, even if that means destroying the country in the process. As in most modern wars, most of the victims in this vicious power struggle are civilians, who are caught between the anvil of the army and the hammer of the RSF. These arch-enemies do not care what happens to Sudan, or the fact that it is facing civil war which could result in the breakup of the state, with Darfur, for example, becoming a separate entity. It is, after all, the stronghold of Hemedti and the Rapid Support Forces. Sudan faces a loss of sovereignty and territorial integrity, but Al-Burhan and Hemedti don’t care. Nor do they care about the blood of the ordinary Sudanese citizens being spilt on the streets, and the destruction of vital infrastructure.
The people of Sudan are among the kindest Arabs you could wish to meet. They have faced all kinds of hardships over the years, not least since the 2019 coup. And yet Al-Burhan and Hemedti are locked into this battler for personal authority and power. That’s all they care about. Cursed is the throne that is tainted by the blood of the people, and cursed is the person who sits on it over the ruins of the country. They should remember that.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.