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The ongoing war in Sudan and its potential outcome

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By Samsudeen Sarr

The over a week-long-bloody war in Sudan between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) headed by the de facto head of state of the country General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy and co-ruler, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagelo, aka Hemedti in command of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of the country is degenerating into an unimaginable conflict but somehow reminiscent of the post Maummar Gaddafi Libyan fiasco within a very volatile region. Multinational organizations such as the United Nations and the African Union in particular together with several nations in the West and in Africa have been playing their obligatory roles of pleading with the belligerents to exercise restraint and even commit to a permanent ceasefire. Although from the look of things I attribute all such efforts to mere lip services with no affirmative resolutions in sight.

The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, United States President Joe Biden, Gambian President Adama Barrow and many more world leaders have all weighed in with compelling communiques for the two generals to stop the war; but, of course, the conflict was inevitable considering the power struggle that emerged between the two warlords since they overthrew the government of former President Omar al-Bashir in 2019.  

However, while the SAF is a conventional army the RSF was originally a militia force exclusively loyal to former President  al-Bashir and had committed a lot of atrocities on his orders in the Darfur region where they once operated as the feared “Janjanweeds”. They were maintained and promoted by one man, i.e., Gen. Omar al-Bashir. Most of them together with some elements of the SAF were deployed to Yemen and had fought alongside the Saudi-coalition forces against the Houthi militia loyal to former President Abdullah Saleh. They are definitely a formidable force to reckon with.

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In addition to being battle tested and hardened, it was obvious that if the RSF hadn’t cooperated with the SAF in 2019 the popular removal of Gen. Al-Bashir from power wouldn’t have succeeded. Or else this war being fought now would have then been fought and a winner decided. The two forces together overthrew the former president and their two leaders equally owned the merit and the subsequent power. 

From my perspective therefore, generally discussed in my new book due for publication very soon, I must say that the two principal generals of Sudan Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Gen Hemedti who virtually co-governed the country for four years finally exhausted the limits of their superficial co-existence. The conflict was due to happen at anytime as expected in all military regimes founded on equal power sharing by the principal stakeholders. I indeed devoted a whole chapter in my book illustrating how equal stakeholders in a military government are untenable and always end up falling apart with one sole leader ultimately emerging. This has happened in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and The Gambia among others. I may however state that the difference in The Gambia and in the named countries was that the competing stakeholders were all eliminated without bloodshed between their rival forces.

Yahya Jammeh, Sanna Sabally, Edward Singhateh and Sadibou Hydara were supposed to rule the country with equal ownership of the power after successfully overthrowing the PPP government in 1994; but six months into the power sharing, in January 1995, Jammeh and Singhateh removed Sabally and Hydara in a shrewd scheme that could have culminated into an armed conflict if the troops they had commanded were tested had the required battle experience. And two years later, in 1996, in a dramatic and frightening encounter between Jammeh and Singhateh which is also explained in my book, the former used Landing Sanneh and Almamo Manneh, State-guard troops,  to strip Singhateh of all his powers as a co-military leader of the country after which Jammeh took overall control of the power.

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Consequently, I want to agree with the global pundits that the ongoing war in Sudan is about power struggle but wish to add that stopping it without a clear winner will only postpone the struggle to another day especially if both generals survive after a negotiated ceasefire.

The ongoing conflict is another sad reminder of the challenges facing Africa. And unless the underlying issues are addressed such conflicts will continue to devastate the continent.

Eid Mubarak to everybody!        

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