Point-blank: Sudan, where to?

Mohamed Salmawy
Tuesday 2 May 2023


What fate awaits our neighbour and sister nation, Sudan? It may be unrealistic to believe that the current conflict, which has already claimed hundreds of lives on both sides, can be resolved through mediation by some international powers, restoring calm and stability to the country. Despite all the blood that has so far been spilled, and despite the deterioration in living conditions, such as water and electricity cut-offs, food shortages and unsafe streets, the fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) looks like it is only just beginning. The fear is that it could quickly spiral into a civil war not unlike those that erupted in other Arab countries, such as Lebanon and, more recently, Libya, in which central authority collapses, society splits into warring camps and the country descends into a protracted conflict that defies the most valiant peacemaking efforts in the world. 

Legitimacy in Sudan is undoubtedly on the side of the SAF, led by President of the Transitional Sovereign Council Lieutenant General Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan. However, there is no denying that the RSF — a military formation originally created by former Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir out of mercenaries from Darfur and under the command of Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, Aka Hemedti, originally a camel herder with no formal military training — controls a large military force made up of mercenaries known as the Janjaweed. Hemedti’s camp enjoys the support of some international powers. It also controls precious natural resources, not least of which are the gold mines in Darfur, the produce from which is exported abroad, including to some Arab countries that see it in their interests to support the RSF against the legitimate authority. 

Can mediators convince Hemedti to give all that up, comply with the legitimate authority and concede to the principle of a single standing army in Sudan, like all other countries in the world have? 

Sudan is the third largest African nation in terms of land area. At one point, it was the largest country in both Africa and the Arab region. However, a previous Civil War led to the secession of South Sudan in 2011. We hope that Sudan is not heading to a repetition of that fate.

A version of this article appears in print in the 4 May, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

Short link: