Sudan: Stop this Proxy War!

By Ameena Al Rashid*

This conflict that started on April 8 between Sudan’s military and the country’s main paramilitary force is a proxy war against Sudanese people, backed by regional and international powers, who have enabled the warring factions to acquire wealth and weapons. It is a proxy war led by the Rapid Support Force and its leader General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, or Hemeti as he is known, on the one hand, and the Security committee “of the National Islamic Front” in the Sudanese military headed by Al-Burhan on the other. Both sides are supported by their foreign allies.

In a speech to the Sudanese people the RSF’s Hemeti bragged openly that he has the most sophisticated weapons. He was not buying cheap weapons, he was buying the best from the best. This is the militia – the same Janjaweed that was indicted in 2004 by the Security Council Resolution 1556 for committing genocide in Darfur. It is the same militia that committed other atrocities and massacres in the sit-in at the military HQ in Khartoum on 3 June 2019 and around Sudan and continues to do so by this war.

The international community’s memory appears completely absent.

The Rapid Support Force got its first leg up from the European Union, during the “Khartoum Process”, officially known as the EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative. Launched late 2014 by the EU, European countries, African states, and the African Union, this gave Hemeti military support, power and money to stop migrants from crossing through Libya to the Mediterranean, into Europe. The RSF used that money and resources. It committed crimes, violations of rights that the whole international community has kept quiet about.

Hemeti’s more recent ally is Putin’s Russia. He was invited to Moscow and met Putin. He had the Wagner group, a Russian paramilitary organization, supporting him, training his militia.

Sudan is under siege by this militia that kills people everywhere. Omar Al Bashir, the former president who was deposed in 2019, sent the RSF to Yemen to support the Saudi war on the Yemeni people. They committed violations in Libya, and against the refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia. They will continue to kill. They have started looting and terrorizing civilians now in Sudan.

For his part, Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Al-Burhan, the head of the military junta, and head of the security committee of Muslim Brotherhood in the Sudanese Army, is a regular visitor to Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. He’s been taking orders from them. We know that they are pilfering Sudanese resources: they loot, smuggle Sudanese gold and agricultural products.

In 2019, when the military junta led by Al-Burhan took control of the country, he employed the RSF to violently crack-down on pro-democracy demonstrators, alongside his “shadow brigade” (the Islamist Armed Group). In October 2021 all pretence at a civilian transition was abandoned. Burhan dissolved the transitional government, arrested civilian leaders and installed himself in power with Hemeti his right-hand man. That was then now they are at war.

If you are looking for catalysts for this war, it is worth noting that when the popular Resistance Committees in the north stopped the trade between Sudan and Egypt, it affected the Egyptians severely. It stopped the looting of lots of resources. This eventually harmed the alliance between the RSF force and the military junta, and their foreign allies.

This war matters in the end because it is actually impacting the Sudanese people, who are the victims of the atrocities, the killing, the brutality and the torture at the hands of these powers. It will change their lives forever. There is a risk of wider conflict. We’ve already even seen the conflict spill over into support for internal affairs of neighbouring countries. Hemeti is now standing by the Ethiopians on the disputed Al-Fashaqa region that was ‘liberated’ by his rival Al- Burhan in November 2020.

The struggle between the two warring military factions started from day one. They are competing on who will monopolise power in Sudan, who will seize control of the resources in the country and the goods. This all-out struggle is to protect their economic and financial power built up over 30 years with the regime of Omar Al Bashir. They still control big companies, banks, money looted from Banks and institutions of Sudan.

The threat of a return to civilian government that followed the revolution of December 2019, and the demands of the revolution severely weakened the position of the military factions. They will try to derail the revolution by all means at their disposal, and they will continue to fight each other, to seize power and to seize control, supported by their allies who have plundered the wealth of Sudan under their reign.

For Sudan is a big country. It has a strategic position. And it is richer than most people imagine. We have gold, minerals, and massive agricultural potential. Many countries across North Africa and the Arab world benefit from that. Our gold has been repeatedly smuggled out. The Sudanese resistance committee has got hold of videos and documents that shows the Wagner group smuggling gold, that show Egyptian trucks smuggling out gold. Sudan’s wealth that can build the country and create prosperity and development for the Sudanese people. But this wealth is plundered and needs to be returned to the people.

The truces announced in recent days are just buying time for each one of [the warring sides. Neither side is abiding by the ceasefires. The warring parties should abide by what they promised the international community. But the RSF is not an organised army, despite being considered part of the Sudanese military. There is no control over them. From day one, they started looting and attacking people in their own houses. Even if the ceasefire works in certain parts of the country, it will not be respected everywhere.

It is now reaching a point that they might not give in to each other at all until one of them will take over. The people are starting to suffer severely. Thousands of people are leaving their homes and trying to find a safe haven. This is a third or fourth genocide against them by an uncontrollable militia, and an army and military men from the Islamic front, from the ousted regime.

We now see the repercussions of having military bases in the cities, in Khartoum, in Marawi, close to civilians. The military must be removed from the cities.

The majority of Sudanese people are calling for an end to this war. This is not their war. This is war for resources and power and vested interests. And civilians should not bear the brunt. The people are calling for the formation of an alliance against the war, and the restoration of civilian government, for the army to go to the barracks and the militia to be dissolved.

But that is just the start. The Sudanese revolution must continue. It is a very progressive revolution that calls for people’s control of their wealth. We call for path of economic development, building a public sector that is strong and that serves the people. You’ll find enemies everywhere when you do this: multinational companies and those that have interests in the corporate world and finance.

How can the ‘international community’ help? The UN is playing a good role, but it’s not effective. They have not been able to bring people together to have a comprehensive agreement that everybody can agree on. The framework agreement brokered by the UN and signed in December 2022 between civilian political forces and military, served only the interests of Hemeti and the small ‘liberation’ armies. It excluded many people and forces and did not include key demands of the revolution. This is why the military junta couldn’t establish any government.

The UN needs to get the grip on Sudan’s political map in order to include everybody; they must prioritise an agenda that the Sudanese people care about and build a comprehensive agreement among all the people who contributed to this revolution. The Communist Party must be part of it; including the other forces who support the party’s position and call for radical change, for the revolution was built on solid slogans and demands that were developed by Sudanese activists, members of the Sudanese Communist Party and other progressive groups.

Britain should immediately side with the Sudanese peoples’ demands:  the demands of the revolution for freedom peace and justice, for an all-inclusive civilian rule that can preserve their rights and build a national army that protects the state and the citizens. And they should stop supporting the military, the army in the country, or any other militia forces. A few years before the collapse of Omar al Bashir’s military junta, the UK trained his security forces.

This war will end eventually and once it does, this must also be the end of these two military powers, because they’re just destroying Sudan. The Sudanese people will not settle for another dictator, they’ve have had enough of dictatorship. They have had enough of the foreign alliances that distort the country to serve their own interests, that trample on the people’s rights.

I hope that the people of the world will support the Sudanese people on the path to civilian rule to stop this war, a proxy war by international and regional forces to ensure they take their hands off Sudan and I hope they start listening to the people’s demands.

* Sudanese activist and political analyst

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