By Fathi El-Fadl
On Monday 18 December 2023, when the commanding Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) general ordered his troops to leave Wad Madani, he surrendered the second largest Sudanese city to the advancing militias of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Wad Madani had been a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of people previously displaced from Khartoum, the capital, as well as other cities and villages. However, knowing and having experienced the brutality of the RSF militias, majority of those people began their second journey fleeing south and east out of the city.
Since 15 April 2023, the former allies and main supporters of the previous regime, led by Omar al-Bashir, have been engaged in a bitter and catastrophic war. Both sides are accused of committing grave crimes, including ethnically motivated killing and detention, torture, and sexual violence.
The SAF, led by the al-Bashir security committee and controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, is accused of the indiscriminate bombardment of civilian areas in Khartoum, Niala, and other cities, which has killed hundreds of innocent civilians. Meanwhile, the RSF militias continue to commit heinous crimes that include the forced occupation of civilian homes, rape, murder, and the stealing of property.
It is suffice to state that both sides have committed crimes against humanity not only in the capital and El Gezira region, but also in Darfur and Kordofan. Over 15,000 people from the Masalit African ethnic group have been murdered by the RSF militia in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur. It is estimated that over 20,000 civilians have lost their lives as a result of the military confrontation between the two sides in Sudan so far. More than 7.7 million people have been displaced both inside and outside of the country. There have been 1,678,000 cross-border movements into neighbouring countries according to the International Organisation of Migration (IOM).
The sufferings of the Sudanese people continue, while both international and regional organisations stand by and look on. The shy statements of condemnation uttered by their officials do nothing to stop the killing of innocent people. Both the Jeddah and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regional bloc talks led to nothing. In fact, foreign intervention and support for the various fighting factions is increasing. Türkiye is replacing Egypt in supporting the SAF generals, while the UAE and Russia (via the Wagner military group) continue to back the RSF. Without such support and direct intervention, the war would have ended during the first few months.
The brutality of the war is coupled by direct action on the part of both belligerents to curtail the rights and the movement of the people. Initiatives by the Emergency Committees, the Resistance Committees, and other civil organisations to help reduce the suffering of the people in the capital and other cities under the control of either the SAF or the RSF militia are being met with detention, torture, and even murder. The de facto governments are maintaining their power and authority through the barrel of the gun. Hundreds of activists are in prisons and scores of active members of the Resistance Committees have been disappeared.
Against a backdrop of international and regional players looking to secure their interests in Sudan and make sure they are carried by seeking out amenable civilian fora and organisations to facilitate the creation of a new political dispensation in the country – just as happened during the talks in Addis Ababa last November – the RSF have issued a decree establishing their own ‘Political Relations Committee’. The intention behind this move is clear… The RSF is attempting to present itself as a bona fide political entity with its own articulated agenda with the aim of legitimising its forced presence in the political domain, in line with the objectives of its international and regional sponsors. It should be noted that the RSF, as per its own founding charter, is a military force and is therefore precluded from engaging in political and economic activities. It is imperative that the RSF be prevented from assuming any future political role and that its leadership – along with that of the SAF – be pursued and ultimately held accountable for the crimes they have perpetrated continuously since 1989. Indeed, it is the position of the mass democratic and revolutionary forces, including the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), that the RSF and all other militias in Sudan be demobilised and disarmed.
In the face of the failure, or paralysis, of international and regional efforts to reach a durable ceasefire, it is imperative that new ideas and new forces be proposed and advanced to alleviate the suffering of the people and stop the war. The first to this end is the establishing of the broadest possible popular front involving the representatives of the Resistance Committees, the trade unions, the political parties, and the civil society organisations. Indeed, such efforts have already begun. Meetings between the Resistance Committees and the trade unions are underway. Last month, representatives from the SCP and the Resistance Committees met and ideas for a joint programme were identified and articulated. Efforts to organise and involve workers’ and peasants’ organisations must also be intensified. Thus, the nucleus of the broad popular front is already there. The main general outlines for its programme are being discussed and developed. The progressive Forces for Radical Change (FRC) alliance has published the footnotes of its programme. They call for a people’s alliance to stop the war and regain the revolution. This alliance is based on the rich and revolutionary experiences of our people’s struggle. The aim is to defeat the present de facto ruling circles and establish a civil democratic alternative authority. Its objectives and tasks include the following:
– To stop the war in Sudan through the gaining and representing of the majority of the population in international and regional fora. Following the attaining of a durable ceasefire, a civilian authority must be established to open and oversee safe corridors for the smooth handling of humanitarian aid to reach those in need as well as to help and facilitate the safe return of those forced to leave their houses, cities, and villages during the fighting.
– To restore and support the role of the state in education and healthcare provision as well as the restoration of the various agencies of government.
– To establish an independent judiciary and put all of those who have perpetrated crimes against the people to fair trials. To hand over al-Bashir and his clique to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
– To draft a new constitution that defends and promotes democratic values.
– To guarantee women’s representation at all levels, including parliament and government.
– To achieve peace in all regions of the country.
– To reconsider all agreements and treaties with other countries, as well as international and regional institutions, to defend and secure Sudan’s national sovereignty and control over the country’s natural resources.
Stopping the war and regaining the revolution can only be achieved through the mass mobilisation of the people and securing their active and unfettered participation in all decision-making institutions. It is through the arduous struggle of the Sudanese people, organising the masses to prepare and realise a general political strike and campaign of civil disobedience, and with the support and solidarity of the country’s democratic, patriotic, and revolutionary forces, that democracy, peace, and justice will be reached and prevail in a new Sudan.
Fathi El-Fadl is a member of Forces for Radical Change in Sudan, opponents of the current civil war, and a vice president of the International Centre for Trade Union Rights (ICTUR). He was previously – in the 1970-80s – a student leader in Sudan and leading member of the International Union of Students. He is based is Khartoum and thus a witness to the ongoing conflict.
Fathi El-Fadl is speaking at a Liberation webinar on Monday January 29 at 17.30 hrs GMT, with Lindsey German, convenor, Stop the War coalition, and Gawain Little, GFTU General Secretary chairing. Jeremy Corbyn MP, Liberation Joint President and founder of Peace of Justice Project has been invited.
The views expressed in the articles published on this website do not necessarily represent those of Liberation
Photo: Protest in solidarity with the Sudanese revolution in front of the German Foreign Ministry, 2019 / Creative Commons