Sudan is a Northeast African country that gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1956. Once independent, Sudan became a democratic parliamentary republic. However, the country soon became a state of violence and coups d’état. Indeed, Omar al-Bashir, who oversaw Sudan’s 30-year military dictatorship from 1989 to 2019, was accused of violating human rights, including using torture, persecuting minorities, funding international terrorism, and ethnic genocide owing to his conduct in the 2003-onset War in the Darfur area. Estimates place the death toll from the regime’s activities at 300,000 to 400,000. Demands for Bashir’s resignation sparked protests in 2018, which led to a coup d’état on April 11 and Bashir’s imprisonment. From 1983 until 2020, when Sudan became a secular state, Islam was the country’s official religion, and Islamic law was followed.
Last week, the military and civilians in Sudan failed to agree on the formation of the new transitional government. This is the third postponement of the agreement in three weeks, the first to date to be decided. The feeling from the talks between the Forces for Freedom and Change Coalition (civilian parties) and the Sovereign Council of Sudan (military) is mixed. There is optimism concerning the possibility of reaching a compromise between military and civilians, but less so for resolution regarding the internal clashes within the Khartoum armed forces. However, the talks are expected to achieve a minimum of three goals. Firstly, to choose the parliamentary composition of the transition. Secondly, to ascertain the form and role of the Head of State. Thirdly, to decide on the integration of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF, paramilitary descendants of the Janjaweed) within the national army.
According to leaks from Khartoum, the parties only agreed on the first two points. The dispute over the status of the RSF is the main geopolitical issue at hand, based on the clash between Head of State Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan (al-Burhan) and RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as “Hemetti”), the incumbent vice president, supported by their respective sponsors. Beyond personal ambitions, the conflict between the two officers is gradually revealing two opposing conceptions of the country and particularly its place in the clash of global powers. Al-Burhan is pressing for a centralized government, stronger relations with the West and especially with the United Arab Emirates the head of state’s main supporters who are waiting for the civilian government to close the deal to build the Abu Amama business district (a $6 billion deal). Albeit with some misgivings, the United States also supports al-Burhan’s wing to expel the Wagner Group from the country, a condition that Washington presents as essential for the restoration of funding to Khartoum. On the other side is Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, generally referred to as “Hemetti,” a proponent of a government based on the so-called “alliance of the peripheries”. Hemetti also happens to have closed tie to Russia. Under “Hemetti’s” leadership, Moscow would therefore hope to conclude a deal which would allow the completion of the Port Sudan military base building project, which has been blocked for four years, thus allowing Russia to continue mining Sudanese gold.
The world is closely watching this tricky transition of power in Sudan, in which the distance between the various protagonists remains significant due to the undeniable gulf between the two sides’ respective sponsors. Failure is not a contemplated option.