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Explainer: Sudan War, genesis and repercussions

Head of Sudanese Armed Forces, Gen Abde Fattah al-Burhan

Photo: getty images

Sudan is the third largest country in Africa, sharing borders with about seven countries, including Ethiopia, Egypt, Chad and South Sudan.

This proximity to different countries and abundant available natural resources in these areas opens Sudan to numerous vulnerabilities.

Many powerful people have been locked up in fierce battles to control Sudan, leading to a series of infighting, which in turn has caused serious damage to the North African nation.

Seeds of conflict

The genesis of the current fighting between the Sudanese army and the powerful Rapid Support Forces (RSF) may indeed be traceable to the overthrow of long-time dictator, Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 2019.

Mr Bashir, who was himself an army general when he seized power from civilians in 1989, had barely survived the 2011 Arab Spring protests that had swept away the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt and subsequently, Libya.

Following months of protests against his own dictatorial rule, Mr Bashir was ousted from power, ostensibly because the military, now led by General Abde Fattah Burhan, turned against him.

The military reluctantly agreed to share power with civilians in 2019, and in 2021, General Burhan and the man against whom he is now engaged in a bitter conflict, General Dagalo, overthrew the civilian-led government.

Since the coup, Sudan has been administered by a so-called council of generals which has been controlled by Burhan himself and Dagalo, who doubles as deputy leader as well as head of the RSF militia. Both men have constantly been at loggerheads.

The recent fighting

While Friday marks the 7th day since the conflict began in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, the western province of Darfur and other places, it is also important to note its unprecedented circumstances, especially since South Sudan received its independence and broke away in 2011.

Firstly, both generals, Burhan and Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo are believed to be heavily armed by foreign players: Saudi Arabia (in Burhan’s case) and the UAE (in Dagalo’s).

Also, both men seem irreconcilably apart, and appear hellbent on a fight to the finish.

In addition, there are feelers that neither warlord wants a return to civilian governance, which a return to non-violence might inevitably bring about. Some observers have even said that General Burhan is no longer disposed to following through with a deal which would have seen about 100,000 members of General Dagalo’s RSF being integrated into Sudan’s armed forces.

Now a large-scale conflict is underway, killing over 1,000 and injuring many more, as well as destroying increasingly large parts of the country and forcing hundreds of thousands across the borders.

General Mohammed Dagalo who now controls the RSF; Photo: getty images

It’s clear that the warring Generals strongly distrust each other, with either man claiming that his opponent is a threat to Sudan’s development. The fact is: both protagonists are desperate for the control of the 100,000-strong RSF ahead of its infusion into the regular army.

How did fighting begin?

Heightened tensions spiraled into all-out armed confrontation when members of the RSF were redeployed around the country, to the annoyance of General Burhan and the army.

Discussions had followed the RSF deployments but no concrete agreement was reached, as a result of which fighting erupted between the two sides.

Foreign interventions and calls for ceasefire

There have been attempts by different countries to find lasting peace in the former British colony.

For instance, on Monday, the US called for a cease-fire, a move which was immediately supported by the UN.

Similarly, concerned about the damning consequences of such a war on Africa, the heads of state of the regional bloc, Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) called on the warring factions to lay down their arms. IGAD also said it would send a delegation, including South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir, and Djiboutian President, Ismail Omar Guelleh, to Khartoum to try to persuade the warring generals to end the crisis.

What must be done

With Sudan’s strategic location and proximity to many countries in the region, all efforts must be put in place to ensure an immediate end to hostilities.

In every war situation, the harmless civilian always bear the brunt as they are killed and injured because they have no form of protection.

African Countries must, as such, start evacuating their citizens from Sudan without further delay.

Echoing similar concerns, the Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said on Thursday last week that the Nigerian government was preparing to evacuate its citizens, particularly students, from Sudan.

Albeit commendable, the federal government should also conduct the evacuations as a matter of urgency.

The UN, AU and other relevant bodies, including the all-powerful UN Security Council, should set aside their conflicting interests in Sudan in favour of finding a lasting solution to the conflict there, thereby saving the lives of millions of helpless civilians in that African nation.

Africa cannot afford any more wars, as the time is now for the continent to unite and prevent Sudan from spiralling into total lawlessness and carnage.

Writing by Oluwaseyi Ajibade and Tony Okerafor