The war that was inevitable for Sudan’s two generals: the new coup

Written by – Elijah J. Magnier:

Sudan spends Eid al-Fitr amid the clatter of weapons and the sound of deadly sieges as the two generals are determined to press on with the inevitable war. The ongoing conflict between generals Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti) has escalated to the point where it is now being described as a new coup. Despite numerous attempts to stop the fighting between the two, it has become clear that this is a battle for survival and destiny for both sides and that the country cannot contain both generals. No long-term and stable agreement is likely, no matter how influential regional or international actors try to intervene to stop the fighting. 

The UN’s role seems paralysed, and its 3,000 officers and employee in Sudan are caught in the crossfire. Much of its property has been looted, and some of its staff killed. More than 55 of its 78 hospitals have been seriously damaged in a country of 45 million people. The clashes have taken civilians by surprise and put them under siege, affecting the health system. Stored medicines are at risk of damage and loss due to power and water cuts and the lack of medical staff, who are unable to move due to the failure of both sides to respect the ceasefire. 

The country cannot bear the burden of war, with seven million children deprived of basic necessities. According to the United Nations, at least 16 million people live in poverty and are in need of food and medicine. The monthly inflation rate is 200%, eroding the value of purchases, and the price of bread has increased tenfold.

Although several ceasefire agreements have been attempted in this conflict, they have all failed, as is often the case when powerful actors fight. It is worth noting that this conflict is not a civil war, as it is between two generals vying for leadership. Nevertheless, foreign countries may have the upper hand in imposing a temporary ceasefire if it becomes necessary to evacuate their nationals from the heavy fighting in the capital, Khartoum, and other hot parts of the country.

Hemedti is the commander of the Rapid Support Force, considered the most powerful paramilitary group in Sudan, which operates as an adjunct to the army. He has no formal education and is not part of Khartoum’s political establishment. He was given the title of general for his role in the Janjaweed brigade during the 2003-2005 war in southern Darfur. Hemedti built up his RSF forces with a fleet of pickup trucks equipped with heavy machine guns to fight in Darfur in 2015. General Omar al-Bashir, who led the country for nearly 30 years, treated him like a son. If Hemedti, the country’s second-in-command, who has resisted integrating his estimated 50,000 men into the army, were to see his forces merged with the military, it would mark the end of his dominance in Sudan. He sees al-Burhan as the end of his role and wants the country under his command.

Since independence in 1956, Sudan has suffered several coups. The first occurred in 1958, when Lieutenant General Ibrahim Abboud and a group of officers revolted against a coalition government, leading to a four-year popular revolution. In 1969, a group of officers calling themselves Al-Ahrar (Free Officers) led by Jaafar al-Numeiri staged a successful coup. In 1971, the officer Hashem al-Atta attempted a coup, which failed after outside intervention restored Numeiri to power.

Failed coup attempts followed in 1975 and 1976, led by officers Hassan Hussein and Brigadier General Muhammad Nur Saeed. Al-Numeiri remained in power until 1985 when he was overthrown by widespread civil disobedience. Lieutenant General Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Hassan Suwar al-Dahab announced the formation of a transitional military council under his chairmanship. Elections were held, and Sadiq al-Mahdi was elected Prime Minister.In 1989, Brigadier General Omar Hassan al-Bashir led a coup that overthrew Sadiq al-Mahdi. Two failed coup attempts followed in 1990 and 1992, led by Major Generals Abd al-Qadir al-Kadro, Muhammad Othman and Colonel Ahmed Khaled. In 2019, Defence Minister and 

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