Prepared by the researcher : Farouk Hussein Abu Deif- Researcher specialized in African and political affairs
Democratic Arabic Center
The utmost ambition of the Sudanese people inside and outside the national borders is for a ceasefire between the two sides of the armed fighting – the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces – which has been raging for nearly a hundred days. Its first spark was launched on April 15, 2023, but; What if the armed fighting stopped in Sudan?
This study involves discussing the hypothesis of the extent to which armed fighting in Sudan can be stopped, relying on asking many fundamental questions about the extent of the readiness of the political, civil, labor and revolutionary forces to participate in the completion of the national construction of Sudan, and their understanding of the development of the internal political structure in all states of Sudan over the periods. The time period that political life has gone through in Sudan since independence until the events of the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in 2019, in order to move through this complex scene to a calmer and more stable stage, during which the two parties to the fighting can sit at the dialogue table again? If possible; When do they bring them together at a table without their souls harboring something in mind? Where can this meeting be held? And if the fighting continues; Why should it stop? Finally; How can the fighting be avoided from sliding into ethnic conflict or civil war?
In its approach to the topic, the study relies on the various conditional scenarios of the Sudanese crisis. The conditions and requirements for each scenario to be achieved are monitored and analyzed, while the most likely scenario(s) are identified.
First – A philosophical view of the Sudanese crisis:
A- The transition from peace to war:
Since World War II, the world has witnessed nearly 250 international and internal armed conflicts, and the number of victims of these disputes, conflicts or wars has reached 170 million people, which is equivalent to a conflict every 5 months, resulting in loss of lives, property and equipment. (1)
The concept of war as a military term is linked to another concept related to it; It is peace; As the two concepts have a great influence in building and establishing the other, there is no peace except after war, and there is no war except after peace, and this applies completely to the situation in Sudan, those periods in which the state moved from peace to war and vice versa for several decades.
Many philosophers and thinkers since ancient, medieval, and modern times have pursued a definition of the concept of this state in which a person moves from a state of peace to war, and also what are the conditions for exiting war and entering a state of peace. They presented many visions, theories, and philosophical diligences, and the Greek philosophers fought In the past, there was a widespread debate about whether war begins without prior introductions, and the intermediate state between war and peace, and the Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and others added to it; Among them are the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes and the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. Several viewpoints led to the creation of a new debate among modern-day thinkers about whether war is part of human nature or is it the result of the influence of society?
B- The concept of war:
Most definitions of the term war agree that it is: “armed combat between two or more countries or groups.” This is the most accurate, clear, and concise definition according to what was stated in the Cambridge Dictionary to define war, especially since sociology and political science scholars went in their definition of war to the conjunction of hostilities. Social, political, or military motives that are reflected in the form of armed combat, and military writers support them in their definition of armed combat. They have classifications of the term hostilities that depend on the type of competing groups and their equal strength.
Second – What is happening in Sudan?
The appropriate question now may be: What type of armed fighting is in Sudan? The answer to this question lies in knowing the two sides of the fighting, and then we can determine a correct understanding of what is happening in Sudan.
Armed violence broke out between the army forces under the command of the head of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces led by Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo, nicknamed “Hemedti”, in the early hours of the morning of Saturday, April 15, 2023, corresponding to the twenty-fourth of the holy month of Ramadan in the year. 1444 AH.
Events preceding the history of the Army and Rapid Support clashes indicated that for more than 17 months, Sudan had been witnessing a political vacuum in the absence of an executive government, and a designated government took charge temporarily to manage the affairs of the state until the political transition to civilian authority in running the country took place, but it faced severe difficulties. For more than a year and a half, Sudan has been suffering from major unrest in the absence of an executive government, after the departure of Abdullah Hamdok’s government against the backdrop of the measures taken by the army on October 25, 2021.
Inspite of that; On December 5, 2022, Sudan reached the conclusion of the framework agreement to begin the political transition for two years, and April 1, 2023 was set as the date for signing the final political agreement. Military disputes arose that postponed the signing of the power transfer agreement, and on April 6, 2023, the Forces of Freedom and Change postponed the signing of the final agreement.
On April 15, the army forces clashed with the Rapid Support Forces in violent clashes with light and medium weapons. Here the picture became clear about what is happening in Sudan, and who are the parties to the fighting. The first party is the Sudanese army, and the second party is the Rapid Support Forces.
A- Causes of armed clashes:
The reasons for the dispute between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces appeared in news covered by international news sites during the first hours of the outbreak of armed violence between the two parties. This news contained two accounts from both sides of the fighting about the causes of the clashes. The first: from the Sudanese army, which accused the Rapid Support Forces of treachery. And treason, and the attempt to attack his forces stationed in the Sports City and other locations, and that he responded to this attack. The second: by the Rapid Support Forces, which accused the army of entering the headquarters of its forces on the morning of April 15 in the Soba camps grounds in Khartoum, exposing it to a sweeping attack with all types of heavy and light weapons.
The issue of integrating the Rapid Support Forces into the armed forces is one of the most prominent causes of the conflict between the army and the Rapid Support, along with other political issues, including the Rapid Support’s refusal to integrate into the army and abandoning participation in political life and sharing power.
B- Disagreements between the “Army” and “Rapid Support”:
The dispute between the “Army” and “Rapid Support” concludes: “The Army” wants to integrate the Rapid Support Forces according to the mechanisms, timings, and conditions of their integration into unified armed forces, and to subject the “Rapid Support” officers to the conditions stipulated in the Military College, and to stop external contracts, recruitment, and withdrawal. About political action.
While the “Rapid Support” requires restructuring the armed forces before integration, criminalizing military coups, imposing civilian oversight on the military institution through Parliament, reviewing and developing the military doctrine, and purifying the armed forces and the Rapid Support Forces from elements of the former regime and those with ideologies. Hence, the differences between the “Army” and the “Rapid Support” created divisions. Other differences expanded, creating a complete schism between the two parties, making the idea of merging them almost impossible at the present time.
C- Type of armed fighting in Sudan:
It appears that the fighting between the Sudanese army forces and the Rapid Support Forces is proceeding along the lines of a “war of attrition,” that is, the armed fighting that the two sides engage in over a long period of time and does not end unless one of the parties lacks soldiers and equipment or the determination to continue fighting. Perhaps this is what will happen. The complex Sudanese scene is now developing, which is what experts and analysts are warning about, while the most optimistic of them fear that the confrontations in Sudan may turn into an ethnic and civil war with the prolonged armed fighting.
What must be addressed now is how did the Rapid Support Forces reach the level of power, influence, strength, and equipment they are at the present time? This allowed it to control some of the positions of the Sudanese Armed Forces, and it became forces competing with the Sudanese army in controlling the northern state.
Third – The history of the emergence of “Rapid Support”… “Janjaweed”:
In 2007, a number of armed groups joined the ranks of the Sudanese army to support it in the war against the rebels in South Sudan, and among them was the “Janjaweed” group, at the time. The population of the “Janjaweed” reached 10 thousand people, and the number of fighters was 1,600 fighters, and the percentage of fighters represented 0.5% of the strength of the Sudanese army at that time, according to what was stated in the report of the Human Security Baseline Assessment (HSBA) project entitled “The Militarization of Sudan: A preliminary review of the flow and possession of weapons.” In April 2007, (a project supervised by the “Small Arms Monitor” program, which is an independent research project of the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva) developed in cooperation with the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNIMIS) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
President Omar al-Bashir used the Janjaweed group to support the Sudanese army in the war against the rebellion in the Darfur region, in the ongoing conflict over the border since 2003. Al-Bashir’s practices caused Sudan to be subjected to the penalty of banning the transfer of weapons to Darfur. Despite this, Al-Bashir insisted on Providing the Janjaweed with weapons and ammunition, as well as mutual support with the Chadian rebels in the war against the rebel groups in Darfur.
The term Janjaweed was used historically in Darfur to refer to armed men, bandits or outlaws. Since the 2003 crisis, the term began to be applied to the militia of the nomadic Arab tribes supported by Khartoum, and the militia attracted a large number of the Abla Zureikat group. The “Janjaweed” supported the Sudanese army in crushing the rebellion in the western Darfur region. The Sudanese army was launching the attack with aircraft, while the “Janjaweed” used heavy weapons to attack on the ground.
According to the United Nations, an estimated 300,000 people were killed in the conflict between 2003 and 2008, and 2.5 million people were displaced. The International Criminal Court charged President Al-Bashir with genocide and crimes against humanity in 2009.
Al-Bashir wanted to reward the Janjaweed for their support for him, so he decided to give the group an official institutional appearance in 2013, by granting them official duties by deploying its members within the border guard forces, under the name of the Rapid Support Forces. Hemedti transformed from the leader of the Janjaweed to the head of the Rapid Support, then turned against Al-Bashir and helped overthrow him during a popular uprising in 2019. In 2021, Hemedti and the army commander, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, staged another coup and shared power, and with the growth of Hemedti’s influence and his aspirations to lead the country, the two generals became enemies. The army pressed to integrate the Rapid Support Forces into its ranks, but the paramilitary group resisted. (3)
Western experts and officials estimate that the number of Rapid Support Forces ranges between 70 and 150 thousand fighters at the present time. Its members include former army and intelligence officers, according to Roland Marchal, a sociologist at Sciences Po University in Paris and an expert on civil wars in Africa.
Fourth – The beginning of the state’s collapse:
The process of establishing comprehensive peace between the northerners and the southerners – on July 9, 2011 – in actual practice involved managing the many conflicts that struck Sudan, not resolving them, and it did not prove to be very effective with regard to the goals sought from the separation of the north from the south. The peace process created a weak and ineffective southern state in the hands of a ruling party affiliated with the international community, and the northern state remained as it was at the beginning of the scene before secession: a failed state that lost the south of the country, and due to its inability to impose its hegemony over several sectors in the north, it lost power. It came under the control of the National Congress Party and was prepared to achieve its interests. (4)
The most prominent reason for the fragility and weakness of the state of Northern Sudan after secession is that the comprehensive peace process and the similar defects in the referendum did not resolve any of the post-referendum issues, including border issues, agreements, citizenship issues, oil revenues, and the fate of both the Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Therefore, it was difficult for the North and South countries to witness any significant democratic transformation after secession, as they struggled with waves of wars and crimes, along with a lack of security and economic decline, which greatly affected the North country, which after secession was unable to achieve any significant growth, even on the The political level in terms of establishing strong and effective states.(5)
Fifth: A turbulent political history:
Since the era after independence from the British occupation, Sudan has not witnessed a peaceful political movement, as it has a turbulent political history, since President Jaafar Numeiri took power as the first elected military president of the republic in 1969, and the unrest followed him, after the announcement of the rule of Sudan by Islamic law, which created feelings Dissatisfaction and fear among the non-Muslim population, especially in the south. He also issued a decision to abolish the elected House of Representatives in the south, and divide the region into three separate regions.(6)
By 1983, the country was slipping back into the furnace of war and old patterns of conflicts, and the conflict between the north and the south was moving upward, and in 1985 the intensity of instability in the north worsened, after the overthrow of Numeiri, and Sudan entered a period of civilian rule and another military coup in 1993, which brought An alliance of military and Islamist leaders came to power, headed by Omar al-Bashir.
With the beginning of the rule of President Omar Al-Bashir, the pace of conflicts increased in Sudan, north and south, and the governments were unable to control and impose their presence and new system. Al-Bashir’s governments faced challenges in building a new state, but the political system was obsolete. The old people dominate the government, the opposition, and the army alike.
Sixth – The role of political parties in the conflict:
A- The history of the democratic and military regimes in Sudan
Since independence, three democratic regimes have ruled Sudan (56-58-65-86) and three military regimes (Aboud: 58-64, Numeiri: 69-85, Al-Bashir: 89-2019). The democratic regimes disappeared due to the weakness of party formation and the strife of party leaders. On the seats of government and the fragility of the state from a society that is rapidly sliding with freedom into the circle of chaos and turmoil.(8)
Despite the pluralism of parties that is supposed to enrich political life in Sudan; It was a source of igniting conflict between the political forces formed on a sectarian, tribal, geographical and political basis, and the fragility and weakness of the infrastructure and economic and political institutions in Sudan played a major role in the sudden phenomenon of change and fluctuation experienced by the state’s political orientations.(9)
The political parties are considered one of the activities that fuel conflict in the political arena in Sudan, through their popular and youth bases and their branches in other states of Sudan, especially in eastern and western Sudan, namely the Umma Party, the Democratic Federal Party, the Communist Party and the Baath Party. The interest was in the “Ummah” and the “Democratic Federal Party.” And the “Islamic Movement”, especially since they were parties that were founded on ideological foundations and mixed religion and politics in a way that did not allow for accepting political differences and considering the other opinion as a declaration of contempt for religious beliefs.
Hence, it is worth saying that wars may break out within society itself if groups hostile to each other emerge from it. These wars are called “civil” such as (Spain 1937-1939), or “ethnic” (Bosnia or Rwanda, the 1990s). ), “class war” (Mexico, 1911-1917) or “religious” (France, during the 17th century). Or the “citizens” who have coexisted with each other since ancient times violate the unity treaty by using material and spiritual variables at the same time, aiming to create a new balance in society and redistribute power and wealth through the use of violence.
B- The nature of the political movement and its trends
After the separation of the North from the South, this separation had extremely dangerous effects that were difficult for the government of Northern Sudan to deal with, which forced it to go to negotiations with the main political parties in an attempt to contain the effects of the separation. at that time; The northern government did not provide real powers to the political parties. Rather, the government’s move towards the parties was “decorative” and contributed to the erosion of the credibility of the government and the parties together, as it did not lead to a change in the internal political equation, nor to any kind of transfer of power, nor to a reduction in the level of The threats resulting from the rebellion of the regions against the state , and of course, all of them are factors that contribute to the exacerbation of the suffering of the Sudanese citizen in all states, which sparked a real crisis as a result of the blockage of the political horizon in Sudan.
It is clear from the above that the hypothesis of a cessation of armed fighting in Sudan between the army and the Rapid Support Forces requires a lot of national, regional and international efforts, and internal preparations, the burden of which falls on the political and civil forces and parties whose unity has been divided between divisions, schisms and fragmentation based on sect, tribalism and distribution. Geography and political affiliation.
Which places Sudan in front of a number of expected and/or likely scenarios that are not weak, given what is imposed by the current situation data between the two sides of the armed fighting in Sudan.
Seventh: Crisis scenarios and catastrophic repercussions:
The rapid pace of armed fighting between the army and the Rapid Support Forces in Sudan imposes negative indicators on the extent to which both parties are willing to accept calls for a temporary ceasefire and to sit down to negotiate a peace agreement that will end this multidimensional conflict, in light of the calls of the main regional actors for peace. They do not want a regional conflict that would constitute another burden on the region. International partners, such as the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States, have also condemned the violence and called for the resumption of talks, but they lack the strength to impose and take coercive action.
While all regional and international strategic and security reports by research centers and international humanitarian organizations confirm that the situation in Khartoum, Omdurman and other cities throughout the country is still volatile and developing rapidly, as a result of the relative parity between the capabilities of the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, in the number of personnel and equipment, which increases The risk of a long-term civil conflict erupting that threatens efforts to transition to civilian rule and exacerbates the suffering of the Sudanese people at all levels.
A- The first scenario: a ceasefire and a final peace agreement:
This scenario depends on the extent of the strength of the main actors, regional and international, in pressuring both sides of the conflict or one of them to cease fire, even intermittently or periodically, until the fighting is stopped for a period of time during which some relative calm and temporary stability can be created that allows the mediators to participate with the active political and civil forces in the conflict. The Sudanese scene is creating rapprochement between the two parties to the conflict in order to conclude a peace agreement between them, reducing violence and strife between the two forces.
Taking into account the need for the participation of the opposition and those who incited divisions within the Sudanese army, those who imposed restrictions on the temporary truces called for by peace initiatives and ceasefire calls over the past hundred days since the outbreak of armed fighting on April 5, 2023, and to pressure them that there is no victory in this. The battle was due to the relative parity between the army and the Rapid Support Forces.
1– Restrictions surrounding the ceasefire and peace agreement
Regional and international actors called for a ceasefire and a final peace agreement to end the conflict and prevent its escalation into a regional conflict or its slide into a civil war that would open to endless chaos in Sudan. Despite the lack of consensus and differences in approaches to peace initiatives and their specific goals, they all aim to achieve Warning against prolonging the conflict, which exacerbates the humanitarian crisis for the Sudanese people.
– Initially, the American and Saudi ceasefire talks, since the second week of the conflict, called for ceasefire negotiations in Jeddah, and despite multiple attempts, the ceasefire has not yet been achieved.
The IGAD initiative also called, in June 2023, for the appointment of a quartet committee composed of the leaders of Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Djibouti, headed by Kenyan President William Ruto, to follow up on the ceasefire, the arrival of humanitarian aid, and political dialogue, with the aim of restoring Sudan’s transition to democracy.
With the meeting of the Quartet on Monday, July 10, 2023, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, steps were taken that would internationalize the Sudanese crisis and form an intervention force inside Khartoum, to protect civilians, in cooperation with the United States and Saudi Arabia to arrange a meeting with the leaders of the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, with the aim of securing the situation. Sustained ceasefire, with an agreement to complete the political transfer of power by August 2023.
The IGAD group’s call was rejected by Al-Burhan, justified by the appearance of a bias towards “rapid support” by the Kenyan president, and support for Al-Burhan’s rejection by the leaders of civil parties. Their doubts were reinforced by Hemedti’s attendance at the Addis Ababa summit meeting despite the Sudanese army’s abstention from participating.
As the conflict continues to escalate, the role of external actors becomes increasingly prominent, with different countries pursuing their own interests and competing for influence in the region. It can be recalled that the participation of major regional powers is of particular importance in the Sudanese file. Egypt, for example, has strategic interests by virtue of kinship relations and civilizational and cultural contact between the Egyptian and Sudanese peoples, which makes Sudan an Egyptian affair and Egypt a Sudanese affair in return. This was evident in the speed with which the Egyptian leadership put forward an initiative to settle the conflict between the two parties in coordination with South Sudan.(13)
Perhaps the most important thing that distinguishes the Egyptian initiative is that it led to the holding of a summit headed by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, which brought together all of Sudan’s neighboring countries in Cairo in order to achieve a peace settlement in Sudan. Among the participating leaders were the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and the President of the Libyan Council of State, in addition to the presidents of South Sudan, Chad, Eritrea, and the Central African Republic.
2– The impact of the ceasefire in Sudan and neighboring countries
A- The impact of the ceasefire in Sudan
Although the possibility of this scenario being achieved is weak, given the current circumstances of the crisis situation in Sudan, if the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces agree to a complete ceasefire, return to the dialogue table and negotiate the terms of the framework agreement between them, this will have positive effects on Sudan, including:
- First – Stop the killing of innocent civilians among the Sudanese people, protect the remaining public and private property, and reconstruct what was destroyed.
- Second: Bridging the wide gap between the army and the Rapid Support Forces.
- Third: Opening new horizons for participation and cooperation in collective political action.
- Fourth: The return of normal life to the three cities that hosted the fighting between the two forces.
- Fifth – Addressing the humanitarian issues and conditions that the Sudanese people have suffered and are still suffering from at home and abroad.
B- The second scenario: the continuation of armed fighting between the army and the Rapid Support in Sudan
It seems that the most likely scenario is the continuation of armed fighting between the army and the Rapid Support inside the cities, despite the increasing pressure from actors in regional and international diplomatic initiatives and the influence of the Cairo Summit of Sudan’s neighboring countries on the position of both sides of the conflict regarding a short ceasefire.
But the greatest danger to Sudan comes from the continuation of armed fighting between the two sides of the conflict. With the continued relative parity of military power between them through the intervention of some countries in the region in the conflict directly or indirectly by providing their “favorite party” in the conflict with money, weapons, and other forms of military support. The continuation of armed fighting in Sudan constitutes a source of threat to the interests of neighboring regional countries – especially in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel and Sahara regions – which are fundamentally affected by regional interactions in the region.
The extent to which the interests of regional neighboring countries are affected by the continuation of armed fighting in Sudan is very severe. Its dimensions are related to political interests in the regional environment, which fears that the conflict will spread to some countries that are already suffering from political and security tensions and the fragility of their political systems, such as Chad, Central Africa, South Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. There is also fear that Sudan will turn into a conflict hotspot. Many international powers are rushing towards it, threatening the independence and security of the countries of the region.(15)
C- The third scenario: sliding into civil war:
This is the worst scenario for the future of the Sudanese crisis, which is that the armed fighting will move from the three cities in the capital, Khartoum, to the rest of the other states, and this is conditional on a condition that will soon happen, which is that one of the two forces will weaken in front of the other, after the prolonged fighting, the exhaustion of the resolve and will of its soldiers, and the decline in numbers. Fighters, the destruction of its enemies, the depletion of its equipment, or especially the interruption of external supplies of money and weapons, are all factors that, when all or some of them are available, lead to weakening the power of one of the parties to the conflict, giving an advantage on the ground to the other party.
In conclusion; The growth of the state’s power depends greatly on the nature of its internal policy, which is linked to allowing collective participation without exclusion on the political, ethnic, and cultural levels, and for parties to contribute to the growth of political life again, without being the main actor in sparking structural crises that threaten the state’s entity.
Sources and references
- Abdul Salam Hamoud Ghaleb Al-Ansi, “The Concept of War in Jurisprudence and Law” (Journal of Jurisprudence and Law, Edition (9), 2013).
- The Rapid Support Force, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/17/world/africa/paramilitary-rsf-explainer.html
- John Young, translated by Ahmed Jamal Abu Al-Lail, Sudan Conflicts of Interests and Stakes of Destiny (New Lines, 2014), p. 30.
- John Young, translated by Ahmed Jamal Abu Al-Lail, Sudan Conflicts of Interests and Stakes of Destiny (New Lines, 2014), p. 31.
- Sudan from conflict to conflict, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, International Center for Future and Strategic Studies (2012), p. 6.
- Sudan from conflict to conflict, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, International Center for Future and Strategic Studies (2012), p. 9.
- Talaat Hassan Rumaih, The Future of Sudan, Modern Printing House, p. 2.
- Hassan Musa, Doubts about Identity, Sudanese Writings, No. 3 (April 1993), p. 5.
- Badr al-Din Abdullah al-Imam Musa, “Tribal Conflicts in Sudan… Roots and Dimensions,” (Jazirat al-Ward Library, Edition (2), (2017)), (2004) p. 47.
- François Guerret, “The New Geopolitics: Peace and War in Our Current Era,” (King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology: Arab Journal Book (142) Edition (1), Riyadh 2014), p. 24.
- Amani Al-Taweel, “The Future of Sudan: The Reality of Fragmentation and the Chances of War,” (Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, Doha, July 2011), p. 14.
- Hamdy Abdel Rahman Hassan, “The Battle for Sudan: Prospects of Confrontation between the Army and Rapid Support,” (Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, article). Online link: https://acpss.ahram.org.eg/News/18861.aspx
- Hamdy Abdel Rahman Hassan, “The Egyptian Approach: A Reading of the Implications of the Summit of Sudan’s Neighboring Countries in Cairo,” (Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, article). Link: https://acpss.ahram.org.eg/News/20947.aspx
- Ahmed Askar, “The Anxious Neighborhood…Dangers of the Regional Repercussions of the Conflict in Sudan,” (Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, The Egyptian File: The Conflict in Sudan…Map of Interests and Challenges, Issue 107, (July 2023) p. 31.