Sudan at War: African Obligations to Sudanese Civilians

 Sudan at War: African Obligations to Sudanese Civilians

Thursday, May 11, 2023 2:44 pm

Rasheed Akinkuolie

Rasheed Akinkuolie

General Abdel Fattah al Burhan, Head of the Sudanese Armed Forces( SAF)/ Head of State and General Mohammed Hamadan Dagalo, alias Hemetti, Commander of the Rapid Support Forces of Sudan (RSF) a Militia group have been  engaging each other in a bloody fight for supremacy in Sudan, since 15 April 2023.

Both were close allies of  former President Omar Bashir, who ruled Sudan for 30 years using a divide and rule strategy, which pitched  the regular army against the RSF , a para military militia he created in 2013 to neutralize the capability of the military to overthrow him. Dagalo is from Dafur region  in Sudan, who before heading the RSF was the ruthless commander of the Janjaweed militia that massacred tens  of thousands of his own people.

The 2019 civil protests in Sudan against rising cost of living offered the two warlords the opportunity to cooperate and overthrow their boss, out of feigned support for the Sudanese people. Whereas, the real intention was to pave way for any of them to fulfill their individual ambition to seize power and rule the country.

After ousting Omar Bashir, the  dilemma of who comes first, as the leader of the Junta was  resolved by appointing General Burhan, as the President and General Dagalo, the Vice President in an uneasy and difficult relationship of two captains in the same ship, in which one has to give way for the other.

Generals Abdul Fattah al-Burhan (Commander of the Sudanese Army) and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Commander of the Rapid Support Force)

They created a facade and puppet Transitional Sovereignty Council (TSC) headed by  Abdallah Hamdok, as civilian Prime Minister to organize  the election, that will lead to democratic rule in 2023.

General Burhan and Dangalo, however, did not stop  meddling in the affairs of the TSC, until Hamdok was summarily  removed as Prime Minister in October 2021, and reinstated after the international community condemned the coup. General Burhan finally removed Hamdok on 2nd January, 2022 in a coup and took over total power.  But, when he  attempted  to dissolve and incorporate the RSF into the regular army, the move was resisted by General Dagalo. The battle line was drawn between the two warlords, resulting in the war of supremacy, which started on 15 April, 2023 in Khartoum and spread to other cities in the country.

General Burhan deployed, Jet Fighters, helicopter gunships to dislodge RSF fighters inside  Khartoum. The two warring parties used tanks and other heavy weapons in residential areas, and in the process destroyed  hospitals, schools, homes, infrastructures and used tens of thousands of  civilians, as  human shields. The fatalities among civilians rose to over  500 people killed, while thousands of the wounded were prevented from being evacuated for medical attention.

This war would have been prevented, if African Union and  the United Nations had condemned the coup of January 2022, as they did in October 2021. The casual removal of Abdallah Hamdok, as Prime Minister without International reaction gave General Burhan and General Dagalo the audacity to proceed with their Machiavellian  plan to scuttle the transition program and seize power. Both of them  eventually engaged themselves in the deadly power struggle, which caught innocent civilians and thousands of other nationals in the crossfire.

Although the outbreak of hostilities took everybody by surprise, but fleeing from the country in panic was unhelpful, but rather worsened the situation.  African Union and the United Nations should have stood up to the two ruthless warlords and issued them with an ultimatum to stop the fighting or face  harsh sanctions, which will not exclude the use of force and their eventual arraignment before the International Criminal Court (ICC)

The chaotic evacuation of foreign nationals and diplomats from Sudan, emboldened the warlords to continue with the fighting, both threatening to settle their scores on the battlefield, without showing any concerns for the human casualties and the terrible consequences.

The primary objective of the African Union and the United Nations now, should be to stop the fighting, before it degenerates into a regional war. Measures should be taken to impose peace on Sudan, such that democracy will be firmly entrenched in the country and military coups will  constitutionally be treated as treason, which  will retroactively be punishable, even after the junta  must have left office .

Sudan is a huge country with a land mass of 1.8 million square kilometers , with  80 ethnic groups and a population of over 46 million people. The diversity of the people makes it imperative that the country  should be ruled, as a federation of autonomous states. The federated states will manage their internal affairs, except for national currency, foreign policy, immigration, armed forces, customs, ports authority. But, the states will not be allowed to unilaterally secede from the rest of the country.

The states will control their security with state police, develop industries and infrastructures in their respective states, exploit their natural and mineral resources, but pay taxes to the federal government in Khartoum, elect representatives into the national assembly, enact state laws in state assemblies, adopt state constitutions.  The President of the country will be the Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, elected by universal suffrage across the country, but will be primus inter pares, first among equals with the state Governors, but with restricted and limited control over state or regional affairs.

The abrogation of the autonomy granted to South Sudan in 1972  led to the eventual secession of South Sudan from the rest of the country. The issue of autonomy should, therefore, be taken very seriously to put an end to the multiple crises in other parts of Sudan.

Now, that Omar  Bashir is in jail, the two warlords have to go too. The three of them cannot be part of the political future of Sudan. The Sudanese Army must be sanitized for the country to enjoy long term peace and stability.

In retrospect, the coup d’état of 1969, that toppled the civilian government of Ismail al Azhari by Field Marshal Jaffary Nimery laid the foundation of the perennial instability in Sudan. In 1983, Nimery declared Sudan an Islamic State with Shariah Law as the only penal  code in the country. He abrogated the 1972 agreement, which granted autonomy to South Sudan, with a predominantly  Christian population. This unpopular and unreasonable decision started the Civil War, which led to the eventual secession of South Sudan from the rest of the country in 2011.

Nimery’s regime lasted for 16 years and ended in 1985, when he was also overthrown in a military coup. There was a civilian government for a few years before General Omar Bachir in 1989 staged  another coup, which overthrew the civilian government of President Ahmed al Mirghani and Prime Minister Sadiq al Mahdi. Bachir’s totalitarian regime lasted for 30 years and ended with the people’s revolt in 2019, which General Burhan and General Dagalo have now highjacked  with the intention to start another  brutal totalitarian military regime. This will not be allowed to happen to the good people of Sudan.

African Union had been complacent and tolerant of the various military regimes in Sudan,  especially the regime  of Omar Bachir. His indictment by the International Criminal Court for multiple crimes against the people of Sudan and humanity should have been enforced with the cooperation of the African Union.The time is now ripe for African Union to seize the initiative to rescue, once and for all time, the people from military dictators.

The present war in Sudan  warrants  that  Article 4 (H) of the  constitutive charter of the African Union should be invoked. AU is by the provisions of the charter, empowered to protect the civilian population of member states from repressive and totalitarian regimes.

In this regard, the following measures are suggested to be taken by the African Union in consultation with the United Nations and the UN Security Council.

1. African Union should inform the two warring parties to stop the fighting immediately or force will be used to enforce the truce. In which case,  African Standby Forces (ASF) backed by  the East African, West African and SADC Standby Forces with their Land, Air and Naval military assets  will be deployed inside Sudan to protect the civilian population.

2. The transition government led by Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok should be restored immediately, to continue with the transition program, which will  lead to the election of a civilian administration by the end of  year 2023. Abdallah will focus strictly on the transition program and not take political decisions or reforms, that will divert attention from the set objective.

3.  The transition program and interim government will be supervised and protected by the African Union through the ASF.

4. The newly elected civilian administration will remain under the protection of the ASF for as long, as it is necessary.

5. The two henchmen involved in this conflict will not be allowed to return to their posts as Head of the Army or the RSF.

6.  The acceptance of these terms  may guarantee the two warlords and their close associates immunity from prosecution for war crimes and waging war against the Sudanese people. Otherwise, the decisions of the AU and Indictment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will be enforced.

7.  if flagrant acts of genocide had been committed in the course of this war, ICC shall  be at liberty to take appropriate actions against the warlords and their associates.

In conclusion, the prolongation of this war even for a limited period of time, will be a humanitarian tragedy, which may turn Sudan to a failed state.

The NATO military intervention in Libya is a bitter experience which inflicted tremendous damage not only on the country, but also destabilized all the countries in sub Saharan Africa, including Nigeria. It may happen again, if the war in Sudan should unravel and spread to neighboring African countries, as it degenerates into a failed state.

Africa must seize the initiative this time to  prevent another African country from falling victim to the inordinate and wicked  ambitions of warlords. Democracy must be established in Sudan for the people to live in peace again.


Ambassador Rasheed Akinkuolie

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