Dehai News More than a Domestic Conflict

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Tuesday, 16 April 2024

It is impossible to understand the war in Sudan without accounting for the regional and international interests involved


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[Translate to en:] Soldaten der sudanesischen Armee, die dem Armeechef Abdel Fattah al-Burhan treu ergeben sind, feiern, nachdem sie einen Militärstützpunkt in der Stadt Nyala zurückerobert haben, der von den rivalisierenden Rapid Support Forces (RSF) eingenommen worden war.
Sudanese army soldiers loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan celebrate after they recaptured a military base that was seized by their rival Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Nyala, Sudan, 18 April 2023. Photo: picture alliance / Newscom | -

When war broke out on 15 April 2023 between Sudan’s military, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary unit of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by General “Hemetti” Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, it was quickly presented as a war between the two respective actors. As the war grew more complex and the participation of other actors and groups became more apparent, the label shifted to “civil war”. Over time, however, voices drawing attention to the international interests, alliances, and collaborations linked to the conflict grew louder.

This raised the question of whether the conflict in Sudan was a civil war fought with regional and foreign support or a proxy war led by foreign interventions. This article will not provide an answer to that question. Instead, it will shed light on the complex entanglements of this war, the various regional and international actors that have a stake in the conflict, and their manifold — sometimes overlapping, sometimes conflicting — interests in it.

Finally, this article will show that the war in Sudan is a product of inextricable domestic and foreign politics. The label of “civil war” is often associated with a domestic conflict. This reduces a phenomenon of global politics to the fighting parties’ thirst for power and ideological differences such as ethnic divides. The label “civil war” tends to lose sight of external factors and players. It enables foreign states and civil societies to turn away from so-called internal conflicts with the argument that domestic conflicts require domestic solutions.

Such ignorance fails to recognize the global imperialist conditions that contribute to the development of conflicts such as in Sudan. Thus, this article will point out some of these relations and developments. This said, the geopolitical connections and mutual interventions are far more complex. This article will give an overview of the most important entanglements, but it by no means covers all the connections and power structures.

Although the various connections, interests, and alliances in the current war in Sudan are multi-layered and complex, have often grown historically, and are intertwined in many ways, the motives behind them can be summarized as such: At their core, they are struggles for hegemony and supremacy of nation-states, paired with policies of enclosure and capitalist interests that are guided and satisfied by actions of extractivism and a global war economy.

Regional Actors and Interests

Geographically, Sudan represents a connection point between the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA), the Sahel, and the Horn of Africa. For this reason, it has always been an important point of reference, both economically and politically. At the same time, Sudan shares a considerable coastline with the Red Sea and has numerous mineral resources, including gold, chrome, manganese, uranium, and silicon. It furthermore has oil reserves and great agricultural resources, such as sesame, gum Arabic, and livestock. All of these resources are widely exported. Therefore, Sudan’s importance in terms of geopolitics must be emphasized.

At the same time, the country is amid recurring flashpoints. Sudan’s history is characterized by numerous armed conflicts and changing authoritarian regimes that contribute to oppression and exploitative conditions. Its neighbouring countries are also marked by conflict: Eritrea is a militarized authoritarian state and its government is regarded as one of the most repressive in the world. Ethiopia’s war against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) led to the ethnic persecution of Tigrayans and a disastrous famine, killing hundreds of thousands. Even after the official end of the war through the signing of a peace agreement, government forces continue to kill oppositionists — now also in other major regions of Ethiopia, Amhara and Oromia, continuously claiming the lives of civilians. South Sudan, as well as Chad, have been in a constant state of crisis and civil war.

Without being totally interdependent, the ethnic links across borders have important implications for the political developments in each respective country, as ethnic conflicts in Sudan mirror divisions in the other countries. Thus, regional involvement in Sudan’s conflict is often conflicting and multi-pronged, with different actors supporting different parties in Sudan that far exceed the SAF and RSF.

In South Sudan, President Salva Kiir and Abdel Fattah al-Burhan align to maintain military supremacy and the status quo of the Sudan–South Sudan border. Both heads of state are fighting militias in their countries, whose borders remain dynamic and are regularly traversed by many ethnic groups. Arab pastoralists such as the Misseriya are frequently recruited by the RSF.

Bilateral relations between Sudan and South Sudan are further impacted by the estimated 600,000 refugees who have crossed the border since the war began. The humanitarian situation in South Sudan’s refugee camps was disastrous even prior to the war. Moreover, the war interrupted South Sudan’s oil exports. South Sudan relies on Sudan’s pipelines and refineries, as well as its port on the Red Sea, to export its oil, which is responsible for 90 percent of the country’s revenue. The war has also interrupted imports to South Sudan, such as food. It has thus brought significant humanitarian, security, economic, and political consequences to the war-torn country.

Despite hosting the largest number of Sudanese refugees, refugees appear more profitable for Egypt than for Sudan’s other neighbours.

For Chad, conflicts, proxy wars, and fragile peace accords have always defined its relationship with Sudan. The conflict between the two countries has intensified via rebel groups and militias since the war in Darfur in 2003. Hemetti has good connections to Chadian politics and the military, which — similar to Sudan — do not always align. Now, with Chad’s upcoming elections and a shaky security situation due to its own internal quarrels, the interim government led by Mahamat Déby is threatened by the war in Sudan. Not only is the humanitarian crisis on the Chadian–Sudanese border worsening, with 564,686 refugees living in huge camps under unspeakable conditions, but Chad’s economic crisis worsened through the cut of imports from Sudan’s Red Sea port, with prices of goods and services temporarily rising by up to 70 percent in Chad.

Sudan’s military has long cultivated ties to Egyptian militarists and Islamists, and Egypt backed the 2021 coup d’état in Sudan. Having come to power via a military coup itself, the authoritarian government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has traditionally aligned with the SAF, despite its support from Islamists the military dictator fights in his own country, as politically and economically, Sudan being ruled by the SAF means stability for el-Sisi’s regime. Egypt quickly backed SAF in the conflict, providing intelligence and tactical support.

Despite hosting the largest number of Sudanese refugees (500,000 according to the official count), refugees appear more profitable for Egypt than for Sudan’s other neighbours. Most Sudanese who migrated to Egypt after the war come from Khartoum and belong to the country’s middle and upper classes. Thus, the majority brought financial and social capital into Egypt.

Furthermore, Egypt seems to be making good business with migration. Shortly after the war began, Egypt broke a bilateral agreement with Sudan that allowed citizens of both countries to travel visa-free. The subsequent visa process proved complicated, lengthy, and costly, forcing many Sudanese to enter Egypt illegally through smugglers. In turn, Egypt deports Sudanese citizens back to the war zone before they can make their way to register at the UN Refugee Agency, the UNHCR. Left with no alternative, many retake the route by smuggling. This has become a lucrative business for Egypt, with the EU contributing some 7.4 billion euro to stop migration. Sudanese refugees also function as scapegoats for the Egyptian government, which blames refugees for the current economic crisis to distract from its own kleptocratic policies.

Egypt’s rival Ethiopia, whose building of the Great Renaissance Dam triggered major disputes over the past decade, instead appears to align with the RSF’s Hemetti, rumoured to have bought real estate in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has become a close ally of the United Arab Emirates, which backed him in his genocidal ethnic cleansing against the Tigrayan people and now backs him in his conflict with Somalia over the memorandum of understanding between Ethiopia and the self-declared Republic of Somaliland.

A Regional Counterrevolutionary Superpower

Not in the direct neighbourhood, but even more influential in Sudan and the wider region, are the Gulf States — specifically the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), both of which function as spearheads of the regional counterrevolution.

UAE and KSA leaders embarked on said counterrevolution following the Arab revolutions in 2011, which proved once again that resistance in one country can inspire and spread beyond borders. Tunisia inspired the MENA region, and the call for democracy and civilian rule quickly grew. Afraid that the revolutionary wave would spill over and threaten their monarchies, the wealthy and powerful leaders took action. They interfered in Yemen's post-revolutionary transition, assisted in quelling the uprising in Bahrain by sending troops, and supported the military coup in Egypt that brought el-Sisi to power.

It thus comes as no surprise that they made similar efforts to support the Sudanese counterrevolution. The coup offered Egypt, the UAE, and the KSA the opportunity to bring Sudan into their political orbit. Beyond that, however, the Gulf States were concerned with securing their economic interests and expanding their regional hegemony.

The most well-known connection between Sudan and the UAE concerns gold exports. Sudan reportedly exports 16 billion US dollars of gold to the UAE each year, mainly facilitated by Hemetti and the RSF. The UAE thus became a centre for money and gold transfers to and from Sudan. The gold trade grew after the ousting of Omar al-Bashir’s government in 2019, to the benefit of security services and armed movements in particular. In exchange for the gold, the RSF became “proxies” or “clients” of the UAE, who financed, equipped, provided training and media services, and strongly influenced the militia, which served as a cover for their interests.

Nevertheless, the UAE is not the only country benefiting from Sudan’s gold exploitation. Russia has long been a major player in the gold trade in Sudan, which helps to finance its invasion of Ukraine. The now-disbanded Wagner private mercenary group had been active in Sudan since 2017, and provided the RSF with training and equipment. Recently renamed “Africa Corps”, the group is now under the Kremlin’s direct control and thus a government force. Today, it is responsible for sending Russian weapons to the RSF via the UAE and Libya.

The signing of the power-sharing agreement between civilian and military forces in 2019 gave the later putschists further international legitimization.

Hemetti travelled to Moscow to deepen the bilateral relationship only a few days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. By doing so, he lined up with the friendly relations between the UAE and Russia, which were further demonstrated by the UAE’s repeated abstentions from voting against Russia in the UN Security Council and the country’s efforts to help Russia get around sanctions.

Back in 2020, Vladimir Putin negotiated a deal with Sudan to create a permanent Russian military base, also known as a “naval supply station”, in Port Sudan on the Red Sea. Although it is yet to be constructed, it would give Russia its first overseas naval base.

Sudan shares 750 kilometres of the Red Sea coastline, and has the second-largest economic zone in the Red Sea region, after Saudi Arabia but ahead of Egypt. This fact is also well-known to the UAE, which signed a 6-billion-dollar agreement with the coup government in 2022 granting the UAE the “right to develop, manage and operate port and economic zone assets” in Sudan’s Red Sea. The latest political developments and military escalations around the Red Sea once again demonstrate how much conflicts often thought to be separate are in fact intertwined.

For decades, the Islamist regime’s strategy was to deprive certain ethnic and marginalized groups of their land to exploit the natural resources located there, such as the Nuba Mountains in Darfur, today’s South Sudan. Domestic and foreign agribusiness investors, primarily from the Gulf, control about 5 million acres of Sudanese land. These policies meant a transfer of large swathes of Sudanese lands, which were emptied of their indigenous populations, to the Gulf. This further fuelled Sudan’s resource-based conflicts over water and land between farmers and pastoralists, and led to an intensification of the related identity conflict, now being rekindled in the current war.

The longer Sudan is plunged into chaos, the easier its resources are extracted and the country exploited. A civilian government that takes the rights and will of its citizens into account, by contrast, would implement policies and regulations that protect the state’s resources and civilian rights, making exploitation much harder. A land reform, for example, would require the government to, as anthropologist Nisrin Elamin writes, “reverse many of the land deals signed over the last decade, as it reconsiders its relationship to the Gulf and builds new investment partnerships with other countries”.

The RSF gained further ground through its merceranism. It became a mercenary force fighting for the Saudis and Emiratis in Yemen in 2015, constituting the biggest foreign contingent with at least 7,000 members. Hemetti later sent a large brigade to fight in Libya for General Khalifa Haftar, whom the KSA and UAE also backed. Using resources from the alliance with Russia in the gold mining and export sectors, the RSF quickly amassed millions of dollars. “Geopolitics,” as Sudanese intellectual Magdi el Gizouli writes, “created ample opportunities for a mobile and capable fighting force on rent in a volatile region.”

The signing of the power-sharing agreement between civilian and military forces in 2019 gave the later putschists further international legitimization. Money transfers could now be proceed very openly under the pretext of supporting the transitional government. In this regard, Saudi Arabia and the UAE funded the Transitional Military Council — i.e., the SAF and RSF — to the tune of 3 billion dollars. The Transnational Military Council’s connections would only deepen in the transitional period that followed.

After the signing of the Abraham Records, the peace deal with Israel that also strengthened relations between the UAE and US, al-Burhan’s relationship with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu quickly solidified, resulting in Israel sending tear gas and other counterinsurgency tools to the military to oppress the pro-democracy protests after al-Burhan’s coup.

Financing a Warlord

When Europe experienced a sharp rise in the number of people crossing the Mediterranean to claim asylum in 2014, the European Union promptly established a new fund to address a variety of issues related to migration along the so-called “Central Mediterranean route”, also referred to as “the world’s deadliest border”, and one of the main migratory routes to Europe.

Migrants embark on protracted and perilous journeys from North Africa and Turkey, traversing the Mediterranean Sea to arrive in Italy, and Sudan is an important focal point in that route. Firstly, Sudan has been the country of origin for millions of refugees and internally displaced people fleeing the country’s ongoing conflicts and political repression. Moreover, Sudan is a transit point in migration routes for people across Africa aiming to reach Europe, especially the Horn. People take the route through Sudan to Libya or, to a lesser degree, to Egypt.

With a majority of asylum seekers in 2014 coming from the Horn of Africa, mostly fleeing wars and authoritarian regimes, the EU quickly set up the “EU–Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative”. To this end, 58 heads of government from the European and African continents gathered in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, and the initiative thus gained the name “Khartoum Process”. Officially, the initiative aimed at fighting human trafficking, taking a “victim-centred approach” and addressing “the root causes of irregular migration”. The EU contributed 4.5 billion euro for measures to control migration and address its root causes in Africa. Germany gave over 160 million.

The initiative functions as an externalization of the EU border. It ties development funds to migration control by making the financial flows from Europe — countries like Germany, France, and the UK — dependent on the ability of African states to stop the flow of so-called “illegal migrants”. An Oxfam report showed that only 3 percent of the money allocated to migration management went into developing safe migration routes. Instead, most projects were designed to “restrict and discourage irregular migration through migration containment and control”.

The Khartoum Process was led by a steering committee, of which Germany was a member, with the cooperation of organizations such as the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UNHCR, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). For Sudan, the EU adopted a 40-million-euro “Better Migration Management” programme, implemented by, among others, the German foreign aid agency, Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Officially, the aim was to combat human trafficking and other crimes by smugglers. However, much of the money was spent on law enforcement, the judiciary, and border control. In 2016, an additional 160 million euro were allocated to Sudan.

While occasionally bragging about killing smugglers, the RSF remained silent about how many migrants died in the process.

In 2018, the “Regional Operational Centre in support of the Khartoum Process and AU–Horn of Africa Initiative” (ROCK) opened in Khartoum. The counter-trafficking coordination centre was staffed jointly by police officers from Sudan and several European countries, including the UK, France, and Italy, and relied on information provided by the Sudanese National Intelligence Service (NISS). The NISS is widely known for its human rights violations, including torture and arbitrary arrests, particularly against members of the democratic movement and other parts of civil society.

During the 2016 “EU–Sudan Migration Dialogue”, al-Bashir’s government in Khartoum repositioned the RSF in the Northern State, enabling it to patrol up to the borders with Egypt and Libya. Thus, the RSF was spread out from North Darfur and the Chadian border to Eastern Sudan and the borders with Egypt and Eritrea. The atrocities of the RSF were already widely known: the genocide in Darfur, which included the killing of hundreds of thousands of people, landgrabbing, looting properties, raping women and girls, and human trafficking. Nevertheless, the money transfer went ahead and the RSF became a border patrol. During this process, the RSF was restructured, legitimized, and transformed from a militia into a regular state unit.

The RSF used live ammunition, such as machine guns and anti-aircraft missiles, to secure the border. While occasionally bragging about killing smugglers, the RSF remained silent about how many migrants died in the process. Other violations of international law are better-documented, such as the robbing, torture, arrest, or forcible return of refugees to their country of origin. In May 2016, for example, 1,000 Eritreans were deported. This led to ridicule of the West’s supposed human rights advocacy among Sudanese. Many still recall an interview in which Hemetti openly stated that he was “holding the European diplomats in his hands”. In June 2019, when the prospect of a change of government became clear, the EU quietly suspended the programme.

Given this human rights scandal, further relationships between Europe and the RSF’s shadow economy seem out of the question. Yet as Die Zeit reported last year, numerous European embassies and development organizations, including the German Embassy and the GIZ, had their premises guarded by a security company belonging to the RSF. Hence, albeit involuntarily, these institutions were co-financing the RSF, not to mention the added opportunities for the RSF to engage in espionage.

Western Influence during the Transitional Period

The 2019 “power-sharing” agreement signed between the Military Council and the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), a coalition of political parties and professional associations, was supposed to initiate Sudan’s transitional period prior to the full establishment of civilian rule.

As with many countries in the so-called Global South, Western institutions and diplomats played a pivotal role in the subsequent state-building process. After the signing, much of the revolutionary movement gladly handed over responsibility for the political democratization process to the transitional government. Consisting of technocrats, many hoped the new government would find the most efficient way out of the economic crisis and thoroughly reorganize the ailing state apparatus.

Western forces appeared to rush to assist in the process, hoping for more stability in the region and a new partner for future cooperation in migration control. The US pledged 700 million dollars to support the transition to democracy and around 600 million in annual assistance. France held a high-profile international donor conference to support the civilian government.

The livelihoods of most Sudanese people deteriorated rapidly as a result of these drastic economic measures. In turn, the civilian leaders of the transitional period lost much of their legitimacy in civil society.

For three decades, the length of Omar al-Bashir’s rule, Sudan was a pariah state, politically and economically isolated from much of the world through sanctions. After the transitional government formed, one of its primary goals was to reintegrate Sudan into the global order. For this, the government had to implement political strategies that were not always welcomed by civil society. To be taken off the US state sponsors of terrorism list, for example, Sudan was forced to normalize relations with Israel — a move opposed by wide swathes of Sudanese civil society, as Sudan has traditionally identified with the Palestinian struggle. Even after the revolution, and after Sudan had proved its willingness to establish a liberal democracy in many ways, it took the Trump administration more than a year to finally take Sudan off the list and allow it to participate in the world economy to help rebuild its shattered economy.

Revolutionary hopes were further disappointed when the neoliberal dogma of many of the FFC’s representatives became evident. This dogma came to the fore when the interim government was forced to implement drastic economic reforms imposed by the IMF and World Bank as conditions for debt relief. Among these were “liberalization of the exchange rate, revenue measures and phasing out of fuel subsidies, accompanied by an expansion of social safety nets to mitigate the impact of adjustment on vulnerable groups and measures to fight corruption, improve governance and the business environment”. Whereas cutting subsidies and accompanying austerity measures were quickly implemented, social safety net programmes such as the Sudan Family Support Project 10 or the fight against corruption were not as successful. Instead, inflation rose to over 400 percent in 2021 even prior to the coup, driving many into poverty.

The livelihoods of most Sudanese people deteriorated rapidly as a result of these drastic economic measures. In turn, the civilian leaders of the transitional period lost much of their legitimacy in civil society. The revolutionary movement that initially supported these politicians grew increasingly critical and questioned their decisions. This mistrust has grown since the coup in 2021 and all subsequent events. Not only did the measures deepen the traditional gulf between political parties and civil society, but they also contributed to increased militarization. Poor people in rural regions in particular were forced to join a military unit to secure their livelihood. As Magdi el Gizouli puts it: “Eventually, it made everybody poor, and so everybody looked for a weapon to make money in a poor environment.”

Integrated Transition Assistance

Another controversial international actor in post-revolutionary Sudan was the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), established in June 2020 on behalf of the UN Security Council. The mission’s self-proclaimed task was to “assist the political transition, progress towards democratic governance”, to “support peace processes”, and “assist peacebuilding, civilian protection and the rule of law, in particular in Darfur”. The peacebuilding mission in Darfur was declared a failure by many, with ongoing ethnically motivated attacks, raids, and a lack of medical and food supplies throughout the transitional period.

After the SAF and RSF coup, UNITAMS and its head, German bureaucrat Volker Perthes, assumed the role of a mediator between the parties concerned. The Resistance Committees, neighbourhood-based grassroots organizations that constituted a major revolutionary institution, were almost entirely excluded from the political process designed to end the coup and return to democratic transition. When the Resistance Committees published their revolutionary charter for the establishment of popular power, in which they laid out in detail the society they sought to build and the concrete changes they wanted to achieve, it was widely ignored by international diplomats. At the time, Sudanese political analyst Muzan Alneel rightfully decried “the disconnect of the international community and its unwillingness to seriously address the process of change in Sudan’s current political scene”.

Germany bears a great historical responsibility to Sudan, as the Federal Republic of Germany militarized the country.

According to a Guardian report, Perthes claimed there had been no early warning signs of the current war. In the months prior to its outbreak, however, political observers repeatedly warned of an escalation. Such a warning should have been evident at the latest when Hemetti allegedly moved 700 recruits to Khartoum in March 2023, officially for training purposes. Yet rather than respond to the demands of the grassroots organizations, Western diplomats relied on the politically exclusive FFC and continued to push for the agreement to be signed quickly.

The mission was officially closed in February 2024 amidst war and at a time when international responsibility for the conflict was greater than ever. Looking back, one can say that despite all efforts to provide positive support, the West’s “soft” power during the transitional period and after the 2021 military coup in many ways led to an even deeper crisis.

Germany’s “Five-Point Initiative”

At the beginning of the year, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock travelled to Djibouti, Kenya, and South Sudan and spoke with representatives of the IGAD, a regional economic community in East Africa. Little is known about the content of the talks. However, the fact that Baerbock chose the IGAD as a discussion partner for possible solutions to the war in Sudan left some questions unanswered. IGAD representatives had caused a great deal of resentment in Sudan by receiving General Hemetti in a friendly manner only shortly beforehand. As the official head of Sudan, General Al-Burhan viewed the move as a political affront, and Sudan officially left the IGAD shortly thereafter — a major setback for any attempts at mediation. Burhan subsequently turned to Iran for help, which supported him with combat drones, worsening the chances at negotiation.

However, Baerbock came back with a so-called “Five-Point Initiative” for Sudan. During her visit to the region, many newspapers referred to the war in Sudan as a “forgotten war”. The promise, it seemed, was for the newly erected initiative to change this. The plan includes the following points:

  1. Strengthening the coordination of international mediation efforts
  2. Supporting the networking of civilian actors in exile and inside Sudan
  3. Cutting military support for the conflict parties from outside Sudan
  4. Targeted sanctions to increase pressure on the parties to the conflict
  5. Shining a spotlight on atrocities

Baerbock decried the war atrocities, especially against women, in a speech, explaining that “the feeling that nobody is looking anyway creates a climate of impunity and thus further reinforces the atrocities”. In this matter, she is correct. Yet the question remains as to why the warmongers continue to enjoy impunity. Many have criticized both generals for their numerous crimes, such as the genocide in Darfur, the massacre of the resistance movement in 2019, or the killing of protesters after the coup in 2021. To date, none have not been indicted by the International Criminal Court, although their atrocities have been known for years and are well-documented.

The consequences of war are well known: the continuation of the war in Sudan is destabilizing the region.

Germany’s five-point plan is not the first of its kind for Sudan. In fact, then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair presented just such a plan to resolve the Darfur war, an approach Deutsche Welle dubbed a “politics of sitting it out” at the time, as the plan lacked concrete measures. The difference then was that the plan included a three-month deadline. Despite not being fully implemented, it was eventually accepted by then-dictator Omar al-Bashir. Thus far, no measurable action has resulted from Baerbock’s new initiative. Until this happens, her trip to East Africa remains little more than symbolism.

Germany bears a great historical responsibility to Sudan, as the Federal Republic of Germany militarized the country. Following independence from the British–Egyptian colonialists in 1956, the Adenauer government equipped Sudan’s military with Heckler & Koch rifles and other weapons, along with ammunition and vehicles. Germany also trained intelligence and military personnel and built an infantry ammunition factory in Shajara, on the outskirts of Khartoum. The aim was to build up a force in Sudan opposed to eastern socialist influences in the region.

“Sudan’s entire apparatus of oppression was largely built up by Germany”, Sudan expert Roman Deckert notes in an interview. “The militarization of the political economy in Sudan was only made possible by three decades of direct arms aid from Germany and later indirectly via Saudi Arabia.” These days, pictures of underage soldiers with German G3 and Heckler & Koch rifles circulate on social media.

Instead of facing up to this responsibility, Germany seems mainly concerned with the prospect of another migration stream. It is for this reason that EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen travelled to Tunisia just a few weeks after the outbreak of war to negotiate another migration control deal with the Tunisian government.

Prospects for Further Intervention

The war in Sudan has revealed once again that Sudanese civilians are merely a playing field for the multipolar imperialist order in which the West, through “soft power”, dictates its own political and economic interests under the guise of democracy. At the same time, the financially powerful states of the Middle East ruthlessly exploit poorer countries.

The war in Gaza, as Western governments tolerate the high number of civilian deaths and atrocities committed by Israel, makes for good press for all fighting parties in Sudan. Not only did Sudan lose the little bit of international attention that had been bestowed on it, enabling all sides to continue the war without having to fear international consequences, but it also exposed the West’s double standards when it comes to providing humanitarian aid and diplomatic intervention.

Yet the consequences of war are well known: the continuation of the war in Sudan is destabilizing the region. It is a truism that conflicts spread, and this case is no different. In a globalized world with a global military-industrial complex, armed conflicts do not remain localized. The situation in Sudan is characterized by ongoing multilateral cooperation between state and non-state armed actors and underscores the importance of strong diplomatic intervention to pave the way to peace. Should no serious efforts to end the war be made, more armed conflicts will emerge with all the consequences they bring: death and impoverishment, hunger and famine, displacement and migration, and growing militarization.

For the so-called international community, taking responsibility here means not participating in the global war economy. It also means exerting diplomatic and economic pressure on the warmongers and depriving them of their financial and economic basis, such as via strong, far-reaching sanctions. That also implies holding the respective states accountable for their decisive roles in the conflict. An arms embargo and tough sanctions must therefore be imposed on the EU’s economic partners who fuel the war, especially the UAE. As long as this does not happen, Sudan will continue to escalate into a proxy war.

For humanitarian relief, enforcement of the Geneva Convention is absolutely vital. The humanitarian corridors established so far are insufficient, and Sudan is hurtling towards a famine of unknown proportions. Opening humanitarian corridors also requires serious diplomatic efforts. The devastating situation in the massive refugee camps in and around Sudan must be addressed.

For Europe, however, facing up to its historical responsibility means, above all, abandoning its deadly policy of isolation. Instead of giving another dictator like el-Sisi billions of euro to ward off migration, it is Europe’s task to create safe escape routes inside and outside Sudan and offer people a safe harbour.

   *Saskia Jaschek is a PhD candidate at the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS), where she studies Sudan’s revolutionary movement and the military coup d’état.

ERi-TV, Eritrea - ጸብጻብ ዑደት ፕረዚደንት ኢሳይያስ ኣፈወርቂ ኣብ ዋዕላ ደቡብ ኮርያ አፍሪቃ | Reportage on President Isaias Afwerki's visit to South Korea for the South Korea-Africa Summit, held from June 3-4

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