Dehai News Op-ed: ‘Russian Red Sea base and RSF ‘government’ in Darfur will prolong war and condemn Sudan’

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Monday, 10 June 2024

Cartoon: Omar Dafallah / RD

By Yassir Arman

Two ways towards prolonging the war and condemning Sudan to death: letting the Russians open a naval base in Port Sudan and establishing a government in El Fasher, North Darfur, based on the Libyan model. Somalia was originally one people and one land, a nation sharing strong ties with the Sudanese, speaking one language, following the same religion, and is ethnically homogeneous. Yet despite this, civil war wreaked havoc in Somalia, dividing its people and its land. What, then, will it do to Sudan, a country so rich in diversity?

The warring parties are unable to achieve a military solution. Indeed, even if this were possible, it would not bring sustainable peace or unify the people and the country. Both sides are preparing to dismember or partition their homeland for their own immediate advantage. The army, which is suffering from a shortage of infantry, is not looking for solutions, but for new weapons such as drones, modern jet fighter and digital artillery to make up for its lack of infantry.

General Yasir El Atta has said he is ready to sacrifice 48 million citizens… Sudan’s population is 45 million, which means he would have to borrow three million victims from neighbouring countries!

They do not care if they destroy the country’s entire population and infrastructure in the process. Ultimately and ironically, the army wants the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to become their junior partner! General Yasir El Atta [member of the Transitional Sovereignty Council and Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF)] has said that he is ready to sacrifice 48 million citizens to achieve this. Therefore, if Sudan’s population is 45 million, this means that he would have to borrow three million victims from neighbouring countries!

An advanced Iranian Mohajer-6 drone, as supplied by Teheran to the Sudanese Armed Forces
(File photo: Hadi Hirbodvash / Fars Media Corporation / CC BY 4.0)

The army leaders are aware of the geopolitical changes in the Red Sea, the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and the Middle East. Their first preference would be to get support from the United States and Western countries. But if that is not available, they will seek alliances with countries in the Sahel, which have rebelled against the West and turned to the Russians, and with other countries hostile towards the West, at this time of global changes and tensions. They are thereby dragging Sudan, at its weakest point, into regional and international conflicts. This is a familiar playbook initiated and used by Bashir and the National Congress Party, which was halted by the December Revolution.

Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereignty Council Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan meets the Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov in Khartoum, February 9, 2023
(Photo: Sudan’s Transitional Sovereignty Council)

It is well known that Russian intervention in Syria started with acquiring a naval base. These prospective alliances will anger several neighbouring countries that do not want to see foreign bases on the Red Sea. In the divided United Nations Security Council, the Port Sudan clique will align with those who can provide them with protection, hence creating both friends and foes for the army and shifting the conflict between the warring parties from a competition over power and resources, to a new path leading to the division of Sudan itself. As the proverb says, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

In its quest for legitimacy, the RSF has hinted that if it takes control of El Fasher, it might form its own government, independent of Port Sudan, which would mean the division of Sudan’s territory, governance, power and resources…

El Fasher and the Libyan model:

In its quest for legitimacy, the RSF has hinted that if it takes control of El Fasher, it might form its own government, independent of Port Sudan, which would mean the division of Sudan’s territory, governance, power and resources. Such a government would then control the international borders with five countries: Libya, Chad and the Central African Republic, as well as part of Egypt and South Sudan. International borders are sources of relationships, trade, and weapons. The fighting in El Fasher has revealed tribal and social rifts between supporters of the army and the RSF, and, if the RSF were to establish its own government, it would experience the same political and tribal divisions. This would be even less stable than the Libyan model due to Sudan’s complex composition, offering little legitimacy, creating more internal divisions, and requiring greater responsibility towards civilians, thereby leading to the division of Sudan and Darfur itself.

Refugees arrive in a transit camp in Adré in eastern Chad after fleeing violence in El Geneina
(File photo: MSF)

The competition for legitimacy and sovereignty:

The warring parties are fighting over legitimacy and sovereignty, which has already been seriously eroded and collapsed altogether when the nation’s capital and the symbols and buildings of the state were turned into ghost houses. More than 11 million refugees and IDPs have been displaced and it is them who represent the sovereignty and will of the people. Sudanese people today are displaced, humiliated at airports and entry points, and ironically within their own country too. When the value of human beings is crushed, the meaning of sovereignty and legitimacy is lost. Port Sudan’s eroded legitimacy is the legitimacy of the state, not of a government, stemming from the international community’s desire to preserve the Sudanese state without supporting the government. If the international community were to declare Sudan as stateless or lacking sovereignty, it would create problems and obligations for the international community; starting with identity documents and citizenship, requiring procedures and responsibilities that the international community is unwilling to undertake. It is therefore treating Port Sudan as the de facto representative of the Sudanese state. Nevertheless, even the African Union, which is closest to us, suspended the government after the October 2021 coup.

Going down the path of opening foreign bases or following the Libyan model will only prolong the war and prove fatal for Sudan…

Real legitimacy and sovereignty will not be achieved by mortgaging Sudan to regional and international interests and establishing foreign bases, something that has been rejected by the national movement from the very beginning. What is puzzling, is that some people in Port Sudan are ringing the auction bell and welcoming all countries wishing to establish bases on the Red Sea coast or the river. All such bases are harmful, as demonstrated by the Libyan model, which the beloved Libyan people are trying to get rid of, to unify the Libyan state and build a single Libyan army. In both cases, it would mean heading towards prolonging the war, more civilian suffering, and the sacrifice of more soldiers from the sons and daughters of the homeland on both sides.

The solution is stopping the war and accelerating the political process to achieve sustainable peace:

What our country needs to serve the interests of all its people is to link the civilian-political track with the military track. The African Union’s call for civilians and Egypt’s call for civilians track also need to be linked and subsequently coordinated with the military track in Jeddah to reach a long-term humanitarian ceasefire, with regional and international monitoring on the ground. This would create an environment for the return of civilians to their homes, the delivery of humanitarian relief, the opening of roads, the protection of civilians, and their active participation in an open political space. Addressing the root causes of the crisis by rebuilding the state, establishing a single professional army, and completing the December Revolution in a single interconnected process that would lead to civilian democratic governance, stability, development, and citizenship without discrimination. Going down the path of opening foreign bases or following the Libyan model will only prolong the war and prove fatal for Sudan.

The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the contributing author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Radio Dabanga.

Yassir Arman (Photo: Supplied)

  *The author: Yassir Arman is the founder and Secretary General of the SPLM-N-Democratic Revolutionary Movement, which is a party to the mainstream Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC-Central Council), and member of the Civil Democratic Forces (Tagadom).
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* Tagadom

The Coordination of the Civil Democratic Forces alliance, better known by its Arabic acronym Tagadom (meaning ‘progress’ in Arabic), was founded in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa in October 2023, by members of the mainstream Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC-Central Council) and other Sudanese pro-democracy parties and groups. Former PM Abdalla Hamdok was elected chair. The Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party and the Communist Party of Sudan are not part of the alliance.

Tagadom aims to build the “broadest democratic civil front possible” against the war between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that erupted in April that year. In December, Tagadom invited the commanders of the warring parties to discuss its roadmap to peace with them. RSF Commander Mohamed ‘Hemedti’ Dagalo responded to the call and signed the Addis Ababa Declaration with Tagadom on January 2.

The SAF did not respond, but instead accused the alliance of siding with its enemy. In early April, the Sudanese Committee for RSF War Crimes and Violations in Port Sudan filed criminal charges against 17 Tagadom leaders (Abdalla Hamdok, Omer El Degeir, Khaled Yousef, Maryam, Zeinab, and Siddig El Sadig, El Wasig El Bereir, Rasha Awad, Maher Abujookh, Shawgi Abdelazim, Babakr Feisal, Taha Ishag, Mohamed El Faki, Yassir Arman, Suliman Sandal, Jaafar Hasan, and Mohamed Osman), a move that was expected by many.

The Civil Democratic Forces alliance held its official founding conference in Addis Ababa in end May. The 600 participants approved a political paper and the organisational structure representing political parties, trade unions, resistance committees, civil society groups, and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebel alliance. Heated discussions were held voicing various political opinions, with some friction over calls to cancel the Addis Ababa Declaration.

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