Sudan's Conflict: Military Might vs. Negotiated Peace Featured

By Makki Al-Maghribi July 10, 2024 56

No one expected the conflict that erupted on April 15, 2023, between the Sudanese army and the “Rapid Support Forces” would last this long and result in such horrific outcomes, even though some early indicators warned of it. Diplomatic missions quickly began to leave Sudan one after another, and the world witnessed the largest and fastest evacuation of diplomats and foreigners from Port Sudan to Jeddah, then to the rest of the world.

During this difficult time, the Sudanese people were left alone to face death, displacement, and the collapse of the healthcare system in most parts of the capital, Khartoum, and several other cities.

The scope of the war in Sudan began to expand, and solutions started to emerge, the most notable being the “Jeddah Platform” under the auspices of Saudi Arabia and the United States, which focused solely on humanitarian issues. This was followed by attempts in Nairobi, Djibouti, Addis Ababa, Kampala, and even Tripoli, although reports about its proposals were conflicting.

 

There is a military conflict between the army and the “Rapid Support Forces” and another political conflict between “Taqaddum” and the “Sudan Charter.”

The Sub-Saharan African initiatives were welcomed by the “Rapid Support Forces” and the Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces (Taqaddum), which was founded on the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) Central Council faction, while the Sudanese army rejected them. In May 2024, an important development occurred when nearly 50 Sudanese political movements met for the first time on the “Sudan Charter,” forming the Democratic Bloc from the FFC and other alliances as the backbone of this charter.

 

Politics Alongside Militarization

Thus, we are thus facing a military conflict between the Sudanese army and the “Rapid Support Forces” militia and a political conflict between “Taqaddum” and the “Sudan Charter.” Although the “Jeddah Platform” between the army and the militia began early in May 2023, it took more than a year to schedule the first conference on July 6, 2024, between “Taqaddum” and members of the “Sudan Charter” in Cairo. Will this meeting succeed in reaching a political agreement that helps the army and the militia find a solution? Even those who are skeptical affirm that the Cairo meeting is the first of its kind to bring together political adversaries.

Assessing the situation reveals a central question that remains unanswered, making it impossible to say that everyone is on the same page. The question is: Is the aim to end the war, move towards peace, and integrate all factions into a unified army to achieve Sudan's unity? Or is the immediate humanitarian view to stop the war at any political cost rather than ending it, which could lead to a geographic division of Sudan between the army and the militia and consequently between the “Sudan Charter” and “Taqaddum”?

 

External regional and international factors have hindered the Sudanese army's ability to achieve a military resolution.

At first, many observers expected the army to succeed in achieving a military resolution, but this did not happen, which supported the negotiation hypothesis. It seems that an external factor disrupted the Sudanese army's capabilities in reaching a resolution, as the militia was no longer just a militia. The international division over Sudan provided it with sources of armament and supplies for an entire year, possibly even better than what the Sudanese army received.

Looking around Sudan confirms this. The events in Sudan are not isolated from what is happening in the surrounding region. Geographically, Sudan belongs to the East African region, where there is ongoing conflict in Ethiopia and previously in South Sudan and Somalia. Sudan also belongs to the Sahel region, where there is a wave of wars and coups, including in Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Guinea. In southwest Sudan, there is the Central African Republic, sharply divided between Russian and European influence. To the northwest, there is Libya, experiencing a similar and intertwined conflict with Sudan, where Sudan accuses Haftar of supporting the militia.

The Libyan crisis is similar to the Sudanese crisis, but in reverse. In Sudan, there is a large national army with an internationally recognized government facing a militia that is more capable of geographical expansion but closer to smaller tribal groups and militias without a legitimate government.

 

Some voices from the “Sudan Charter” propose a solution that combines military resolution and negotiation.

In Libya, on the other hand, there is an organized army in the east under the command of Field Marshal Haftar, lacking an internationally recognized government, while there is an internationally recognized government suffering from a significant imbalance in its military component, which consists of disparate tribal and ideological militias.

 

Military Resolution and Negotiation

Perhaps the aforementioned description of the Sudanese crisis and the regional context indicates a shift away from a complete military resolution, as no model has fully achieved this. Will Sudan be an exception, awaiting a military solution, or is it better to rely early on a negotiated solution before it becomes impossible? What is the true assessment of each initiative individually? Is it better to combine the scattered initiatives or rely on one and disregard the others that have faltered?

Some voices from the “Sudan Charter” propose a solution that combines military resolution and negotiation. They believe in the necessity for the Sudanese army to fulfill its duty and for negotiations to be directed towards the tribal bases of the militia rather than the senior leaders of the “Rapid Support Forces,” in what is known as second-tier or grassroots field negotiations. This approach has opened the door wide for meetings between the army commander and delegations from the tribes that form the majority of the “Rapid Support Forces” militia, as well as some field commanders belonging to these tribes. This has tipped the balance in favor of the army in some areas of western Sudan, but it has not achieved much in central Sudan, where the militia continues to expand geographically in the states of Gezira and Sennar. Despite its success in geographic expansion, it has not succeeded in establishing normal civilian governance in its areas. It gains land but loses the people on it.

 

Some believe the army can dismantle the “Rapid Support Forces” into smaller militias and make agreements with them.

Some believe that the Sudanese army is capable of solving the issue by dismantling the “Rapid Support Forces” into smaller, fragmented militias, making agreements with them, and eliminating those who refuse. However, some army leaders reject this solution because it merely replaces the militia with smaller entities. At the same time, the army seeks to secure better sources of armament through an agreement with Russia, granting it a foothold on the Red Sea coast. In this case, the situation in Sudan would resemble one of the African models, Syria, where there are areas outside the control of the Syrian regime that no longer hold political value for establishing a parallel system with the existing government.

 

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