Civil war is no longer a dangerous possibility, but a reality in which the Sudanese people have been immersed for a week. Since last the 15th they have been battling fiercely for power Sudanese Regular Army forces and of the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (FAR) in the streets of Khartoum, the capital, but also in other cities in the north and west of the country. The great losers of the war are, of course, the civilian population of one of the poorest countries on the planet and a precarious process of democratic transition supported by the international community and today buried by the ambition of the parties in dispute.
Until Friday, the war in Sudan was already showing a balance of 413 dead and 3,500 wounded, according to United Nations data. Last Friday the FAR expressed its approval of a 72-hour ceasefire to mark the end of Ramadan, but the hostilities continued all day in Khartoum.
The truth is that the war has not been a surprise given that the tension between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the FAR had been increasing for months due to the disagreement between the two regarding the process of integration of the paramilitaries within the regular Armyone of the main stumbling blocks in the process of transition towards fully civilian power, and in reforms within the security apparatus.
A tension that is nothing more than the corollary of the rivalry between their respective leaders: on the one hand, the president of the Sovereign Council of Sudan and head of the armed forces, General Abdel Fattah al Burhan – the highest de facto authority in the country since the coup 2019- and on the other, his deputy and leader of the Rapid Support Forces, General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, widely known as Hemedti.
The FAR were officially constituted in 2013 by Omar al-BachirSudanese leader during three decades of autocracy, as a counterweight – divide and conquer – to the Army and the intelligence services from the Janjaweed militias, on which the accusation of having committed the worst atrocities during the war in Darfur (2003- 2009).
Burhan and Hemedti had united in front to oust Omar al-Bachir from power in the midst of the pro-democratic revolt in the fall of 2019. They did it again two years later by deposing the civilian government led by Abdallah Hamdok. In this way, as president and vice president of the Sovereign Council of Sudan, both liquidated the hopes that the agreement reached between the civil and military movements would culminate in the holding of free elections and the establishment of a democratic authority.
In addition, both had played prominent roles in the counterinsurgency – work in which they cooperated – against the Darfur rebels during the war (2003-2010), a conflict considered the first genocide of the century. According to the United Nations, 300,000 people lost their lives and 2.7 million were forced to flee their homes.
Burhan, 63, rose to command posts in the Sudanese Army during the Darfur conflict; in 2008 he was promoted to regional commander. A decade later he had completed his promotion to the head of the Armed Forces. Since he has been the de facto leader of the country, Burhan has been able to win the support of Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Egypt.
His power is not only military and political, as he also controls the military industry in Sudan. Since 2021, the coup general has been working to give more and more power to the Islamist sectors -closely linked to the Omar al Bachir regime since he came to power more than thirty years ago-, a movement that is extremely unpleasant for the paramilitaries of the FAR.
His now arch-rival, General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, was born 47 years ago into a Darfur tribe native to Chad, the Rizeigat, and precisely his humble origins – he only attended primary school – is behind the mistrust and contempt professed by the Sudanese elite. Since his creation a decade ago, Hemedti has led the Rapid Support Forces, and his military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has catapulted him in recent years. His influence also goes beyond his military leadership, as he has amassed a significant fortune thanks to various businesses, including gold mines in Darfur.
Last Monday Hemedti described the leader of the Sudanese Armed Forces as “criminal” and “radical Islamist who bombards civilians from the air”. Times have changed and the leader of the FAR is aware of the importance of the other battle, that of social networks, where he is displaying intense activity, accompanied by hundreds of similar accounts, with a view to presenting himself as a responsible leader. and a vocal defender of democracy -despite the long history of brutality of his forces in the repression of protests in recent years- before world public opinion.
For his part, General Burhan has urged the outlawing of the paramilitaries and refuses to negotiate with them other than surrender. On Friday the leader of the Sudanese Armed Forces asserted that the Army is committed to the democratic transition.
The calls from the EU, the United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey or Israel – the conflict has aroused a rare global unanimity between world and regional powers – to the parties to end hostilities have so far been ignored by both military leaders. Both undisguisedly yearn for the total defeat of the adversary and the power