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Monday, April 22, 2024

Sudan’s troubling path to democracy

Sudan, a country in northeast Africa, has experienced political instability, economic challenges, and conflict for many years. The recent violent clashes between the military and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group in the capital, Khartoum, and other parts of the country have raised concerns of a civil war, as at least 56 civilians have already been killed. 

The Rise of the Rapid Support Forces

The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) originated from the Janjaweed militias that were used by the government of long-ruling President Omar al-Bashir to quash the rebellion in the Darfur region in the 2000s, resulting in the displacement of millions of people and the deaths of hundreds of thousands. The RSF became a formal entity in 2013 and was granted the status of a “regular force” in 2015, deploying its troops to fight in Yemen alongside Saudi and Emirati forces. The RSF was accused of human rights abuses in regions such as South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, but its status as an independent security force was legitimised by law in 2017. The current commander of the RSF is General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who rose to prominence through his leadership of the Janjaweed and his ties to al-Bashir. Dagalo’s family has expanded its holdings in gold mining, livestock, and infrastructure, benefiting from his position in the RSF. Despite international condemnation, the RSF has operated with impunity, leading to fears of increased violence and instability in Sudan.

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Dagalo’s Role in Sudan’s Government

In April 2019, the RSF played a role in a military coup that ousted President Omar al-Bashir after widespread protests against his 30-year rule. After months of negotiations, a power-sharing agreement was reached between the military and the pro-democracy movement, resulting in the establishment of a joint military-civilian council to govern Sudan until elections could be held. General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo was appointed as vice chairman of the council, while economist Abdalla Hamdok became prime minister. However, the RSF faced accusations of killing pro-democracy protesters before the deal was signed. In October 2021, the RSF and the army launched another coup, derailing the transition to a democratic government and leading to ongoing pro-democracy protests in Sudan.

Tensions between the Army and the RSF

Tensions between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the regular armed forces have been escalating in Sudan due to the former’s history of human rights abuses and their resistance to integration into the latter. Negotiations have failed to resolve the issue, leading to increased tensions. Recent violence in Khartoum has further escalated the situation, with the RSF claiming control of the Presidential Palace and Khartoum International Airport. At least 56 civilians have died in clashes, sparking fears of a potential civil war. The international community has called for a peaceful resolution and urged all parties to prioritize the safety of civilians. A democratic transition that respects the rights and aspirations of the Sudanese people must be achieved through peaceful dialogue. It is essential for the international community to monitor the situation and offer support as Sudan navigates this critical moment in its history.

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The ongoing conflict between the RSF and the military in Sudan highlights the challenges of transitioning to a democratic government in the aftermath of a repressive regime. A peaceful resolution requires inclusive dialogue and accountability for human rights violations.