Dialogue the best option for feuding Sudanese generals

The world is watching with grave concern the confrontations and bloody clashes between the Sudanese army led by Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces commanded by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo that are gripping the capital, Khartoum, and other cities in the country.

These clashes are continuing despite regional and international warnings that the situation could deteriorate further, with the country potentially sliding into civil war. The two warring parties insist adamantly on a zero-sum game, rejecting all the Arab, African and international calls and initiatives aimed at ending the clashes and encouraging the parties to sit down at the negotiating table.

The regional efforts have so far succeeded in convincing the Sudanese army and the RSF to enforce several truces, with the aim of ensuring the safe passage of humanitarian and medical assistance and enabling the wounded and others requiring medical attention to have access to hospitals. This is in addition to dealing with the problems caused by most hospitals being put out of operation, the suspension of the supply of healthcare and food items, lengthy power cuts, and a lack of fuel.

All of these truces have, however, failed to silence the gunfire; instead, they have involved intermittent heavy fighting, raising concerns about the efficacy of any future truces, especially given the lack of local or international bodies on the ground that are able to communicate with each of the warring parties. As if this was not enough, the situation is further complicated by each party’s desire to secure its military positions and obtain additional reinforcements during the truces.

The Sudanese army perceives the RSF as a threat to the Sudanese state. Sudan has never had a military force that serves alongside the regular army, which has amassed massive quantities of personnel and equipment since independence in 1956. While everything else in Sudan has declined steadily in recent years, the RSF has continued to grow in power day by day.

Tensions between Al-Burhan and Dagalo, who served as the former’s deputy in the Transitional Sovereignty Council, have been running high, to the point where each of them is now working to eliminate the other from the country’s political and military spheres. The two generals insist on engaging in a zero-sum game.

Al-Burhan describes the RSF and its commander as “rebels” who he asserts have disobeyed the military establishment and refused integration into the regular army. He insists that the RSF’s forces must be driven out from the capital and all the other Sudanese cities where they are currently deployed until they can be integrated into the army’s military units. Al-Burhan also demands that Dagalo be removed from the leadership of the RSF and be held accountable for the killing and intimidation of civilians and for destroying infrastructure and state institutions.

Dagalo, meanwhile, continues his efforts to control the army’s command, to secure the detention of Al-Burhan and his colleagues on the Transitional Sovereignty Council, and to appoint new army commanders to negotiate with them. Dagalo also wants to take over all the military headquarters and bases across Sudan destroyed by the army and air force’s bombardment over the past two weeks.

All of the initiatives have so far failed to stop the fighting and bring about a political settlement.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami

Despite the army’s advances and successes in destroying a large number of RSF outposts, its cutting off of supply routes from Darfur and other regions, and Al-Burhan’s talk of surpassing the stage of RSF escalation and confrontation, the army chief has so far failed to crush the militia or gain total control of Khartoum. This is the reason he has refused calls to enter into negotiations with Dagalo, instead insisting on moving ahead with the military option.

Making huge advances on the ground would provide Al-Burhan with the necessary leverage to improve his negotiating position in any future negotiations with Dagalo. However, the continuation of the current turbulence could make Sudan fall prey to foreign interventions, exacerbate the humanitarian crisis and increase civilian casualties. The continuation of this crisis will also cause the conflict to spill over into other regions, potentially sparking civil war, further intensifying the crisis and increasing Sudan’s security, economic and political costs.

The two sides’ insistence on continuing the war has already cost the lives of at least 500 people, wounded thousands of others and caused tens of thousands to flee the regions where the clashes are taking place, heading toward other Sudanese regions or to neighboring countries like Chad, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt. The conflict has also led most of the world’s countries to shut down their embassies and consulates in Sudan and evacuate their citizens by air, sea and land.

Since the start of the conflict in Sudan, many initiatives have been proposed by a number of regional organizations and countries that are interested in establishing stability in Sudan — with the goal of ending the conflict, which has been ongoing and steadily escalating for more than two weeks. The latest of these initiatives — proposed by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, which is concerned with development in East Africa — called on both the army and RSF to send representatives to the South Sudanese capital Juba to hold talks on how to bring the fighting to a halt. All of these initiatives have failed to stop the fighting and bring about a political settlement.

The warring parties’ preference for the military option may not be the best option for ending the ongoing battle between them. Such an option will only lead to a prolongation of the conflict and will exacerbate the humanitarian crises endured by civilians.

Additionally, crushing Dagalo and forcing him out of Khartoum could lead him to retreat to his homeland of Darfur, from where he could lead an insurrection that might pose a threat to Sudan’s security and stability. The best option is for the two sides to embrace negotiations and dialogue as a means to settle the ongoing dispute. That way, they could prevent the situation from worsening and deter the specter of Sudan being further partitioned.


• Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami 

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