2023 – A year marked with numerous developments in the geopolitical front ranging from the Russia – Ukraine Conflict, The United States great banking collapse to the anticipation of the upcoming G20 Summit. Plenty of such familiar events have been discussed extensively about. However there lies in between all of these is a region of utmost importance i.e. Africa. More so, if we zoom in across this region we find a particular state which is quite large on the map i.e. the country of Sudan (currently being divided between Sudan and South Sudan).
Demographically speaking, South Sudan is a Christian majority state. Eventually it got separated from the former state in 2011 – a result of witnessing civil wars of almost two decades which took nearly half a million lives. Touted as one of the major conflict struck countries in the world, Sudan has had only a little fortune witnessing peace and stability in its region. Geographically, Sudan poses to be the third largest country in Africa. Being surrounded majorly by desert, civilizations and habitations all lie around the river (in this case The Nile). The current epicenter of the crisis is its national capital, the city of Khartoum. However before proceeding let’s brush up on the background of this conflict.
There lie primarily two Military leaders being Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan of the SAF (also the president of Sudan) and Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo of the RSF (also the Vice President of Sudan). Majorly it is a power tussle between these two military leaders that has become the trigger point for the crisis. The conflict in Sudan has its roots in the overthrowing of long-serving President Omar al-Bashir by military generals in April 2019, following widespread protests. This led to an agreement between the military and protesters, under which a power-sharing body called the Sovereignty Council was established to lead Sudan to elections at the end of 2023. However, the military overthrew the transitional government led by Abdalla Hamdok in October 2021, with Burhan becoming the de-facto leader of the country and Dagalo his second-in-command.
Soon after the 2021 coup, a power struggle between two military (SAF) and paramilitary (RSF) generals arose, interrupting a plan to transition to elections. A preliminary deal was reached in December 2021 for a political transition, but negotiations hit a roadblock over the integration of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) with the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), due to disagreements over the timetable and security sector reforms. Thus, tensions escalated over the control of resources and RSF integration, leading to clashes. Adding on, A central cause of tension since the 2019 uprising has been the civilian demand for oversight of the military and integration of the RSF into the regular armed forces. Civilians have also called for the handover of lucrative military holdings in agriculture, trade and other industries – a crucial source of power for an army that has often outsourced military action to regional militias.
Another point of contention is the pursuit of justice over allegations of war crimes by the military and its allies in the conflict in Darfur from 2003. The international criminal court is seeking trials for Bashir and other Sudanese suspects. Therefore, what is at stake in the region? Well, Plenty. Sudan is in a volatile region bordering the Red Sea, the Sahel region and the Horn of Africa. Its strategic location and agricultural wealth have attracted regional power plays, complicating the chances of a successful transition to civilian-led government. Several of Sudan’s neighbors – including Ethiopia, Chad and South Sudan – have been affected by political upheavals and conflict, and Sudan’s relationship with Ethiopia, in particular, has been strained over issues including disputed farmland along their border. Sudanese refugees have fled the recent fighting to the country’s neighbors, including thousands who have crossed into Chad.
Major geopolitical dimensions are also at play, with Russia, the US, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other powers battling for influence in Sudan. Plus, the Saudis and the UAE have seen Sudan’s transition as an opportunity to push back against Islamist influence in the region. They, along with the US and Britain, form the “Quad”, which has sponsored mediation in Sudan along with the UN and the African Union. Western powers fear the potential for a Russian base on the Red Sea, to which Sudanese military leaders have expressed openness.
Talking about Indian Context, our ministry has started ‘Operation Kaveri’ to evacuate its nationals owing to the Current Crisis in Sudan. The operation involves the deployment of Indian Navy’s INS Sumedha, a stealth offshore patrol vessel, and two Indian Air Force C-130J special operations aircraft on standby in Jeddah. There are about 2,800 Indian nationals in Sudan, and there is also a settled Indian community of about 1,200 in the country. Plus, we have shared active bilateral relations with Sudan ranging from signing multiple projects and bolstering our bilateral trade over the years. So the major question being posed here is, what are the remedies of overcoming such a sensitive conflict? There lies two major roadmaps which fulfills the need of bringing back peace and stability.
In the short term, there is an urgent need for the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to the millions of Sudanese who are in need of food, shelter, and medical care. The United Nations estimates that more than 13 million people in Sudan require humanitarian assistance, including 5.4 million children who are suffering from malnutrition.
In the long term, addressing the root causes of the crisis in Sudan will require a comprehensive approach that addresses issues such as governance, human rights, economic development, and peacebuilding. This will require sustained engagement from the international community, as well as a commitment from Sudan’s leaders to work towards a peaceful and prosperous future for all Sudanese.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Chanakya Forum. All information provided in this article including timeliness, completeness, accuracy, suitability or validity of information referenced therein, is the sole responsibility of the author. www.chanakyaforum.com does not assume any responsibility for the same.
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