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Sudan – fighting. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo – the struggle for power of two generals. Who are?

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Sudan, one of Africa’s largest countries of strategic geopolitical importance, has been in the midst of fighting for several days. On one side of the conflict stands General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, a powerful military commander who has been Sudan’s de facto leader for years. On the other hand, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo – a man who started out as a camel trader, in the past led militias responsible for the worst atrocities in Darfur, and is now described as an ally of Moscow. The fate of both generals is the story of the last years of chaos in a country that was supposed to be heading towards democratization, and became one of the flashpoints of the entire region.

Fighting has been going on in Sudan since Saturday between the government army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). At least several dozen civilians have already died in them. On Sunday morning, the sounds of fighting were heard again in many places in Sudan, including the capital Khartoum, Omdurman and nearby Bahri, as well as in the city of Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

Another day of fighting in Sudan. The government army attacked the base belonging to the paramilitary forces

The armed clashes are the result of a rivalry between two generals – the country’s de facto army commander Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the RSF leader Mohammad Hamdan Daglo, known as “Hemedti”.

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The fate of both generals is the story of the last years of chaos in a country that was supposed to be heading towards democratization and became one of the flashpoints of the entire region of North-East Africa.

What is the conflict in Sudan about?

The RSF and the Sudanese army jointly overthrew the country’s long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019 and worked together. The rift between them became apparent on Thursday, when military authorities said the recent actions of the country’s largest paramilitary group were illegal.

During the coup in October 2021, the two generals formed a common front to “protect the civilian population from the authorities.” Then the army took over power in Sudan. However, over time, Hemedti denounced the coup, siding with the civilians, which brought him into conflict with al-Burhan. The dispute between the two most important generals in this African country made it impossible to resolve the internal political crisis.

As part of the changes proposed by the government, the RSF was to be incorporated into the regular armed forces, but the generals cannot agree on the timing of this. Representatives of the RSF are of the opinion that this should be postponed for 10 years, the army insists on a two-year deadline. The political dispute turned into an armed struggle on Saturday.

Why is Sudan so strategically important?

Sudan is the third largest country in Africa with over 45 million inhabitants. It is located in a strategic place south of Egyptin Northeast Africa.

The eyes of the world were on Sudan four years ago when protests overthrew authoritarian President Omar al-Bashir, giving hope to similar movements in Africa and the Arab world. Now, the New York Times notes, the outbreak of violence has shattered hopes that military leaders would cede power to a civilian-led democratic government.

In recent years, Sudan, which is a member of the Arab League, has become a flashpoint in the struggle for influence between Russia and the Western powers, especially the United States. The “NYT” recalls the involvement of the Wagner Group – the Wagnerians first sent their representatives there to support the military government, but they are also involved in the mining of local gold. The Kremlin has pressured Sudan to allow Russian warships to dock in ports on the Red Sea coast.

Clashes in Khartoum Omer Erdem/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Abdel Fattah al-Burhan – who is he?

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan is a powerful military commander who has been the de facto leader of Sudan for years. He leads one of two major rival factions currently vying for control of the country.

Little known before 2019, he came to power in the tumultuous aftermath of a military coup that overthrew al-Bashir.

Subsequently, al-Burhan also served as a regional army commander in Darfur, western Sudan, where local fighting left hundreds of thousands dead and millions more displaced. In Darfur, there have been religious wars and a fight for access to drinking water sources for nearly a hundred years. The long-standing conflict escalated in 2003. This conflict is described by the UN as the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world.

General al-Burhan was closely associated with long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir. But when al-Bashir was overthrown, his defense minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf took control. Not much later, however, he was replaced by General al-Burhan. Western governments hoped Sudan would move closer to democracy, but General al-Burhan instead began to gradually tighten his grip.

“After civilians and the military signed a power-sharing agreement in 2019, General al-Burhan became the chairman of the Sudan Sovereign Council, a body created to oversee the country’s transition to democratic rule. , al-Burhan proved reluctant to hand over power. On October 25, 2021, he carried out a coup d’├ętat that overthrew the civilian government and its prime minister “- continues the fate of the military “NYT”.

General Abdel Fattah al-BurhanMahmoud Hjaj / Anadolu Agency/ABACAPRESS.COM/PAP

Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo – who is he?

The fate of General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo intersects with that of al-Burhan many times. This is not only about the aforementioned 2021, when they joined forces to block the transfer of power to civilians. They both come from the same circles and have held important positions in Omar al-Bashir for years. Both of their names were also written in bloody letters during the conflict in Darfur.

Hamdan Dagalo started out as a camel trader. He gained notoriety as the commander of the infamous Janjaweed militias responsible for the worst atrocities during the conflict in Darfur.

His success in suppressing the revolt there won him the favor of Omar al-Bashir, who in 2013 appointed him head of the newly created Rapid Support Force. He adds that over the past two decades, Hamdan has “constantly amassed influence and wealth in Sudan, climbing to the pinnacle of power.”

“Even when his former patron, the autocratic ruler Omar al-Bashir, was overthrown by pro-democracy protesters, Hamdan turned it to his advantage – quickly abandoning al-Bashir. Last year he discovered a born-again democrat with aspirations to lead Sudan himself , writes the New York Times on its analysis.

The American daily also draws attention to Hamdan’s ties to Moscow. He writes that he became an ally of Russia, among other things, through his relationship with the Wagner Group, “whose mercenaries guard a gold mine in Sudan and which supplied his forces with military equipment.”

According to the New York Daily, “General Hamdan faced perhaps his toughest challenge yet on Saturday” when his paramilitary forces clashed with General al-Burhan’s army in the nation’s capital.

Hamdan blamed al-Burhan for the violence in Sudan. “We are sorry that we are fighting against our compatriots, but it was this criminal who made us do it,” he told Al-Jazeera TV.

Military activities in Sudan have also made Hamdan a very wealthy man, working in gold mining, construction and even a limousine rental business. And he adds that “he also turned out to be a surprisingly agile politician, agile at the junction of Africa and the Middle East, willing to meet with leaders and establishing close relations with Moscow.”

General Mohamed Hamdan DagaloMahmoud Hjaj / Anadolu Agency/ABACAPRESS.COM/PAP

The specter of a long-term conflict

A confrontation between Sudan’s two largest military forces could spell a long-term conflict, according to Reuters.

The inflamed situation in Sudan was met with international reactions. United StatesRussia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UN, the European Union and the African Union called for an immediate end to hostilities. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken he said on Saturday that he consulted with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and during these talks it was agreed that it was necessary to end hostilities immediately without any preconditions.

Main photo source: INSTAGRAM @LOSTSHMI / Reuters / Forum

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