Dr. Jebril El-Abidi
Libyan writer and researcher

Sudan and the Infighting of the Soldiers

The confrontations, violence, and killing among soldiers in Sudan are a disaster for civic peace in the country that has had enough soldiers and weapons. The problem is that innocents are paying the price. Tens of innocent people have died, both civilians and soldiers. We say “soldiers,” but they are also part of the nation. They are innocent as well, because they were pushed into this bloody and destructive conflict.

One reason for the struggle that led to the infighting within the ranks of the military is that the Rapid Support Forces are not just military forces, but a political and military institution that has become - if we are being realistic - a “state” within the state. It thus presents a challenge to stability, especially since it grew out of the “Janjaweed” militia. Although a law was passed in 2017 granting it the status of an “independent security force,” it joined the effort to overthrow the al-Bashir's regime.

As a result, it sees itself as a political partner in governance, not just a military force affiliated with the army. This is the logic fuelling the armed conflict and infighting between the army and the Rapid Support Forces, which was not integrated into the army despite the decision to reassign officers and military personnel from their ranks into the regular forces.

The crisis in Sudan - particularly the conflict within the military establishment - cannot be reduced to a personal dispute between the two generals, Burhan and Hemedti. In fact, the two had been friends for a long time, since the 2003 conflict in Darfur fought under the leadership of the now-ousted President Omar al-Bashir, an ally of The Brotherhood. The leadership dispute between the two generals ended years of friendship and the comradery they built as they fought side by side.

Indeed, the disagreement has gone so far that they are now quarreling. General Hamidti described General Burhan as a “lying criminal,” while Burhan responded by calling Hamidti the leader of a “rebel militia.”

General Burhan has demanded the integration of the Rapid Support Forces into the army. “We, as military personnel, want to integrate the Rapid Support Forces. If this does not happen, no one in the agreement will go forward.” Meanwhile, Hamedti demands that power be handed over to civilians and that Burhan “surrender.” Both are making impossible demands despite being former comrades in arms and even the camel trade.

Resolving the crisis and ending infighting must begin with a security solution. It must begin with integrating the Rapid Support Forces into the army in an appropriate manner, instead of allowing them to maintain their status of legitimate armed "militias.” The mistake was integrating an armed force as a single unit, with all of its personnel remaining together, into the armed forces in the first place. This meant the soldiers were only loyal to this force’s leadership, not the command of the national army. The personnel should have been distributed among army units after having their backgrounds checked. In this form, it can mutiny at any moment, and this is what happened.

Sudan is plagued by poverty. Forty-six percent of its population lives below the poverty line, according to United Nations reports. The last it needs is conflict and infighting. Instead, this rich country should be made the breadbasket of the Arab world, the country we know it to be from school.

It needs development to overcome poverty. Most of all, it needs agricultural development, as its land is extremely fertile and has an abundance of water. Sudan is poor nonetheless because of the ongoing conflict over this agricultural land, as is the case in the Blue Nile region and other fertile areas, whose land was made barren and undeveloped by local conflicts.

The military establishment and the Rapid Support Forces have yet to establish an inclusive political system acceptable to all Sudanese. Indeed, they have failed to hand over power to civilians, hiding behind various pretexts to remain above the civilian authorities.

Thus, immature political settlements might be the reason for the persistence of violence and the military’s infighting. Only the Transition Military Council and the Forces for Freedom and Change were involved in most of these deals, and they are not the only national forces in Sudan. That is why these settlements did not hold under pressure.