It has been four years since the ousting of Omar al-Bashir and his regime in one of the largest turn of events in Sudan’s history.
But to this day, Khartoum is still struggling: ongoing conflicts between political powers and military leaders, restless streets, and now a war between the armed forces and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
When Bashir was overthrown, everything indicated that the dark era would come to an end. His party’s offices and belongings were seized, and his Brotherhood-affiliated militias, such as the Sudan Liberation Movement and the student movement, were dissolved. All this was supposedly paving the way for change and for a better future in Sudan. Unfortunately, change has yet to materialize.
Today, hopes of reconciliation between the two warring parties are being pinned on the Jeddah talks. Both leaders should learn lessons from Somalia, Libya, and Chad where the conflicts spiraled out of control and the leaders lost most of their interests over the many years – or decades – of war.
At this stage, there is still a possibility of military or political reconciliation.
There are two military powers in Sudan right now: the armed forces, supported by security establishments and the police; and the RSF.
Political actors, on the other hand, are innumerable. Sudan has one of the highest numbers of political parties and civil society actors, old and new, in the region, which perhaps explains their failure to mend the political fissures.
Most of these actors share many demands: reactivating the role of political parties in the country, holding elections, and transitioning away from military rule. Yet most of them were not prepared for early elections, fearing they would lose with so many parties competing. The two historically largest parties, the National Umma Party and the Democratic Unionist Party draw their power from the Ansar and Khatmiyya religious movements.
As for the Muslim Brotherhood, which ruled the country for a long time, it is not unlikely for them to participate in the conflict, taking advantage of the fact that the allies who orchestrated the “coup” against their regime are now enemies.
Coups often label themselves revolutions. The coup against Bashir was the outcome of many years of discontent and grievances in the country, which is why it garnered such overwhelming popular support. The majority of the Sudanese had become fed up with the failure of Bashir’s regime on all levels, as the country registered levels of poverty unprecedented in its modern history.
The ousted president, who seized power in 1989 in a coup of his own, ruled the country longer than expected. Over the last two decades, he disagreed with most of his allies in the Brotherhood and lost his regional allies. Today, whether he escaped from prison or fled to another location does not matter: the days of Bashir are over. Sudan, on the other hand, still has a long and difficult road ahead.
The conflict between the two parties is still in its beginnings, but how long it will last – weeks, months, years – is still unclear. The fighting cannot be described as a civil war, despite touching the capital, the presidential palace, and several main roads and vital cities.
Ironically, the best and fastest solution to end this war lies in the hands of its makers, Generals Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. If the mediations succeed, supported by internal and external pressures, and both parties are able to reach an agreement on their roles in power or the handover of power, the fighting could stop. This is why the meeting in Saudi Arabia is so important: it could nip the war in the bud.
Efforts are focused on reaching a reconciliation between the two generals, with no perfect solution in sight. Things could become more complicated if the two parties refuse to hand over power to civilian rule because complete military victory doesn’t seem possible any time soon.
The reconciliation of the two parties and their return to the status quo ante should be accompanied by a road map for restoring civilian political life. This will be a difficult mission, but neither party has a better option.
Reaching a reconciliation that puts an end to the bloodshed and spares Sudan the worst of this conflict is a collective responsibility. Sudan risks immense damage in the future as the scale of the fighting grows, state institutions fail, and the country becomes hostage to the lords of civil war.