Chaos in Sudan

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Sudan’s been on fire recently — a situation which has never been too stable has now become even less stable. Following the “please-don’t-call-it-a-coup” coup against President al-Bashir, led mostly by young protesters (who were not the greatest fans of his track record of war, oppression, genocide, and murdering his own civilians), Sudan had a sort of “government” held between the military (responsible for said warn, genocide, and oppression) and a totally stable civilian government led by President al-Burhan.

Whoops, all dictators! So now, the egos of President al-Burhan and Mohamed Dagalo, leader of the rebel Rapid Support Forces (RSF), are in conflict, and the only thing they know how to do is more war. I'll spare most of the details, since I already covered this in-depth last week if you want to learn more.

Side note: There’s something very interesting about African militaries and their reliance on bush infantry (light infantry and motorized brigades), paramilitaries (light infantry and motorized brigades) and paratroopers (light infantry, questionably motorized brigades). Until the late 90s, Zimbabwe was a military powerhouse, having one of the largest reserves of mechanized forces in the region. With tanks, planes, and other vehicles that would make a small Eastern European country blush, a lot of people predicted that Zimbabwe would be a major player in Africa for years to come — something that was shattered almost immediately by war with Rwanda. The problem is that very few African countries have the industrial base to build a consistent stream of tanks, something the U.S. and (allegedly) Russia do have.

This means most African countries usually rely on light infantry to do the damage. Mechanized forces won’t have the punch necessary to stick around for too long, and once the tanks dry up, the bush soldiers can come back in. It also makes African militaries rely heavily on paratroopers and paramilitaries, because they’re easy to create, easy to fund, and easy to arm. They’re also fiercely loyal (to each other, at least), since the sort of training/experiences going into being a special forces or paramilitary soldier can engender a lot of community. It can be significantly problematic though, as former president al-Bashir found out when the close knit RSF he built (partially to keep the official military off his back) betrayed him.

It’s a tragedy of the Sudanese people, one which you should care about because any war in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region could kick off a region-wide disaster. It doesn’t help that this conflict has all the makings of an intervention. Firstly, Egypt and Ethiopia are at odds over rights to water, and Ethiopia is busy making a dam to gain more power. They’re both regional heavyweights, and Egypt relies on Sudan for food and water. They also, really, really like al-Burhan and the military, and if Sudan is in crisis, Egypt may not be able to feed its population of millions.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates are on their own happy little diplomatic mission, looking to support their allies in the RSF. This puts two powerhouses — one in North Africa, facing its own internal conflicts, and one in the Middle East, looking to make power plays in the region — at odds, something that is the worst possible idea to ever have been devised by Middle Eastern politicians since the last time they tried to invade Israel.

And again, the people who are suffering from this egotistical conflict are the Sudanese people, people who have been subjected to years upon years of harsh violence and poverty. Thousands are fleeing into neighboring countries — another sign of possible danger down the road — and those who can’t flee are stuck in an incredibly dangerous area.

Oh, but it gets worse. So, so much worse. Prison breaks have happened — the prisons holding those responsible for al-Bashir’s reign of terror. Warring parties now hold various biological laboratories. There are risks of incredibly dangerous diseases being released in a part of the world where there is no easy way to start containment. 70 percent of the hospitals don’t work, so diseases that escape certainly won’t get caught for a while, but even more importantly, people don’t have access to food and medicine. It’s a nightmare scenario, and one that needs to be solved.

Egypt and South Sudan keep offering to mediate, but the RSF doesn’t like Egypt and South Sudan has its own problems that prevent it from being really all that effective. Russia, as usual, is trying to flex back into North Africa by getting Wagner to liaison with the RSF, and the US is trying to figure out how to fix this (spoiler: they don’t know either).

The situation isn’t good. It doesn't seem to be getting better, and with neither party willing to agree to terms of a ceasefire, the conflict in Sudan may get a lot worse before it gets any better.