M Alam Brohi
Sudan, once the largest Muslim country, has gone through long spells of military rule, hunger, rebellion, and disintegration. However, the current situation in the country is perilous overcasting the very future of the country with a long coastline of 750 kilometres on the Red Sea and one of the busiest Seaports in the Middle East and Africa. It disintegrated into two states in July 2011 with the South Sudan emerging as an independent state after decades of civil war.
Sudan began its mirthful journey as a sovereign and independent country in January 1956. It was under the joint protectorate of British imperialists and Egypt. The colonial powers appointed a three-member Commission representing Turkiya, Egypt and Pakistan in 1955 to oversee the orderly transfer of power in the country. The Pakistani Member, Mian Ziaudding hailed from Peshawar. General elections were held in Sudan creating a parliament which elected Ismail Al-Azhari as the Prime Minister in January 1956. He declared independence, and the colonial states immediately recognized it.
Taking advantage of the political fragility, General Ibrahim Al-Aboud captured power in 1958. He relinquished power in 1964 after intense public protests. Elections were held and a coalition government was installed. After five years, in 1969 Colonel Jaffar Nimairy took over. In 1985, General Abdul Rehman dethroned General Nimairy and held general elections and handed over power to a civilian dispensation under Sadiq Al-Mahdi in 1986. Brigadier Omar Al-Bashir took over as the new leader of the country in 1989. He was dethroned and arrested by his military in 2019. In all the country was ruled by the Military for over five decades since its independence. The civilian political governments were allowed hardly one decade.
Brigadier General Omar Al Bashir took over in connivance with political Islamists like Sheikh Hassan Turabi. General Omar introduced Sharia laws at the instigation of Hassan Turabi. Power has its dynamics. Sheikh Hassan Turabi and General Omar Bashir developed differences in 2001 which resulted in the incarceration of the Shaikh, then Speaker of the Majlis e Shura.
Omar ruled the country with an iron fist. The small tribal regions like Darfur, Blue Nile State and Kurdafan didn’t have any say in the governing structures based on military power. The intermittent insurgencies morphed into armed resistance in Darfur. The Justice and Equality Party continued this armed resistance under its militant wing. They controlled Nyala city at a distance of 120 kilometres from Al-Fashir where the UN headquarters was located.
The Sudanese military established a militia “Janjaweed”, and armed it to the teeth to fight its proxy war with the rebels in Darfur in 2003. The earlier commander of the Janjaweed, Malik Agar was known as the butcher of Blue Nile State. Later, he was appointed as the Governor of this State where about 2000 peacekeepers of the Pakistan Army under the command of Colonel Anjum were stationed in its capital city, Al-Damazin. Agar was succeeded as commander of Janjaweed by the young and ambitious Muhammad Hamdan Daglo known as Hameeti.
President Omar Al Bashir was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court based on the crimes perpetrated by the Janjaweed in Darfur and Blue Nile States. The atrocities of Janjaweed continued unabated. The International Human Rights Commission had also held it responsible for the massacres in Darfur in 2014 and 2015. Al-Hamdan Daglo has also been involved in the massive plunder of national resources through many of his front companies particularly – the Al Junaid. He is rated as one of the most wealthy and powerful men in Sudan.
The Janjaweed was converted into Rapid Support Force (RSF) by the military in 2013. It was in league with the military in removing its erstwhile patron, Omar Al-Bashir from power in 2019. Al Hamdan emerged as one of the most powerful members of the ruling Interim Military Council. While the Army Chief General Abdul Fatah Al-Burhan took over as Chairman of the Interim Council, Mr Al-Hamdan was appointed as its Deputy Chairman. The RSF is also held responsible for the massacre of protesters in Khartoum.
However, there was public pressure to put the country on the democratic track. Under this pressure, the Military Council was converted into the Sudan Sovereign Council sharing power with the civilians. An economist, Abdullah Hamduk was appointed as the Prime Minister of the Interim dispensation which was tasked to frame the new Constitution, hold elections and hand over power to elected representatives within three years in 2022. The military does not go back to the barracks after tasting power. The Interim Prime Minister was arrested in 2022 and was soon released and restored under public pressure. But he resigned and went home.
Apprehending the intentions of RSF, Army Chief General Abdul Fatah Al-Burhan wanted to merge it in the Sudanese as soon as possible whereas Al- Hamdan wanted 10 years for the merger. Their power rivalry came to the surface. The differences intensified. No commander wanted to step back. The RSF had trained manpower, weapons and wealth. Al Hamdan’s business enterprises had become wealth-amassing agencies. He finally challenged the Sudanese military and a full war ensued which is raging in the country.
The long spells of military rule; the military’s well-entrenched political and commercial interests; the political and religious divide among the political leadership; the uneven distribution of national resources; the continuous political and financial neglect of certain regions all conspired together to deprive this country of democracy, human rights, transparent and clean political administrations.
A full-fledged war in the third-largest Muslim and African country with this long coastline and a busy Seaport catering for 10% of the world trade would have serious implications for the region and destabilize the countries in North and Sub-Saharan Africa. Many African countries including Angola, Congo, Central African Republic, Chad and South Sudan have already gone through insurgencies and civil strife with serious implications. The continent cannot afford to have another destabilizing civil war. Hopefully, sanity will prevail.