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Will the South Sudan model apply to Darfur?

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Picture: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/REUTERS/December 19, 2021 – People march to the presidential palace, protesting against military rule following a coup in Khartoum, Sudan. For a long period of time, indications have shown that Sudan was heading for another serious conflict, the writer says.

By Dhieu Mathok Diing Wol

For a long period of time, indications have shown that Sudan was heading for another serious conflict. An article by this author and published in Arabic on various platforms in Sudan and South Sudan on November 19, 2022, was circulated widely, predicting that a major battle was in the offing between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). In that article, the author suggested that the war would be promoted and sponsored by the Sudanese political leaders (civilians) with the support of some foreign powers. SAF and RSF would be victims of this proxy war.

On April 3, 2023, the author published another article warning the Sudanese politicians and friends of Sudan that the country was heading for war and that they needed to come together and resolve their differences peacefully. On April 17, 2023, immediately after the eruption of conflict in Sudan, the author further predicted that the war would have far-reaching consequences because of tribal inclination and that it needed to be arrested as soon as possible.

It therefore comes as no surprise that following the outbreak of fighting in the Sudan in April, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the leader of the SAF, issued a statement expressing concern about foreign interference and blamed Folker Perth, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General (SRSG) in Khartoum for fuelling the current war because of his open support of Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti, of the RSF and Force of Freedom and Change (FFC) Central Council, as he claimed.

Similar accusations have been made; take for instance the peace talks in Jeddah, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the United States has pointed out the role of the Russian militia Wagner Group (WG) in the Sudan war, although this has been categorically denied by the RSF.

In the past three decades, prominent figures like the British-American historian Bernard Lewis have been advancing the idea of the restructuring of the Middle East and his article was published by the Middle East Magazine in 1992. Before Lewis, the idea was advanced by former prime minister of Israel Shimon Peres in the conference convened in Madrid in 1991. It was believed that this plan was meant to create instability in the region.

The Great Middle East (GME) as suggested by the above authors was accelerated by emerging Islamic extremist groups that operated in the region during the era of the “Arab Spring” in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain, although these were quelled before hitting their peak. According to Houaris Belhadj in his thesis “Arab Spring Revolutions: Causes and Consequences” published in the Arabic Journal of Legal Studies in December, the Arab region was faced with political, social and economic challenges but most importantly threatened by fragmentation (the translation may not be exact).

Similar components of the GME Project were experienced in the Gulf war and occupation of Kuwait by late former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq who was then marked as one of the most powerful leaders in the region. The same was replicated in Libya against Muammar Gaddafi.

In some countries, the GME project has registered some success, for example in the Arab’s western African countries like Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria and also in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya and Egypt, which survived narrowly because of its strong military ideology and formation under Gen Al Fatah Sisi, the current president of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

The independence of South Sudan would never have been achieved so easily had it not been for the Great Middle East project which emerged in the 1990s

This GME project has also contributed significantly to the secession of South Sudan from Sudan because the superpowers supported self-determination for the people of South Sudan which the people had demanded since the 1950s. The independence of South Sudan would never have been achieved so easily had it not been for the GME project which emerged in the 1990s.

The West started to rally behind the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement’s (SPLM) quest for self-determination after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001 and on the US Embassy in Nairobi in 1998 as examples. It was after these attacks that the self-determination for the people of Southern Sudan was agreed and signed by the Sudanese warring parties under the auspices of the United States Administration in 2002.

As stated above, the main objective of the GME project was to create instability in the Arab countries and fuel fanaticism, hence destabilising governments. Top of the list of targeted countries in the regions for instability was the Sudan.

Picture: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/REUTERS/Taken September 6, 2011 – Internally-displaced citizens ride a truck to return to their homes after the army took control of the area at Al-Damazin town at Blue Nile State. Fighting erupted last week in Blue Nile state in Sudan between the Sudanese army and fighters allied to Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the dominant force in newly independent South Sudan. The West started to rally behind the SPLM quest for self-determination after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001 and on the US Embassy in Nairobi in 1998 as examples, the writer says.

The plan was to split up the Sudan into four states. South Sudan was to include the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile although the SPLM concentrated on January 1, 1956 boundaries in their negotiations, abandoning other parameters which could be used to delineate these two regions as South Sudan, especially the Closed District Ordinance Act of the 1930s. These two regions have strong connections with South Sudan including deprivation and marginalisation.

The second proposed state in the Sudan was Darfur. The region is bigger than France and it was the last region which joined condominium rule of British-Egyptian colonialism in 1916. This region has a lot of natural resources with tribal homogeneity except for factions that emerged as a result of Gen Hemedti’s continuous support for Arab tribes in the area.

Hemedti has tried his best recently to change the game by apologising to Africans in the region for what happened during the Omar al-Bashir regime, arguing that he only acted on behalf of the regime. He has managed to conduct several communal reconciliations between the various tribes in the region.

This move poses the threat of rallying the tribes around him if the war were to continue in Sudan. It is therefore advisable for warring parties and mediators in Jeddah to quickly resolve this deadly and divisive conflict in Sudan because its delay will force the RSF to move to Darfur and use the Central Africa Republic (CAR) as their base particularly with the presence of Wagner, their main ally in the area.

Lately, racist statements are being used in the war. For example, a recent statement released by the spokesperson of the SAF that they have freed Sudan from the biggest opportunistic project in its history. This statement was misconstrued as alleging that when every person from the peripheries tries to take power in Khartoum he/she is considered to be opportunist.

Yet for those in the centre and along the Nile it is business as usual. This slogan was used during a coup against President Jaafar Mohamed Numiri in the 1980s led by the late Philip Abbas Ghabouch and the late Niknora Magar Achiek and Sergeant Bol Jok, from Nuba Mountains and Southern Sudan respectively.

The third state proposed out of the Sudan in the GME project is Eastern Sudan. The attempts to form this state are evidenced by plans that targeted ports in the Red Sea. The Beja tribal leader Mohamed Al-Min Tirik was reported to lead demonstrations against the government in Khartoum and Forces of Freedom Change-Central Council were posing threats of secession from Sudan if their concerns were not addressed. This trend is developing as war continues in Khartoum and Darfur.

The fourth and the last proposed state in Sudan under the GME project is “Jellaba State”. This state was articulated by the “Hamadi triangle” that covers Northern Sudan, Jezzara, Khartoum and part of Kordofan. In the eyes of the marginalised people of Sudan, this state has dominated and exploited the country since independence, which substantiates the call for separations in Sudan.

The West started to rally behind the SPLM’s quest for self-determination after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001 and on the US Embassy in Nairobi in 1998

It must be noted by wrestling forces in Sudan that the country is facing threats of fragmentation and the only solution to thwart this strategy is to return to the concept of the New Sudan articulated by the SPLM and its leader John Garang De Mabior, who advocated for a Sudan of equality, justice and democracy – a Sudan that accommodates everyone regardless of geographical location, race, tribe, religion, colour and gender. South Sudan strongly supports a united Sudan that preserves the rights of its citizens.

Dr Dhieu Mathok Diing Wol was Associate Professor of Peace and Development Studies in the University of Juba, South Sudan and Secretary of Sudan Peace Mediation in South Sudan. He is the Minister of Investment in the Revitalised Government of National Unity, Republic of South Sudan

This article was first published in ACCORD