Sudan is arguably the unluckiest country on the planet. Perhaps both unlucky and clearly damned. Not many countries have suffered as much as Sudan. This included invasions and settlement by Arab nomads and the enslavement and sale of black Africans as chattel to Egypt and the Ottoman Empire.
After a long and tormented colonial history, Sudan fell under the spell of several brutes most notably Jafaar Al-Numeiry and Omar al-Bashir. Both men imposed primitive forms of Sharia law that at times included public flogging, stoning and other medieval punishments.
Widespread and unspeakable human rights abuses have been the lot of the Sudanese. Today, once again, Sudan stands on an existential precipice. The country and the state face imminent collapse.
Post Colonial Sudan
Sudan, the post-colonial has always been an incoherent mess. A hodge-podge of the Arabized North and the Black African South, the country finally split into two in 2011 when the latter finally freed itself from the cruel shackles of the former.
The split came after decades of the cruelest atrocities ever committed by one people against another. There’s hardly a country without South Sudanese refugees or their descendants.
But the divorce has helped neither country. Sudan itself has continued its death spiral while South Sudan remains in the fatal throes of two megalomaniacal despots competing for supremacy. But today Sudan is clearly worse off than South Sudan if there’s a difference between the fire and the frying pan.
But it’s not all been doom and gloom for Sudan. There have been moments of hope. Even the word democracy has been whispered several times in the huge void of despair. One such moment came in 2019 in the wake of the popular ouster of President Bashir by the people and segments of the military in 2019.
An interim constitution abolished the apostasy law, public flogging and the ban on alcohol for non-Muslims. It didn’t mention Sharia and removed the abominable practice commonly referred to as female genital mutilation. An accord separated religion and the state. Some hope, then despair. But just as quickly, all hope was snuffed out.
It carried out mass arrests and committed many atrocities. It was General Dagalo’s forces that carried out the most violent crackdowns on pro-democracy activists in 2019.
General Dagalo, a warlord, cut his teeth in the killing fields of Darfur where he led the Janjaweed, the Bashir-supported militia that killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions of Darfurians and other black African groups.
It was the first genocide of the 21st century. President Bashir and others were indicted for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.
In April this year, the two generals turned against one another and fighting between the Burhan-led government army and General Dagalo’s RSF broke out. In deadly urban combat using helicopter gunships and other fighter planes, the generals have turned the capital of Khartoum into a killing field.
Mortar fire, snipers and street combat are now the norm. Hundreds of civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled. Khartoum is a deadly theatre of war. Those who can’t escape are trapped in their homes without food, power, or water. No side seems to be on the verge of victory, and the generals appear determined to fight to the death. Intermittent ceasefires and peace talks are but head fakes.
Perhaps if the International Criminal Court (ICC) had indicted General Dagalo for the Darfur genocide we might not be here today. There are reports that the United States and its allies support General Burhan while Russia and its anti-Western axis are arming General Dagalo. Analysts believe the current Sudan crisis is a proxy war between the US and Russia.
But in my view, this is beside the point.
Since time immemorial, external forces have always pillaged Africa to cannibalize its resources and exploit its people. That’s geopolitics in the age of the Empire and the scramble for global control of resources. Sudan has always been prey to these machinations. Its elites are some of the dumbest in Africa. They are traitors.
The United Nations itself is paralyzed apart from moralizing through lame press releases in the safety of New York and other capitals. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is silent. Mute. The talks between the two sides won’t go anywhere unless there’s a credible threat of force. Diplomacy without the threat of force is a dead letter.
That’s why the International Criminal Court (ICC) should hasten and indict the warring generals. Both the AU and UN need to quickly assemble an intervention force before Sudan collapses.