The contagion of war
Publish date 02-02-2022
The crisis in the Horn of Africa with the war in Tigray and northern Ethiopia has also infected neighboring Sudan. A military coup on 25 October overthrew the government born from the revolution of April 2019. I military had dismissed with civil society the former leader Omar al-Bashir, considered by the International Court of Justice a criminal to be tried for the genocide committed in Darfur. Then they formed a government with civilians that under the conciliation agreement was to lead the country to free elections in June 2023.
The president of the Sovereign Council of Sudan, the coup general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (pictured), announced the dissolution of the council itself, the transitional government and declared the state of emergency even if it reaffirmed the objective of the vote in '23. In Sudan, the coup came after months of tensions and recriminations. The military apparatuses were under pressure for the army reform project, through which the executive led by the deposed premier Hamdok wanted to purge the many loyalists to the former regime. Already on 21 September, the civil authorities announced that they had foiled a coup attempt. The reorganization of the Sudanese state and the transition to democracy after 30 years of Shaaria, Islamic law, bode well. But when it came to the point, that is to hit the role of the military in the political and, above all, economic sphere, the reaction was triggered. Hamdok is not a fool. Economist, former deputy secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, had to be stopped. Of course, poverty was also growing due to the pandemic, but the government of Khartoum in order to restart the country had targeted the infamous Rapid Support Forces (RSF) - called Janjaweed, a paramilitary organization created by the former president al Bashir to repress riots in Darfur with rape, massacre and violence - reluctant to be integrated into the regular army and to surrender some of their enormous power. Various investigations believe that the RSF indirectly control 80% of the Sudanese underground economy. They have also been converted into border guards and financed by European funds for the control of migratory flows.
Sudan is a strategic hub between the Horn, Egypt and Libya on the East African route. It hosts 1.1 million refugees in UNHCR camps. And the Sudanese border guards have always been part of the immense and articulated network of human traffickers. The coup could facilitate the resumption of the flow of Eritreans, Ethiopians fleeing the war in the Tigray who stationed in the suburbs of Omdurman, the twin city of the capital on the opposite bank of the Nile, waiting to have the money for the trip.
Two other disturbing aspects. The first is that the RSF are engaged in border clashes with Ethiopia in the Fashaga area in the area of the Great Renaissance dam on the Nile that Addis Ababa wants to fill to obtain the electricity needed to support the country's development. But in the absence of a treaty regulating the amount of water to be used, Sudan and Egypt risk not being able to irrigate the fields and in the diplomatic stalemate the conflict risks escalating.
Finally, it is clear that the coup was supported by China, which takes South Sudanese oil from Port Sudan and prefers a country under the control of the military, allies and business partners. The civil parties were backed by the US, which had taken Sudan off the rogue list. Chinese support means veto to the UN Security Council on any humanitarian interference. So Beijing has also stopped any UN attempt to stop the war in Tigray. If this is the Horn of Africa that has appeared since the time of Covid, continental peace is in danger.
NP November 2021