Rebel teams take sides on Sudan coup

Flanked by two nationwide flags and wearing army uniform, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chief of the army coup in Sudan final month, presided on Nov. 14 in Khartoum over the first session of the nation’s new Sovereign Council, a contested physique he had appointed three days earlier that acts as a disputed and non permanent head of state.

Gathered round him had been all the opposite members of the council, which notably excludes any consultant of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), the large political alliance that had shared energy with the army earlier than the takeover. Among those that did return to the desk, nonetheless, had been commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, in addition to El Hadi Idris, Malik Agar and Taher Hajar of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), an umbrella of former insurgent teams.

The composition of the council’s assembly desk was the ultimate testomony to the perimeters that Sudan’s completely different insurgent teams have taken on the putsch, and the affirmation that insurgent leaders who had been built-in into the transitional our bodies by its civilian facet following the 2020 Juba Peace Agreements have determined to position their bets on allying with the army. Still, the opposition of Sudan’s two strongest insurgent teams, whose exercise was exhausting to justify amidst a transition, additionally means there exists some armed resistance to the coup.

“The division amongst armed groups vis-a-vis the coup mainly comes from their foundational ground and in fact is more or less consistent with their behavior since the beginning of the revolution in December 2018,” civil society activist Hamid Khalafallah famous. “There are different degrees around how committed these are to the cause they fought for and to the communities they claim to represent,” he informed Al-Monitor.

Before the coup and particularly within the wake of a shady coup try aborted in September, there had already been strikes on the army facet main the transition that threatened to derail the method. In the face of the rising stress with its civilian wing, Burhan and Dagalo appeared to shut ranks, at the least as for narrative and staging, and had been accused by civilians of attempting to sow discord amongst their ranks and create instability.

Ready to play alongside, a faction near the army however throughout the FFC splintered off and fashioned its personal Charter of National Accord in early October whereas selling protests overtly calling for a army coup. Among them had been one other two insurgent teams, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) led by still-Finance Minister Jibril Ibrahim, and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-Minawi) led by Darfur Gov. Minni Minawi.

Right earlier than the coup, these similar two teams deployed a few of their forces from Darfur to Khartoum, in response to the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies. The JEM withdrew a few of its forces to Sudan’s capital earlier than Oct. 19, and the SLM-Minawi did so a couple of hours earlier than the putsch.

The JEM, the SLM-Minawi and the SRF had been all signatories of the Juba Peace Agreement in August 2020, although none of them had challenged the central authorities in years. Some analysts already warned again then that the deal weakened the civilian wing of the federal government and opened the door to the potential of insurgent teams allying with Dagalo and the army and dealing a blow to prospects of democracy and civilian rule.

“The majority of the signatories of the [Juba Peace Agreements] have come out at different phases supporting and throwing their weight behind Burhan and his coup,” Raga Makawi, Debating Ideas editor at African Arguments, informed Al-Monitor. “The [Juba Peace Agreements were] an agreement of the rebel groups defeated in the field anyway and for whom joining the government on these terms provided an improved step up to accessing wealth and power,” she added.

“The Juba Peace Agreement was at the end of the day negotiated by the military, [and] some of the FFC partners were opposed to the Juba deal. [They] would probably see themselves today as justified in their position, given the realignment in Khartoum,” mentioned Magdi El Gizouli, an educational and fellow of the Rift Valley Institute.

Despite the unity they’ve publicly displayed, analysts notice that the group comprising Sudan’s armed forces, the RSF and allied insurgent teams are removed from strong and cohesive. On the opposite, observers argue the group is extra of a fragile marriage of comfort derived from plenty of frequent pursuits, which makes it weak to squabbles.

“It is actually a marriage of convenience that would not last long even if the coup succeeds,” Khalafallah mentioned. “They are all aware of these dynamics but decided to defer their intra-battles to a later stage. Their survival tactic is the enemy of my enemy is my friend, but that’s short-sighted when this friend is also your enemy at some level.”

“The JEM and the SLM-Minawi and some of the SRF fractions have always been more inclined to accepting positions for their leaders as a solution to end the conflict,” he added. “But even within the JEM there are different opinions, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the behavior of their leaders causes serious frictions within the movement.”

The relationship between the armed forces and the RSF over the previous two years has been significantly tense, partially as a result of reported reluctance that Dagalo’s excessive profile generates throughout the elite officer class, the stress over whether or not the 2 teams ought to merge and the higher situations of the paramilitary group’s members. “I attended a webinar of former retired officers who were dismissed during the [Omar al-] Bashir regime and who still have contacts with some of their colleagues in the armed forces. They voiced their disappointment about the situation of the armed forces and the role of the RSF,” Jihad Mashamoun, a researcher and an analyst on Sudanese affairs, informed Al-Monitor.

Still, the price of dissolving this frail coalition may be excessive. “A fracture would imply a return to warfare somewhere,” Gizouli mentioned. “Agar, for instance, argued that opposing Burhan would mean he would be forced to return to the Blue Nile with the mission of resuming warfare, a prospect he feels would be too taxing now. Agar and others argue that the struggle over democracy in Khartoum does not really concern them or answer to the demands and problems of their rural constituencies,” he added.

In entrance of them, the army coup has been resolutely condemned and contested by Sudan’s well-established civil society and by the nation’s two essential insurgent teams: the Sudan Liberation Movement of Abdelwahid El Nur (SLM-Nur), which controls components of Jebel Marra, in Darfur, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North of Abdelaziz al-Hilu, which controls components of southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile. Neither of them signed the Juba Peace Agreement, and each have voiced their opposition to the takeover.

To what extent these two teams pose a problem to the coup leaders, nonetheless, stays to be seen. “Hilu is almost the only one that still has an organized army on the ground and has full control over some parts of the country. The whole peace process — what’s already signed and what’s still in the making — is currently at stake, and the coup could compromise all the cease-fire arrangements,” Khalafallah mentioned.

“It is actually Hilu and [Nur’s] forces that hold the largest fighting forces and which, over the decades, managed to provide a real challenge to [the deposed dictator] Bashir and to his military governance,” Makawi famous.

Gizouli mentioned, “The SLM-Nur has long expired as a military force, [and] Hilu is another story. But so far he has remained effectively silent and is probably waiting to see how the power struggle in Khartoum would eventually play out, effectively the posture he assumed from the beginning of the 2018-2019 revolution.”

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