The armed clashes in Sudan, that began last week, are being presented by Western corporate media as a shock from a country that was heading towards democracy. These attempts to absolve the West of any accountability for the militarized confrontation that could spark civil war, and to even blame Russia, are leaving out the key context to understanding this conflict.
Days of chaos have again left the Sudanese population without any sense of security and in fear for their lives. The Sudanese military head and de-facto leader of Sudan, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, ordered strikes against targets belonging to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, colloquially known as Hemedti, claiming that they were plotting a military coup. The RSF were set up under former Sudanese dictator Omar Bashir, in 2013, as a militia force that combined forces of the infamous Janjaweed and was used to crush his political rivals.
The RSF head, Hemedti, grew in the ranks over the years as a power militia leader and was given free rein to seize lucrative gold mines in Darfur that belonged to a rival tribal leader, eventually making him one of the wealthiest men in Sudan. After the RSF gained its horrifying reputation through mass killings, rape, and other atrocities, the militia leader, who was empowered by President Omar Bashir, turned against him in 2019. The RSF and the Sudanese army, together, decided to participate in a coup to officially oust Bashir and end his 30 year rein, taking advantage of a civilian-led uprising that demanded the fall of dictatorship in Sudan.
A Transitional Military Council (TMC) was then set up, which was created with the stated aim of catapulting Sudan towards civilian rule. The TMC was formally headed by Sudan’s army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, with the deputy head of the TMC being Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti). A Transitional Sovereignty Council (TSC) was later set up and was overthrown in another coup in October of 2021, before being reinstated later that year. The recent power sharing balance had been maintained between the Sudanese Army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia of Hemedti, with a deal having been struck on the implementation of civil rule last December.
What is important to understand here is that the portrayal of recent events, in Western media, is deliberately misrepresenting the extent to which the United Kingdom and US governments, as well as Israel, have been involved in Sudanese affairs. The narrative that is being pushed by The New York Times, is that “the violence is an alarming turn for a country that only four years ago was an inspiration to Africa and the Arab world”, claiming that Sudan had been on the path to democracy. A NYT piece on the issue reports that the US had lifted its sanctions on Khartoum because it was inching close to democracy, when in reality Washington removed its designation of Sudan as a state-sponsor of terrorism as a reward for signing onto a normalization deal with Israel — no changes required. US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, also signed an agreement to provide a bridge loan to clear the $1.2 billion debt that Sudan owed to the World Bank. The normalization deal with Israel was signed in secret in Khartoum.