World in View: Sudanese killed by feuding generals

June 14, 2023

From the May-June 2023 issue of News & Letters

by Eugene Walker

Sudanese masses resist coup, October 2021. Photo: Thomas van Linge

Two Sudanese generals—Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) on one side and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, “Hemedti,” with his militia, known as the RSF (Rapid Support Forces) on the other—are sending their soldiers against each other in the capital, Khartoum, making the city’s masses fair game to be bombed, shot, and forced to flee. Hundreds have been killed since the fighting erupted on April 16; thousands upon thousands have been displaced in the generals’ struggle to rule the country.

This is not the first time that they have used their armed might to murder and terrorize Sudan’s people. Both were participants in the military dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan with a mailed fist for three decades. Joshua Craze wrote in the New Left Review: “Each of these forces built up its own economic empire. The Sudanese military ran construction firms, mining services, and banks, while the RSF took control of gold mining and lucrative mercenary services.” Hemedti played a leading role in the genocide in the Darfur region, where his militia slaughtered non-Arab rebels, who had risen in opposition to the brutal al-Bashir dictatorship.


Only after months of tremendous mass protests and civic unrest taking in every segment of the population including the impoverished, women and youth spread across the country in 2018 and the beginning of 2019, did these two al-Bashir loyalists join with security forces and other militia to stage a palace coup to oust al-Bashir.

But they kept themselves and the whole corrupt political-economic structure in power. These two generals and the military as a whole sought to transform into opposite a Sudanese revolutionary process midstream, keeping the military as the dominant power.

However, the civilian movement continued, including organizing a sit-in in front of the military headquarters. After weeks of trying to wait out the protesters, the Sudanese army and Hemedti’s militia joined forces to attack the sit-in on the third of June, killing some 200.

Still the protests continued. On June 30, the 30th anniversary of Bashir coming to power, a million people marched against the junta. The mass movement from below and some international pressure forced the military to supposedly agree to a military-civilian transition to eventual full civilian rule. But soon the military, with the blessings of Hemedti and Burhan, staged another coup in October 2021, installing full military rule.

Now, Burhan and Hemedti have fallen out and begun an armed conflict against each other on April 16, with Khartoum’s millions caught in the middle.

It was, and is, that Sudanese revolution-in-the-making that both armed factions fear and have worked to suppress. In the months since the October 2021 coup, and even more so with the outbreak of fighting this past April, the various international actors, small powers and large, who have sought to “mediate,” have focused their efforts on the two generals and their armies.

Those who have been ignored and pushed aside have been the civilian activists, who, with the Sudanese masses, have fought for genuine democracy and self-determination. No cease-fire or “peace” without their full participation will be worth the piece of paper it will be written on.

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