Popular demonstrations continue in Sudan to protest against the coup d’état of last October 25, increasing in number and intensity especially in the capital Khartoum.

At the same time the response by the police and the Army is intensifying, and on October 7 has dispersed a demonstration in the popular district of Bourri, in the capital, using tear gas and deploying anti-riot units.

Some 15 people died in the post-coup unrests, while hospitals recorded over 300 injuries, mostly from firearms used by security forces to disperse demonstrations.

The military government authorities have thus been subjected to enormous internal social pressure, accompanied by an increasingly intense international diplomatic activity, which has seen the envoys of the European Union and the United States, as well as those of numerous international organizations, visit the country and the region.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has thus started an intense mediation with the civilian components of the deposed government, and in particular with former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who said he was willing to form a new transitional government, provided he could select the top political figures to be appointed in the new executive.

It is not an easy mediation, made even more complex by internal differences within the same security apparatus, where General al-Burhan paradoxically represents the most moderate and dialogue-oriented wing of the complex Sudanese military system.

The most radical wing of the military apparatus – and in fact the one that bears the heaviest responsibility for the coup of October 25 – is represented by the militia of the Rapid Support Forces, led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (better known as Hemetti).

The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) were constituted by the deposed dictator Omar al-Bashir with the specific purpose of managing the bloody war in Darfur, where they were responsible for crimes that have been worth the referral of Omar al-Bashir himself before the International Criminal Court.

To date, the RSF have managed to escape almost unscathed from the multiple accusations of human rights crimes against them, although their responsibilities are well known in Sudan.

By virtue of this bleak reputation, the civilian component of the previous transitional government, and in particular the former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, had set as a condition for the transition process the dissolution of the RSF and their partial integration within the regular armed forces, so as to dilute their risk potential and favor the gradual exit of the most controversial figures.

For this very reason, however, General Dagalo tried from day one to undermine the capacity of the civilian components of the transitional government, with a view to promoting a military-led coup d’état that could restore the prerogatives of the exercise of power, once again firmly in the hands of the Army.

General Dagalo, however, underestimated popular sentiments, not understanding how Sudanese society had by now metabolized the process of democratic transition, considering it an irreversible stage in the process of development of the country.

The continuous protests in Khartoum and in the main cities of the country, together with the growing pressure of the international community, therefore, pushed General al-Burhan to undertake a path of negotiation with the deposed civil authorities, in direct opposition to the most radical military wing, represented by General Dagalo and the interests of his RSF.

The Rapid Support Forces, in fact, are responsible for more than half of the approximately 300 public companies directly controlled by the armed forces system. An industrial conglomerate capable of generating huge profits, of which General Dagalo is one of the main beneficiaries.

Lastly, the interweaving of international interests revolving around the different components of the Sudanese political fabric is no less complex. The civilian government led by Abdalla Hamdok had maintained cordial relations with Russia and China, with a view to developing a balanced role for the United States in the complex matrix of the country’s economic interests. The opening to the possibility of granting naval bases and port infrastructures to both Moscow and Beijing has, however, progressively alienated Washington’s sympathies from Abdalla Hamdok, even though it in no way supported the military coup of last October 25.

General al-Burhan’s political line has instead been set to respect diplomatic balances with the United States, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The United States is the economic guarantor of Sudan’s new political course, and only through Washington the country can benefit from a reduction in foreign debt and financial aid – now suspended – from the International Monetary Fund. Egypt, on the other hand, looks to General al-Burhan as the most solid political backbone on which to build Cairo’s anti-Ethiopian strategy, with the aim of forcing Addis Ababa to define a binding agreement on the management of the GERD dam. The relationship with Saudi Arabia is, instead, built on economic aid and on the mediation capacity offered by Riyadh to the government of Sudan on the regional level, compensating above all the Emirati activism.

General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, on the other hand, is notoriously linked to the United Arab Emirates, which in Sudan – as elsewhere – pursue the strategy of consolidating power around key figures in the military administration, as well as looking with interest at the possibility of entering into the management of local port infrastructures.


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