On December 8, the president of the National Transitional Council of Sudan, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, said that the entire al-Fashaga region returned under the control of the Sudanese armed forces, after the intense fighting of the previous week against the federal forces of Ethiopia and their allied Amhara militias.
According to General al-Burhan, 16 Sudanese soldiers lost their lives during the clashes, while “dozens” of enemy soldiers were killed and hundreds wounded during the fighting.
The Ethiopian government news agency has instead accused Sudan of supporting the Tigray rebels, and of being involved in the Ethiopian civil conflict by providing shelter, assistance and supplies to the TDF militias. Accusations firmly denied by the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on December 9, which, through its government news agency has rejected any charge from Addis Ababa, calling unfounded allegations of having hosted and trained the units of Tigrayan’s TDF.
Only the previous day General al-Burhan had commented at the microphones of the national radio complaining about international interference in the domestic politics of Sudan, saying that a large number of foreign diplomats would be engaged in an attempt to influence the dynamics of the political process in place, with the risk of destabilizing the country.
While not accusing them explicitly, General al-Burhan pointed the finger at the interference of foreign diplomats in the crisis process that has seen the multiplication of the activity of opposition groups, which oppose any role of the military after the coup of October 25.
On December 6 a new wave of protests had brought to the streets of Khartoum and other cities of the country a large number of demonstrators, then dispersed by security forces through the use of tear gas and anti-riot units. Large-scale demonstrations were organized simultaneously in the capital, Khartoum, and in the cities of Omduraman, Kassala, Sennar and Port Sudan.
The demonstrators chanted slogans against the leadership of the Sovereign Council of Transition, asking the international community to freeze the financial aid granted to the government of Sudan controlled by the military authorities. According to the opposition formations that do not intend to accept any political compromise with the government forces, it is essential at this stage to delegitimize the Sudanese military and their allied militias, in order to undermine their power and force them to transfer to a civilian government the exercise of political power.
The financial issue represents a crucial element for the stability of the institutions of the Sovereign Council of Transition, which, according to what the Minister of Finance Jibril Ibrahim himself said on December 7, now urgently needs openings, after the freezing last month of 650 million US$ from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, in addition to 700 million US$ from the United States government.
Accusations and slogans are also multiplying against Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, accused by the opposition of having given in to a compromise with the military in order to defend his personal political prerogatives, thus betraying the spirit of the revolution that led to the fall of Omar al-Bashir and the start of the transition process.
In the United States, on the other hand, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on December 9 approved the Sudan Democracy Act, following a resolution condemning the coup of October 25 and imposing targeted sanctions against individuals deemed responsible for preventing the full implementation of the country’s political transition. The measure, which must now be debated and voted on in the House, calls for sanctions including asset freezes and a ban on entry into the United States. A similar measure is also up for a vote in Congress.
The Sudanese issue has determined a deep uncertainty in Washington, where a part of the political system would like to resume the path of collaboration with the prime minister Abdalla Hamdok, even though it intends to reaffirm the blame against the military for what happened as a consequence of the October coup. More pragmatic is the Pentagon, which on the contrary looks with suspicion at Hamdok’s sympathies for China and Russia – and consequently at the possibility of opening military naval bases on the Red Sea – while in terms of the relationship with the military would not like to deteriorate the relationship with General al-Burhan, seen as the only bulwark against the role and interests of General Dagalo and his Rapid Support Forces.
According to the UN special envoy, Volker Perthes, the risk of sanctions is looming and the Sudanese military must understand that it is imperative to adopt a process of rebuilding political trust with the oppositions, and especially with the young Sudanese who felt betrayed by the sudden action of the armed forces last October 25. The process of national reconciliation, according to Perthes, is also necessary to strengthen the international trust that is the basis of commitments for the provision of financial aid.
Tensions are again very high in the Darfur region, moreover, where the Sudanese government deployed on December 7 a contingent of 3,300 soldiers to face a new upsurge of tribal violence.
The deployment was necessary as a result of the impossibility of following up on the Juba agreements between the government and the rebel groups, according to which 12,000 men of a common contingent should have been deployed in Western Sudan to defend the civilian population.
The new contingent, which however represents only a fraction of that foreseen by the peace agreements, will be composed of 1,500 soldiers of the Rapid Support Forces, 1,500 soldiers provided by the armed groups of Darfur and 300 soldiers of the regular Sudanese army, under the command of a general expressed by the Khartoum government. An additional 150-man General Intelligence Service unit will support the contingent, tasked with facilitating the deployment and launch of operations.