During an interview in early August, the deputy chairman of Sudan’s Sovereign Transitional Council, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemetti,” made some comments on the current situation in the country, arguing how the military regime has in fact failed to bring about the long-awaited change. Protests continue, and are generating casualties, the international financial system has suspended aid to the country, fueling an unprecedented economic crisis, and violence has returned to southern regions.
Rather than a critique of the military’s role in the merits of what has been done since last October to date, what has been expressed by General Dagalo during his interview with Africa News appeared more like a critique of what the military has not yet done, and that is to restore order and prevent the country from plunging into chaos.
The chairman of the Sovereign Transitional Council, General al-Burhan, announced in recent days the imminent formation of a civilian government and the promise of general elections for June 2023, claiming that he has no intention of running for office and pursuing political interests.
In the interview with General Dagalo, Africa News reporter asked the vice president if he intended to run in the upcoming elections, cashing in on the general’s silence, who then commented by claiming that he had no political ambitions but was “ready to intervene should Sudan plunge into the abyss” (https://www.africanews.com/2022/08/02/sudan-the-putsch-failed-says-paramilitary-general-hemedti/).
While protests show no signs of abating in intensity, however, the Khartoum Criminal Court announced on August 3 the release of three political figures from the Resistance Committees, including Saif al-Islam Essam, who was arrested last May and subjected to torture, according to his lawyers (https://sudantribune.com/article262278/).
Other scandals and court cases, however, continue to fuel Sudan’s political news. On July 28, Sudanese authorities issued an international arrest warrant against Salah Abdallah Mohamed Saleh Gosh, former director of intelligence during the time of President Omar al-Bashar’s regime, and now a resident of Egypt. Gosh is accused of illegally exercising his powers to obtain $50 million from the former owner of Tarco Aviation, Fadl Mohamed Kir, whom he allegedly then had arrested in 2018 and later released only after he obtained the sale of shares in the air transport company (https://sudantribune.com/article262030/).
Further embarrassment for the Sudanese government was caused by the news, reported by the U.S.-based CNN, that Russia – with the collusion of some government politicians – had illegally exported tons of gold from the country to finance its unstable economy and the continuation of the conflict in Ukraine (https://edition.cnn.com/2022/07/29/africa/sudan-russia-gold-investigation-cmd-intl/index.html).
A full-fledged “manhunt” – as CNN called it – has reportedly been launched by Sudanese authorities to identify the sources who leaked the news to American journalists (https://edition.cnn.com/2022/07/31/africa/sudan-protests-military-rule-intl-hnk/index.html), as suspicions for the operation increasingly converge around the controversial figure of General Dagalo, known to be the military junta member closest to Russia.
Positions with respect to the U.S., China and Russia within the military junta continue to differ, for many reasons. General al-Burhan has tried to maintain a pragmatic profile with Washington, ignoring Russian demands related to the opening of a naval base on the Red Sea and remaining cautious about the prospects of a strengthened relationship with Moscow and Beijing, with the primary intent of not hindering the disbursement of International Monetary Fund financial aid, which was then suspended after last October’s coup anyway.
On the contrary, General Dagalo manifestly advocates the need for a more solid and intense relationship with Russia – cemented also by a recent trip to Moscow of no less than ten days – and a growth in relations with China, cultivating the ambition of not having to integrate the Rapid Support Forces placed under his command within the Armed Forces’ apparatus, and, through this autonomy of his militias, continue to exercise a central role in both the political and economic spheres of the country.
The result, therefore, is a manifestation of the government’s official foreign policy positions that is very often contradictory and conflicting. The recent announcement at the end of July of the appointment of a new U.S. ambassador to Khartoum, John Godfrey, after 25 years of absence of U.S. diplomacy from the country (the reopening in Khartoum and Port Sudan of the U.S. cultural center was also announced on August 2), is undoubtedly an important sign of thawing with a part of the country’s political and military authorities, although not shared as much by a part of the opposition forces as by some bangs of the military apparatus, and primarily General Dagalo and his Rapid Support Forces militias.
Not that surprising in this context of strong political polarization, then, is the August 3 announcement by Foreign Minister Ali al-Sadiq regarding the Taiwan issue and the trip of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island. The minister reiterated Sudan’s support for China and full agreement with Beijing’s reasons on the Taiwan issue, but made no particular comments on the U.S. mission (https://sudantribune.com/article262292/).