Updated: February 25, 2021
Sudan, a country of about 40 million people in north Africa, is on the brink of disaster.
Dictator Omar al-Bashir was forced out of office on April 11 after three decades in power following street protests that lasted months.
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The protests gained traction last December when demonstrators took to the streets over food prices.
The anti-government demonstrations quickly morphed into a wider movement against Bashir who took power in 1989 in a bloodless coup.
American officials believe that Bashir, who harbored Islamist terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, in the 1990s, devastated Sudan and destabilized the wider region in the decades since.
He waged a long brutal civil war in the country’s south until South Sudan gained its independence in 2011, and more recently sent child soldiers to fight in Saudi Arabia’s conflict in Yemen.
The International Criminal Court even issued a warrant against Bashir in 2009 for war crimes and genocide for his role in the violence that overtook Sudan’s Darfur region.
But just as he held on to power for three decades, he evaded accountability on the global stage until he was forced out of office in April this year.
After al-Bashir’s fall, the Transitional Military Council or TMC seized power temporarily, promising to return it as quickly as possible to a civilian government.
However, after weeks of negotiations with activists in Khartoum, the military became comfortable in power and on June 3 fighters from the Rapid Support Forces began shooting protesters and medical workers with live ammunition.
At least 100 people were said to have been killed with about 40 bodies dumped in the Nile river.
With the mass killings, demonstrators in Khartoum suspended talks with the TMC and launched mass strikes in the weeks following.
The African Union also suspended Sudan, and the United States, the United Kingdom and Norway known as Troika issued a joint statement condemning the attacks on civilians and warning that Sudan may be on the brink of chaos.
However, this week, security forces continued to kill civilians.
The TMC is said to have the backing of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
There is now growing international concern that Sudan’s crisis could deteriorate into a civil war, especially if infighting breaks out within the TMC.
“The TMC’s clear constituency is not in Sudan but in Cairo, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi,” Alan Boswell, senior analyst for South Sudan at the International Crisis Group was quoted as saying.
Reports say the most powerful figure in Khartoum among the TMC leaders is Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
Known as Hemeti, Dagalo leads the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary.
“Hemeti’s forces have essentially assumed control of the capital, and groups of RSF fighters now roam the capital looking for opposition members and protesters who have gone into hiding amid fears of violence,” the Huffington Post reported on Saturday.
The newspaper added that “Hemeti’s RSF militia largely consists of former Janjaweed fighters, which for years under Bashir led a horrific government-backed campaign of mass killings and sexual violence in the western Darfur region of the country”.
“Janjaweed fighters committed rampant war crimes as they targeted non-Arab tribes in Darfur, while the Sudanese military supported their atrocities with the aerial bombing of villages. Between 200,000 to 300,000 people were killed, and millions were displaced in what the United Nations described as a genocide,” Huffington Post added.
It said “Hemeti was a Janjaweed commander before assuming leadership of the RSF, and more recently his forces have been sent to Yemen to aid the Saudi-led intervention there. As a result, Hemeti has gained powerful patrons and become an influential player in Sudan’s politics”.
“There’s now a giant Hemeti problem in Sudan because it’s difficult to see how you move on with him,” Boswell said. “But it’s difficult to see how to move on without him because he’s grown too large.
“As head of the RSF, Hemeti has received the backing of Saudi Arabia and in May met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, that country’s de facto ruler, in Riyadh. Meanwhile, the other figures in the TMC, including leader of the Sudanese army Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, also continue to receive support from the Saudis, United Arab Emirates and Egypt despite widespread reports of rights abuses”.