Africa We Want

Next Africa: Proxy war in Sudan

Welcome to Next Africa, a twice-weekly newsletter on where the continent stands now — and where it’s headed. The battle in Sudan risks becoming a proxy war, dragging in neighboring states and world powers. That would be in nobody’s interest. Par Bloomberg

There was intense fighting around the army headquarters on Tuesday, with focus moving from the airport after a night of sporadic gunfire and explosions.

Smoke billows above residential buildings in Khartoum. Source: AFP/Getty Images

The conflict has torn up plans to return to civilian rule as Sudan’s army led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan battles the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group, under Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti.

It threatens nearby states like South Sudan which exports oil through its northern neighbor, and the interests of Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

War would disrupt Russian mercenary group Wagner’s gold operations, plans by UAE companies to construct ports and China’s investments in Sudan, including more than $6 billion in loans. Refugees could flee across borders.

“It’s a country whose crisis will not be contained within,” said Murithi Mutiga, program director for Africa at International Crisis Group. “You need a cease-fire quickly or you are staring at civil war.”

Both sides have backers. Egypt’s military carried out exercises with Sudanese forces earlier this month. Separately, both countries oppose an Ethiopian dam on a Nile tributary and Egypt threatened military action against.

The UAE sees Hemedti as a bulwark against Sudanese Islamists and his forces have fought alongside Wagner and the army of neighboring Central African Republic against rebels. They’ve won favor with UAE and Saudi Arabia by battling those nations’ opponents in Yemen.

But Sudan is vast and in a troubled neighborhood, with Ethiopia emerging from a devastating civil war and Libya wracked by conflict. There’s little appetite for prolonged conflict.

“There are people who would be concerned to see the RSF lose but no one wants to see the armed forces collapse,” Mutiga said.

Author: MANZI


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