What are the possible scenarios in a post–conflict Sudan?

Staff Writer

The history of wars teaches us that wars begin with specific parties and goals, but they reach different endings, and the parties themselves may change, with new factors and agendas coming into play. When the war began in Sudan on April 15, 2023, regardless of who initiated it, both sides may have envisioned it as a short excursion, quickly achieving its goals. Perhaps the ambitions behind the war were limited, but they expanded and changed with the passage of days and developments.

As for the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), they claim to have been attacked by the army and responded to this attack in self-defense. However, they have certainly expanded in the fighting, which seems to have been fully prepared for. They have achieved significant victories, gaining control of large areas of the capital, important sovereign, strategic, and military sites. They currently have full control of 4 Darfur states and parts North Darfur and parts of Greater Kordofan, expanding to areas in central Sudan. These victories and gains have tempted them to expand further, pushing them to continue in battles and open new fronts.

As for the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), which accused the RSF of attempting to seize power through a military coup, no one imagined they would fail to defeat RSF and eliminate their main strength within a few days. It was believed that the presence of the (RSF) in strategic areas in the capital and in residential areas would increase the losses, perhaps temporarily halting the decisive battle for days, but in the end, SAF would prevail. However, the reality was the opposite. The Rapid Support Forces succeeded in attacking the general command, destroying parts of it, and seizing strategic areas such as the Republican Palace and Khartoum Airport, then most areas and neighborhoods of the capital. SAF suffered significant defeats, losing many fortifications and strategic positions.

During mid-December, the RSF expanded and took control of the Jazeera State and its capital, Medani, while the army withdrew without fighting, consolidating its presence in central Sudan.

Throughout this period, many attempts were made to stop the fighting through negotiations. Numerous initiatives were presented, and three rounds of negotiations took place in Jeddah. Leadership of IGAD intervened and held more than one meeting, and so did the African Union and the United Nations, but to no avail.

Through scanning the current situation, there are several scenarios that could occur, varying in strength, but all are contingent on the developments of events.

Expected Scenarios

First Scenario: Reaching an agreement to cease hostilities and initiating a political dialogue leading to the resumption of the political process

The possibility of a ceasefire in the near future and reaching a binding agreement, followed by the engagement of the warring parties in direct dialogue through regional or international mediation, is highly desirable. However, objective assessments indicate that it remains difficult to achieve. Numerous initiatives have been presented, with the involvement of regional and international mediators, but all these efforts were hampered by the lack of seriousness of the parties involved and the absence of political will. Each party feels that a change in the balance of power is possible in its favor.

In this situation, SAF leaders and their supporters believe that it is necessary to continue the war until conditions on the ground change in their favor, allowing them to impose their conditions. Opportunities have also arisen for political Islamist groups affiliated with the previous regime, which had approached the army leadership during the military coup in October 2021. They provided political support to the army leadership, along with military support in the form of battalions of fighters affiliated with the organization, including the “EL-Buraa ibn Malik Battalion.” By entering the battle, this group has become a partner in the political decision-making based on calculations of political interest.

These groups have been ousted from direct power calculations since the changes that occurred after the popular revolution on April 11, 2019. They stood in opposition to the transitional government and became active after the military coup against the transitional period. This group sees the war as an opportunity to regain its influence and power, and the longer the war lasts, the greater its chances. Therefore, it does everything it can to thwart all negotiations aimed at reaching a peaceful solution to end the war.

There are also regional and international powers with direct interests in the continuation of the war. Some want the side they support to prevail and secure their interests in looting Sudan’s resources, while others want to fragment Sudan into weak states that are easy to control and can be annexed by countries with ambitions in that regard.

While the difficulties of this scenario have been mentioned earlier, what works in its favor is that it is the only viable scenario for resolving the crisis. This is an agreement shared by all, including regional and international powers working in the field of mediation, such as the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, and the IGAD, in addition to the United States, Saudi Arabia, and neighboring countries of Sudan.

For these reasons, the scenario of reaching an agreement to cease hostilities and then initiating the political process seems challenging but achievable with more serious efforts and pressure at the current time. Working to significantly change the situation, bringing the two parties to a stage of balanced weakness, with increasing practical international pressure on both parties and the supporting countries in terms of finance and weaponry, becomes crucial.

Second Scenario: International Intervention Mandated by International Decisions

This scenario is based on the assumption of not reaching any peaceful solution or agreement to cease fire, leading to an increase in humanitarian suffering through displacement, refuge, and the absence of all service institutions, including hospitals and treatment centers, as is currently happening in some cities, and also indications of famine in many areas and the spread of chaos everywhere, threatening regional stability.

In such a case, international intervention under international decisions, based on Article 7 of the United Nations Charter, may seem inevitable and perhaps the only option. The choice could be full international forces, or the adoption of an African forces option, as suggested by the Roadmap of the Governmental Development Agency (IGAD), with international support in the form of financial, logistical, and expertise assistance. It is known that Article 7 can be applied without resorting to the concerned state or conflicting parties.

This scenario appears to be deferred for now, perhaps awaiting the results of the meeting between the army commander General Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces commander General Hemeti, and the fate of proposals from the IGAD organization.

However, this option faces many difficulties. It is evident that major powers are reluctant and unprepared to be directly involved in such intervention, given their engagements in the wars in Gaza and Ukraine and their previous failed experiences in several countries. If things worsen and voices from inside and outside Sudan rise, calling for international intervention, the only feasible option may be to support African forces that will intervene with international decisions and financial and logistical support.

It must be noted that such intervention may face internal opposition, possibly reaching the stage of military operations against international forces and inciting people against them using religious or populist slogans.

Third Scenario: Victory of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Repelling the RSF in Khartoum and Other States

Power dynamics can change during battles for various reasons, and the position of one of the warring parties may shift from weakness to strength.

The current position of SAF seems weak. Since the beginning of the war, it has lost many sovereign, military, and strategic sites, as well as states in Darfur and parts of Kordofan. The army relies on the Air Force and drones, which partially fill the significant void resulting from the lack of effective infantry forces due to a severe shortage in its ranks, lack of training in urban warfare, and the absence of necessary weapons and equipment.

The success of the armed forces depends on several factors, including their ability to recruit and train large numbers of volunteers quickly. These volunteers should be accepted individually, with their loyalty lying with the army and the nation, without allegiance to any political Ideology. This ensures a broad social support for them. Additionally, the armed forces need significant financial and military support in the form of diverse weapons and ammunition. They also require stopping the continuous supply to the Rapid Support Forces through international pressure on supporting countries. Furthermore, the Sudanese army needs the capability to cut internal supply lines and border crossings with neighboring countries.

This scenario seems unlikely at the present time due to the lack of tangible indicators. The Rapid Support Forces (SAF) continue to expand their operations  operations in the Central region, Aljazeera State, gaining control of the entire area east and west of the Blue Nile, including the capital of the region, Medani, along with dozens of cities and villages..

This scenario will only materialize if the conditions mentioned earlier are met.

Fourth Scenario: Victory of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Occupation of the Remaining Regions and Strongholds of SAF

This is also one of the expected scenarios in the minds of many people, especially considering the significant progress achieved by the RSF every day. In practical terms, the RSF control large parts of the capital, and they expand in western andcentral Sudan. There are possibilities of their expansion in the north and east of the country.

The military performance of the RSF appears unexpectedly impressive. Initially, calculations suggested that they had trained infantry forces with experience in fighting in Darfur and South Kordofan. However, they were facing an army consisting of various weapons, including air force, armored vehicles, artillery, paratroopers, in addition to multiple military academies and war industries behind them. All these capabilities indicated that the Sudanese army could defeat the RSF in a short period, even though the cost would be severe, as most battles would take place inside the capital, Khartoum.

Regardless of the debate about who initiated the war on April 15, the RSF surprised observers by gaining control of most strategic locations in the capital within the first three days, such as Khartoum Airport, the Republican Palace, parts of the General Command, and most neighborhoods of the capital’s three cities. They then expanded into other states andextended their control to multiple areas in central Sudan.

The extreme weakness of the Sudanese army have become evident, especially in terms of infantry and urban warfare capability, which requires speed movement and maneuverability, and this is where the RSF excelled.Top of Form

However, the significant military advancement of the Rapid Support Forces has not been accompanied by evidence of their ability to govern the country and gain the trust of Sudanese citizens. The Rapid Support Forces committed large-scale looting and plundering operations, along with killings in the areas they occupied. They were also accused of rape and sexual violence, as well as ethnic cleansing in western Darfur.

The tribal and ethnic composition of the RSF, especially at the leadership level, poses a barrier to acceptance in areas outside their traditional influence, especially in some regions of Darfur. There are also doubts about the ability of the RSF to control their forces. They couldn’t do so within the capital, making it difficult for them to control forces spread across the vast expanse of Sudan. Another problem is the varying motivations, experiences, and commitment of the fighters who joined the RSF after 15 April 2023, without formal training, and were primarily motivated by the loot they could seize from the homes of citizens, stores, banks, and government buildings.

Due to the absence of any political vision or programs and the lack of trained and politically experienced personnel, the Rapid Support Forces have failed to gain any depth or popular support in the areas under their control. They have struggled to manage these areas and provide appropriate services to citizens. As a result, these areas are witnessing significant displacement to neighboring regions. Citizens in areas controlled by the Rapid Support Forces treat them as a de facto government without giving them any kind of trust or support. Furthermore, the expansion of forces in large, distant areas makes control extremely challenging.

If the practices of the RSF continue, it is certain that popular resistance movements with a different nature from known armed movements will emerge. These movements will likely rely on youth resistance committees and neighborhood committees that are currently organizing themselves into emergency committees providing services to the remaining population.

The Rapid Support Forces also face a lack of acceptance from many regional and international powers due to the massive record of violations committed by them. Moreover, some of these countries are concerned about the model of the unruly tribal militia represented by the RSF.

In summary, a complete victory for the Rapid Support Forces, if it occurs, does not necessarily mean the rule of the RSF in Sudan, but rather another situation closer to total chaos.

Fifth Scenario: Continuation of the Current Situation with Each Party Holding onto its Territories and Cities, and Prolongation of the War

Many countries have experienced the prolongation of war, with different groups controlling specific areas, leading to a general calm except for sporadic clashes that do not significantly change the situation on the ground. The country becomes divided in terms of power, and sometimes a state’s authority is declared in a part occupied by a military force, either officially or de facto. This has been the reality in Somalia for a long time, and it is currently happening in Syria and Libya.

Achieving this scenario depends on several factors. Firstly, the warring parties reach a state of exhaustion and a balance of weakness, contenting themselves with what they have, adopting a defensive stance and responding only if attacked. Then, efforts for mediation and finding peaceful solutions cease after prolonged attempts reveal the lack of willingness and political commitment among the parties. Following this, regional and international efforts shift attention to other issues, leaving the dominant powers and population groups in different parts of the country to return to a state closer to normal life. This involves monopolizing solutions to their daily life problems and the return of some semblance of work.

The situation in Sudan seems closer to this scenario after the Rapid Support Forces occupied most cities and regions of Darfur during the months of October and November 2023. Given that these forces are primarily from Darfur, there was a belief that they would primarily entrench themselves in Darfur, with a symbolic presence in the capital. The SAF itself seemed content with the areas under its control, and the entire government relocated to the coastal city of Port Sudan. However, the expansion of Rapid SAF troops into central Sudan, their occupation of the Butana region east of the Blue Nile, reaching the city of Medani, the capital of Jazeera State, may have sparked their appetite. It is clear that they now aspire to reach northern and eastern Sudan by occupying El-Gedaref, thereby controlling the national highway and besieging Port Sudan, the current capital. If they expand north, they will suffocate the the River Nile state and the Northern State.

This scenario seems unlikely at the moment unless the balance of power changes, and the army manages to recapture these areas from the Rapid Support Forces or, at the very least, stops their expansion into new regions and repels them with significant force. Only then might the Rapid Support Forces consider retaining what they have and maintaining the current situation..

Sixth Scenario: Total Chaos

This scenario entails the continuation of the war, with the armed parties losing control, and the emergence of other armed groups. These groups may result from defections within the warring parties or new local movements taking control of other areas of the country. In this case, the war will not be between those two parties, but rather a proliferation of conflicting parties, with a mix of political, tribal, and regional groups.

This scenario seems plausible as the war persists, and armed groups have already formed within the warring factions. Regarding the Rapid Support Forces, they include organized soldiers within the force who have received reasonable training. However, during the war, tribal militia groups joined them, bringing tribal combat experience gained in Darfur and other regions. The danger lies in the presence of these locally popularized groups known as “Kasabah” or those fighting for gains. They rely on looting and plundering as what they consider legitimate spoils of war, having no political goals or affiliations. They significantly contribute to tarnishing the image of the RSF with the large-scale violations they commit. If RSF attempt to control or hold these groups accountable, they might defect and declare themselves as a separate entity. Additionally, areas in Darfur and Kordofan, and the Blue Nile, could witness armed movements breaking away from the RSF within regional or tribal boundaries.

As for the Sudanese army SAF, there is significant discontent among the soldiers and junior officers due to neglect, and protests among senior ranks against the management of the army, battles, and the increasing influence of Islamists. Accusations of conspiracy and betrayal have grown since the RSF took over the city of Medani.

Islamic Movement battalions are present within the army, but their leadership is in the hands of members belonging to the same movement. Their literature, composition, and loyalties differ from the army, making them potential rebels against the army leadership and any breakaway leadership within it.

Moreover, there are regions, like eastern Sudan, that have experienced armed activity before or tribal armed conflicts, and the situation there is still threatened with an intensive spread of weapons. These regions may attempt to determine their fate by having armed groups take control, claiming protection and presenting themselves as an independent force or an ally to one of the warring parties.

If this situation occurs, it will lead to total chaos, similar to what happened in other countries, such as Somalia in the 1980s and 1990s, from which it took a long time to emerge.

Written by Staff Writer

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