AJCS seminar: National consensus is the way to resolve Sudan's conflicts and crises

17 May 2023
From left to right: Rawaa Auge, Hamid Eltigani Ali, Mohamed Suleiman, Abdulfatah Mohamed and Ibrahim Mohamed Zain Abdelwahid. [Al Jazeera]

Sudanese researchers and academics who participated in a seminar under the title, "Sudan's Military Power Struggle: From Crisis to War" anticipate that the Sudanese army will overcome the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in their ongoing battle. However, they maintained that in order this victory to be achieved, the RSF must not receive military support from neighbouring countries. This calculation is based on the RSF’s lack of popular and tribal support, and the fact that the majority of Sudanese view them as rebel forces that loot and destroy.

The participants asserted that Sudan will not experience long-term stability, even after overcoming the current challenge posed by the RSF, unless it is governed by a political elite that operates based on the principles of good governance, like democracy, integrity, transparency and respect for human rights.

They also emphasised that national consensus is the only way for Sudan to overcome its crises, arguing that exclusion and marginalisation based on political affiliation and ideological orientation will only lead to further fragmentation and exhaustion for the country.

The seminar was held by Al Jazeera Centre for Studies and Al Jazeera Mubasher on Thursday, 11 May 2023. The participants were: Hamid Eltigani Ali, Dean of the School of Economics, Administration and Public Policy (SEAPP) at Doha Institute for Graduate Studies; Mohamed Suleiman, writer and political activist; Ibrahim Mohamed Zain Abdelwahid, Professor of Islamic Studies and Comparative Religion at Hamad Bin Khalifa University; and Abdulfatah Mohamed, Head of the Refugee Studies and Humanitarian Action Unit at the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies. The seminar was moderated by Al Jazeera Mubasher presenter Rawaa Auge.

Army’s victory guaranteed unless RSF receive reinforcements

Ali described the situation in Sudan as "not a civil war, but a conflict between a rebel militia and the national army". He stated that "victory is guaranteed for the army unless reinforcements reach the Rapid Support Forces through neighbouring countries."

Ali stressed that the Sudanese people are weary of the wars that have persisted throughout their modern history. Due to the general disposition of the people, which does not favour war, it is crucial to rely on them to end the conflict and restore peace in the country. He also held the "Hamdok and Al-Burhan government" responsible for the current battle between the army and the RSF, and stated that "Sudan has missed multiple opportunities by not considering the proposals of the youth revolution; if they had been taken into account, the situation would be better now."

A national consensus that does not exclude anyone

On his part, Abdelwahid also stated his belief in the Sudanese army's ability to ultimately prevail in the battle. However, he pointed out that this victory does not mean "putting a final end to violence in Sudan" – only the end of verbal violence.

"We need a national and patriotic project that rejects exclusionary voices and leads everyone towards national consensus," Abdelwahid expressed. Regarding the fate of the RSP in the event of the army's victory, he said, "After defeating the Rapid Support Forces, the army should not integrate them into its ranks." He reasoned that integrating "rebel forces" would lead to turmoil within the army, which the country can do without.

The elite and the addiction to failure

In his remarks, Suleiman indicated that the current crisis in Sudan has deep-rooted causes that can be traced back to the early days of independence. He mentioned that the ruling elite at that time was characterised by authoritarianism, looting and exploitation. Furthermore, it did not recognise Sudan's diversity and was unable to manage it effectively.

However, the immediate and proximate causes of the crisis, he said, can be traced back to the beginning of the rule of the National Islamic Front led by Omar al-Bashir that “destroyed basic infrastructure and education, fuelled internal wars and created militias, including the Janjaweed, which later became the Rapid Support Forces.”

Suleiman warned of the humanitarian consequences of the ongoing war and the possibility of its spread to neighbouring countries. He also warned of the danger of terrorist groups taking root in Sudan if the war persists.

On keeping the RSF out of the army, Suleiman said, "If we agree with the view that armed movements should not be integrated into the army, then [we should also agree] on cleansing the army from Muslim Brotherhood elements that infiltrated it in 1989."

On his vision for a solution, Suleiman said, "In the end, there must be national consensus because war is not a solution." However, prior to that, "the leaders of the army and the RSF must be held accountable for the crimes they committed during this war."

War scenarios

In his contribution, Mohamed shed light on the danger of the war in Sudan, cautioning that "its danger will extend to the entire region; and Sudan is likely to become a hotspot for regional and international conflict unless a swift solution is found for it."

He also warned of the possibility of the spread of the conflict to neighbouring countries "that already suffer from political and security problems", such as Libya, South Sudan and Ethiopia. He added that "Sudan is at risk of becoming a 'new Somalia'."

Moreover, Mohamed discussed three scenarios that the current Sudanese crisis could lead to. The first scenario is that the conflict reaches a state of exhaustion, and both parties to the conflict realise that the losses they have incurred outweigh the gains they have achieved, leading them to end the fighting. The second scenario is that the two parties reach an agreement, even if it does not garner popular support. The third scenario involves replacing the current leaderships of both the army and the RSF, which could potentially bring an end to the fighting.

Like his counterparts, Mohamed underscored that a "national dialogue involving all forces" is a way out of the Sudanese crisis, provided that the necessary conditions and guarantees are put in place for its success and it has international support.