THE Sudanese political crisis is gradually acquiring a worrisome dimension, with body count piling up in large numbers.
On Wednesday, June 5, 2019, paramilitary squads, notably the neo-Janjaweed Rapid Support Forces, RSF, trying to quell protests that continued even after the ousting of President Omar Al Bashir’s 30-year regime, opened fire directly on the protesters. Opposition sources claimed over 100 people were killed, while government counter-claimed it was 46 bodies that were pulled out of the River Nile.
This followed the breakdown of talks between the organisers of the protests, Alliance for Freedom and Change, AFC and the Lt-Gen. Abdel Fattah-led Transitional Military Council, TMC, which suddenly threw out the preliminary agreement to set up an inclusive transitional government to run the country for three years before handing over to a democratically-elected government. The TMC had suddenly opted to call elections within three months.
The protesters intensified their demands because they fear that allowing the military to call an election so soon will enable remnants of the Al Bashir regime return to power and thus thwart the Sudan people’s democratic aspirations.
The increased brutality by the TMC towards the people has drawn stiff criticisms from the US and UK governments who warned that officials linked to the atrocities “will be held accountable”. However, no African country or regional group such as the African Union, AU, has raised any serious voice as the Sudan military takes on unarmed civilians with deadly force.
There are fears that if the military succeeds in reinstalling a dictatorship in Sudan, power might fall into the hands of Darfur warlord, General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo (alias “Hemeti”), a former loyalist of Al Bashir who is also the Vice Chairman of the TMC. That would return Sudan to square one.
The bigger and wider implication of the unfolding Sudan conflict is that, as is characteristic of similar events, the main belligerents of the Middle East – Saudi Arabia (with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, UAE, in tow) are already supporting the TMC. Saudi’s arch-rivals – Iran and the Houthi of Yemen are also supporting elements of the protesters who might increasingly turn to armed struggle.
Beyond all these, the Sudan conflict has additional implications for Nigeria’s security. The country shares a lot of geographical, cultural and political links with Northern Nigeria. In fact, the Northern political elite takes a lot of inspiration from Sudanese political experiments for replication in Nigeria.
Secondly, it could worsen the flow of illicit arms and ammunition, and strengthen armed groups in the North such as Boko Haram, herdsmen and the “bandits”.
Nigeria must, therefore, do everything in its power to help ensure the earliest return of peace and stability to Sudan.