Sudan: Civil war and the risk of involvement by neighboring countries


On Saturday, April 15, an armed confrontation broke out between the Sudanese Army and the RSF (Rapid Support Forces) paramilitary groups. On one side of the conflict is Abdel Fattah al Burhan (former ally of the dictator Al-Bashir who ruled for 30 years) and on the other is Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemeti, who was one of those responsible for the genocide in Darfur that has left 400,000 people dead and two million refugees.

The conflict between these two poles is not solely about a dispute over the leadership of the country, as the mainstream press has tried to show. Likewise, whether there will be a merger or incorporation of the Sudanese Army with the RSF paramilitaries is not at issue.

Linked to more global problems, this conflict is the expression of the imperialist crisis that has provoked territorial and geopolitical disputes. It is about who controls gold, oil, and above all wars and revolutions. It is a dispute that starts in Sudan but is closely linked to the Sahel countries, which directly affect the interests of French and U.S. imperialism, as well as China and Russia.

This article seeks to raise some questions pertinent to this intricate interplay of interests.

Al-Burhan vs. Hemeti or National Army vs Janjawid Militias – Rapid Support Forces (RSF)

The current President Burhan, a general in the Sudanese army, entered politics and initially positioned himself against the dictatorship of his friend Al-Bashir. He later went on to support the civilian conciliation government and finally led the coup d’état that placed him in the presidency.

The self-proclaimed General Mohamed “Hemeti” Hamdan Dagalo, vice president of the military junta in power since the coup of October 2021, was responsible for unifying the militias in the Darfur Region. He created the paramilitary group Janjawid, which is one of the main militias responsible for the genocide in Darfur. There is another aspect to consider: the population of Darfur is largely composed of non-Arab Muslims and Hemeti is an Arab Muslim. That is why there is talk of ethnic cleansing since there is racism by Africans of Arab origin against other black Africans.

Al-Burhan and Hemeti: tactical partners and strategic enemies.

In 2018, a series of mobilizations began that toppled the dictator Al-Bashir, who had been in power for 30 years. After the fall of Al-Bashir, the Transitional Military Council took over. The masses, who were already in the streets, continued to fight for the real democratization of the country. On June 3, 2019, the masses occupied the square in front of the Sudan Armed Forces Headquarters demanding the end of the new military government; the reaction came from Hemeti’s RSF who intervened and carried out a violent massacre with more than 100 protesters killed. It was reported that some of the dead appeared floating in the Nile River. Al-Burhan and Hemeti participated together in this carnage.

The repression deepened the mobilization, which, between June 9 and 11, 2019, held a three-day general strike. Faced with the impossibility of continuing to govern, the Transitional Military Council negotiated with the Sudanese Professionals’ Association and the Communist Party in order to establish a new government, which was called the Transitional Sovereignty Council. The Council was to be composed of military and civilians. For the first 21 months, the presidency would be held by the military and the other 18 months by civilians, thus giving the Council two major tasks. The first was to calm the mass movement and, the other was to democratize the country.

However, during the period in which the prime minister led the Transitional Sovereignty Council, the civilian Abdalla Hamdok implemented certain policies with the following characteristics: “A series of reforms were carried out that resulted in the United States removing Sudan from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism; banning Female Genital Mutilation (FGM); repealing laws that prevented free religious choice; and signing a peace agreement with rebel groups. These cosmetic reforms, i.e., on the surface, only served to create the illusion that the country was changing. In fact, the Sovereign Council, with the support of the U.S. and the EU, took extremely conservative measures, such as the privatization of the ports, the sale of land to foreigners, and the expulsion of those living on it. They also allowed inflation to exceed 400% per month, food shortages, and oversaw the total capitulation to imperialism by renegotiating the foreign debt, establishing relations with the state of Israel, and agreeing to pay compensation of US$335 million for the victims of the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya”[1].

Thus, it can be seen that the government of the Transitional Sovereignty Council was more neoliberal than the Al-Bashir government itself.

With this political-economic framework, workers returned to the streets with major strikes in 2020. Those who participated included workers from the Kenana Sugar Company, Sennar dam workers, education workers, and refugees from Zamzam camp, in addition to numerous weekly mobilizations known as the Million People Marches.

Faced with the uncontrollable mass movement, in October 2021, Al-Burhan and Hemeti got together and staged a new coup d’état. Leading analysts saw that this unity would not last: “General Al-Burhan and his vice ‘Hemeti’ form a duo that holds together the regime currently at the helm of Sudan. On paper, they have nothing in common. Al-Burhan is a career soldier, while Hemeti is a militiaman-turned-politician. Yet they have been in power together for more than two years … a relationship in which the slightest problem could result in the derailment of Sudan.”[2]

… and Sudan derailed

The editorial of the Africa Intelligence newspaper published in one of its articles that “the smallest blip could derail Sudan.” And the country began to derail in the negotiations for the merger of the Sudanese Armed Forces with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Initially, the merger was negotiated; then the RSF demanded incorporation. However, it is necessary to emphasize that “merger” or “incorporation” is not a mere play on words or military categories. Behind it were important material interests, as we will discuss below.

Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces: Big Business and Competing Interests

The Sudanese Armed Forces have close business dealings with China. Oil exploration, refining, and transportation are industries with significant Chinese involvement in association with Sudanese military-controlled companies and ministries. The Khartoum Refinery Company, also known as the “Pearl of the African Continent” for its advanced technology and productivity, is a joint venture between the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the China National Petroleum Corporation—CNPC, in which each has a 50% stake. China National Petroleum Corporation-CNPC has 95% ownership of The Khartoum Petrochemical Co. while the Ministry of Mines and Energy has 5%. The CNODC Petrochemical Trading Co. is owned by CNPC and controls service stations and petroleum derivative depots. In addition, China has been building oil and gas pipelines in the country [3].

Hemeti’s Rapid Support Forces have participated in gold exploration in all stages of the production process, starting with ethnic cleansing and the occupation of land for mining, exploration, transportation (legal and illegal), in the protection of gold prospectors, and in the smuggling, sale, and delivery of gold to the international market.

Hemeti has very close ties to the Wagner Group operating in the neighboring Central African Republic, protecting dictator Faustin-Archange Touadéra and ensuring the illegal exploitation and transport of gold and diamonds.

Hemeti, since the times of the Janjawids militia, has controlled the Darfur region bordering the Central African Republic and the Republic of Chad. Thus, his Rapid Support Force, together with the Wagner Group, operate in the Central African Republic.

With the excuse that CAR rebel groups could penetrate into Sudanese territory, in December 2022, Hemeti announced the closure of the border between the two countries. In fact, dictator Touadéra and Hemeti made an informal agreement for RSF troops to intervene in three regions of the Central African Republic, in particular in the gold-producing regions of Vakaga, Haute-Kotto, and Bamingui-Bangoran. In essence, it was a three-way agreement between Touadéra, the Wagner Group, and Hemeti.

The Republic of Chad borders Darfur in Sudan. This border is controlled by the militias of the Hemeti Rapid Support Force. In Chad, since the death of Idriss Déby in 2021, France has been attempting to maintain colonial control by placing Idriss’ son, General Mahamat Idriss Déby, as president of the Republic. Mahamat’s appointment as president upset the country’s military hierarchy and led to the division of the military forces and a recent coup attempt. There are reports of Hemeti’s involvement with military groups opposed to Mahamat Idriss Déby’s government.

Sudan: serious risk of civil war and involvement of neighboring countries

For some time now, we have been witnessing an intensification of the dispute over minerals in the Sahel region. In this dispute, France has been losing ground in its colonial relations and as a result, has been creating the conditions for the entry of other countries in mining and oil exploitation. There is already a strong Chinese presence in Sudan; Russia is occupying the spaces that France has not been able to control, and the U.S. and European Union are trying to curb Russian and Chinese influence in the region.

U.S. imperialism has different tactics for the same policy towards Russia and China. Let’s look at the following quote: “Washington [is changing its policy] toward Sudan. Political freedoms are no longer on the U.S. agenda, having been supplanted by the urgent priority of restoring stability as quickly as possible (even if that means legitimizing Al-Burhan’s authority) and countering Moscow’s growing regional influence.”[4] The shift in the U.S. posture toward Russia and China has been a major one.

The change in U.S. policy has become visible. It used to demand the democratization of the country, the calling for elections, and the end of the military cycle. However, there is much evidence showing the changes in policy. The head of Sudan’s Military Intelligence (MI), Mohamed Ali Ahmed Subir has traveled to Washington. A major general, Subir is a very loyal supporter of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) controlled by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. In the U.S., Subir met with senior representatives of Joe Biden’s administration, both at the State Department and the CIA.

The intricate combination of pieces on the chessboard.

The claim that Hemeti has been responding to Moscow’s interests and Al-Burhan to Beijing’s interests, while correct, is insufficient. Hemeti, in addition to his close relations with the Wagner Group, also has the support of the United Arab Emirates, having even collaborated in the war in Yemen.

Contradictorily, in the Central African Republic, the production of gold and diamonds by the Anglo American and De Beers corporations continues as usual under the dictator Touadéra’s agreement with the Wagner Group and, consequently, with Hemeti.

Al-Burhan, for his part, has always done good business with China and was defended by them in the UN Security Council against U.S. policy. Al-Burhan’s other ally is Egypt, which has been making China its privileged partner. To pay its overdue debts to the IMF, Egypt is borrowing US$500 million in Chinese securities known as Green Panda [5]. With that, China will represent 5% of Egypt’s foreign debt and will be its fourth largest creditor. This debt is expected to increase with the mega-projects developed by the Chinese companies: China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), Aviation Industry Corporation of China, and China Railway Group Ltd. All are financed by the Export-Import Bank of China.

It is necessary to rebuild the forces of workers and the popular resistance with the support of the workers of imperialist countries.

As we said above, the pieces are just beginning to move on this intricate chessboard. Imperialism in its decadent phase has generated these nearly improbably combinations and has reserved genocides, civil wars, and resistance for the masses.

The resistance had already begun in Sudan in 2018-2019, but it was betrayed by the Sudanese Professionals’ Association and the Communist Party. It remains for the workers of these countries to build new organizations supported by the solidarity and struggles of the workers of the imperialist countries.

The workers’ and popular resistance must have as its political objective the construction of the Federation of African Socialist Republics.

In addition to building networks of workers’ resistance at the national and international levels, it is necessary to have a strategy for the overthrow of all the dictators who have either been accomplices or direct agents in the successive genocides in the region. It is necessary to build a Federation of African Socialist Republics. Capitalism kills, death to capitalism.


[1] Ashura Nassor – On the coup d’état in Sudan and continuity of the struggle –

[2] Al-Burhan and Hemeti keep a tight hold on power in Khartoum. See –,109716905-ge0


[4] The Al-Burhan-Hemeti feud plays out in CAR to Washington’s dismay —,109906914-evggton-s-dismay,109906914-evg

[5] Sisi seeks Chinese solution as IMF and creditors close in —,109947254-gra

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