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The return of Sudan to a state of civil war in the past month has once again given rise to stories of human suffering. In terms of international politics, this can be seen as another unsuccessful attempt at transitioning from an authoritarian regime to a democracy in the Arab world. Sudan has been in a state of conflict for several decades, stemming from ongoing disputes over power, land, and other resources. The current conflict is primarily centered around the issue of power-sharing between the transitional civilian government and the military in the country.

Since the 1970s, Arab countries in the Persian Gulf have promised billions of dollars in aid and investments for Sudan in sectors such as agriculture, energy, and infrastructure. However, many of these projects have failed due to political unrest in the country and warring factions. This time is no different—the conflict in Khartoum is unfolding between the leader of the Sudanese army, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the leader of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), General Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo. The situation has also been influenced by the fact that Dagalo received assistance from foreign states. The Russian private military company Wagner, together with the commander of the Libyan military forces, Khalifa Haftar, and the United Arab Emirates, aided the paramilitary forces in Sudan with helicopters, weapons, and supplies. The World Health Organization confirmed that during the first six days of the war in the country, 413 people were killed, 3,551 were injured, and 11 health facilities were destroyed.

Sudan was ruled by dictator Omar al-Bashir for nearly 30 years before the protests in 2019 forced him to relinquish power. The military took control of the government and formed a transitional council to oversee the transition to civilian rule. However, tensions arose between the military and civilian leaders regarding the terms of power-sharing, leading to the violent suppression of protests in the country in June 2019.

Supporting Sudan’s democratic transition since 2019 (after the overthrow of former dictator Omar al-Bashir), the United States overestimated the influence of local pro-democracy partners in the country and the power of Western economic incentives and pressure for democratization. In August 2019, an agreement was reached to share power between the military and civilian leaders, creating a transitional civilian government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. However, the military retained significant power and control over key institutions, including the security forces. This power-sharing agreement was plagued by tension and disagreements from the start.

One of the key contentious issues remained the role of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group rooted in the Darfur Janjaweed militia, which has been accused of numerous human rights violations in Sudan. The RSF is connected to the military and has been accused of carrying out violent attacks against civilians, particularly in the Darfur region. Since 2019, many political leaders in Sudan have called for the disbandment of the RSF, while the military defended their role and contribution to maintaining security in the country.

The power struggle between the military and political leaders was further exacerbated by the economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sudan faced a severe economic crisis with high inflation and shortages of basic commodities. The pandemic further worsened the situation, with Sudanese hospitals still struggling to cope with the rising number of infections.

The conflict in Sudan has drawn the attention of the international community, with calls for the military to relinquish power and allow for a democratic transition. The United States and other Western countries imposed sanctions on Sudan in response to human rights violations, while the African Union sought to mediate the negotiations between the two sides.

Despite the ongoing instability in the country, Sudan’s strategic location makes it rich in reserves of petroleum, natural gas, as well as mineral deposits such as gold and manganese. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Sudan exported 16.7 thousand tons of gold worth around $1 billion in the first half of 2021, and according to data from the Central Bank of Sudan, almost all of the gold went to the United Arab Emirates.

Sudan’s geographical location also makes it an important factor for regional security for countries in the Persian Gulf. For many years, Sudan has been considered a significant source of food for the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which import about 85% of their food from abroad. The country’s agricultural products include sugar and wheat. With sufficient funding from Arab countries, Sudan can easily provide food for the Arab world and compensate for the shortage of Ukrainian and Russian wheat.
Despite Sudan’s unrealized economic potential, investments from the GCC in Sudan still serve an important purpose, which is that Sudan has the potential to become a security guarantor for Abu Dhabi and Riyadh and serve as a balancer in the political competition between them and countries like Turkey and Qatar, which are increasingly trying to increase their economic and strategic presence in the Horn of Africa region.

In conclusion, it can be said that the conflict in Sudan is complex and multifaceted, with competing interests and dynamics in the struggle for power. The situation remains uncertain, with the risk of further violence and instability if a peaceful resolution is not achieved. The international community will have a decisive role in supporting the democratic transition and ensuring the protection of human rights in Sudan, as local players are evidently unable to achieve this on their own. Unfortunately, one thing is certain, and that is that in this case, the Arab Spring ultimately did not achieve its goals. Democracy once again lost, and this time the name of the next failed state in the region is Sudan.

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