IGAD: When Sudanese Generals did not Meet Face to Face (1-2)


Abdullah Ali Ibrahim

Perhaps Sudan did not lose much from Lieutenant General Abdul Fattah Al-Burhan’s boycott of the conference of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in Africa (IGAD) in Kampala on the 20th of January and the freezing of Sudan’s membership in it on the 24th of the same month, whether or not Sudan was right with its grievance against it.

Al-Burhan was not the only one who was absent from the summit, as the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiye Ahmed, was absent from it, apologizing before hands, but then he was in Kampala the next day, attending another conference of non-aligned countries. He was not afraid that he deliberately absented himself because he did not want to respond to IGAD’s call to rescind his agreement in early January with the government of Somaliland, which broke away from the state of Somalia, on leasing ports and bases to Ethiopia for 50 years in exchange for recognizing it as an eligible State. IGAD described the agreement, which Abiye Ahmed considers existential for his landlocked state, a hostile move and a violation of Somalia’s sovereignty and unity. Somalia refused to negotiate with Ethiopia until the agreement was cancelled. Perhaps the former director of the Office of the US Special Envoy to Sudan, Cameron Hudson, expressed the meaning we intended by saying, “Al-Burhan will not sustain any cost by his absence from the summit, because it did not result in anything new in its discussions.”

IGAD conditioned stopping the war in Sudan on a face-to-face meeting between Generals Al-Burhan and Hemedti, and one does not know of a precedent in which the highest levels of leadership on both sides of the war agreed to stop it or something else while it was still burning, both in and out. We do not know of such a face-to-face meeting between the leaders of the warring parties except in the context of one party’s surrender to the other, in the example of the end of the American Civil War in 1865, in which the commander of the Southern Confederate forces, Robert E. Lee, met with the commander of the federal forces, Ulysses Grant, to surrender, as crews from lower levels serve in diplomacy, defense and other functions are the function of negotiating truces, stopping the fire, and peace.

IGAD’s reliance on ending the war in Sudan by a knockout blow, that is, by bringing together the two generals, entered the negotiations into contexts that disturbed its atmosphere instead of promoting it, let alone achieving an end to the war. From the approach of the two generals meeting face to face, it seemed that our war was indeed absurd and was motivated by the ambition of each of them to rule Sudan alone. It is as if they suggest with this approach that perhaps the two generals, when they met face to face, would make some deal to share government with agreed upon fortunes, and war is over, fighting is ended. This is a deficient understanding of what this war entailed. Unlike those who want to chair the two generals and divide the state between them, the two generals have no place in the aspiration of Sudanese groups and revolutions that have followed over the decades for a democratic civil state. The origin of the “Rapid Support” (RSF) itself was in its hostility to a regime such as the Ingaz State (1989 – 2019) for this aspiration, so it hired it to end its legacy. Therefore, it is an entity without identity in a modern, civil national state in which the army is appointed to administer legitimate violence on behalf of the state government.

Those who aspire to a civil state have not stopped demanding that the army since it occupied power in 1958 to return to the barracks. Whenever it overturned and returned to power in 1969 and 1989, it brought the revolutions “back to the barracks”, and perhaps the army saw for itself that it was forced today to defend its barracks one after another in the face of the “RSF” which stumbled its desire for rule and insistence on it, and now it caught its clutches. The general in the army, once he is stable in his barracks, is prohibited in our view from aspiring to rule. We want military personnel not to swear, in the words of US Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mark Manley, “to a king, a queen, a tyrant, a dictator, or someone who aspires to be a dictator.”

This demand in the civilization of the modern state is what we are burdened with in a time of increasing phenomenon of armed sects from outside the state, including militias, gangs, and mafias, until the boundaries between politics and crime have almost disappeared. It was recently reported in the news about Ecuador that members of a mafia gang occupied a television station after their comrades fled from prison. One of them came up to the microphone to say, “I have a message for the president. Be careful not to mess with the mafia.” Then the President of the Republic, Daniel N., sent down the army and declared a state of emergency, saying, “We and they are in a state of war,” and this is our situation and our war.

One wonders why the African countries that Hemedti visited needed to be enthusiastic in receiving him as a statesman, while he only needed a “photo op” to adorn his recent victories on the battlefield. It intruded by inserting “Ego” into the two generals’ public conflict over who had the state, thus unnecessarily disrupting and even undermining the context of the negotiations to which they called on the two generals.

Hemedti was warmly received by South Africa and a Rwanda, but it fired back. The Economist Magazine was surprised by Hemedti’s visit, he who has been dogged by genocide convictions since 2004 until his forces and allied militias attacked the Masalit people on this People’s Day, to the museum of the victims of the Rwanda genocide in Kigali. “It is difficult to imagine a greater irony than when a man accused of ethnic cleansing is welcomed on an official tour of a memorial to this heinous crime,” the magazine wrote. As for South Africa welcoming Hemedti with open arms, it is even more deplorable for it. It found itself in the Israelis’ “gut”, as we say. The Daily Maverick magazine wrote asking for an explanation for its appearance at the International Court of Justice in The Hague as an opponent of Israel on charges of committing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Gaza, a week after its president had a cup of tea with a warlord whose hands were covered in the blood of the victims of his ethnic cleansing. The magazine called South Africa’s path from the Tea Party to the Court of Justice “a disgusting path of hypocrisy.” Thus, South Africa’s unprecedented nobility in standing by the people of Palestine suffered from a deficiency that none of us would want for it.

To be continued

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