When the military disagrees on power, we are faced with one of three scenarios: either a coup that settles the conflict for one of the conflicting parties, or the division of the army between these parties, or the country enters a state of civil war and chaos.
Something like this can be sensed against the backdrop of developments and tensions currently taking place in the Sudan, not only between civilian and military forces, but also within the military component itself. The differences that have been hidden for months between the head of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, have come to light in recent weeks, and the two men have entered a state of mutual confrontation and threat over the disagreement over the way to manage the second transitional period, after the coup they carried out together on October 25, 2021.
Despite these differences, Burhan and Hemedti agree on only one thing, albeit not publicly: aborting Sudan's democratic process.
In a strange irony, it was the differences that led Hemedti to openly acknowledge the coup and to acknowledge his remorse for participating in it. Hemedti said – in a televised speech on February 19 – that he is the son of a simple Badia, tired of the wars he fought, and wants peace, and that his career was punctuated by many mistakes by him, the last of which was participation in the "coup against Hamdok." These are also the same differences that prompted Burhan to jump forward and outbid Hemedti by saying and stating more than once that "the Sudanese army will leave politics and return to its barracks," and that he personally "will not run for president" after the end of the transitional period.
The differences between Burhan and Hemedti have nothing to do with the democratic question in Sudan. Those who read it would also be mistaken for either man to be the new version of the late Field Marshal Abd al-Rahman Swar al-Dahab, who took power after the April 1984 uprising and handed it over a year later to an elected government in May 1985. The two men are not only covetous of power, but also fear leaving it and leaving it so that they will not be punished for the crimes committed against the Sudanese people, whether during their service with the regime of ousted President Omar al-Bashir or what happened after his ouster, especially the massacre of the General Command that killed more than 66 people in June 2019. What they are currently issuing is nothing but political bidding aimed at psychological and political pressure and embarrassing each other locally, regionally and internationally.
The differences between Burhan and Hemedti revolve around 3 files:
- The first and most important is the file of integrating the Rapid Support Forces into the Sudanese army.
- The second is the transitional phase file and arrangements for the transfer of power from the military to civilians, based on the framework agreement signed on the fifth of last December between the civilian and military components.
- Third, the file of regional alliances. Some of these differences were explicitly referred to by a member of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council, General Yasser al-Atta, in late February.
1- Integration of the Rapid Support Forces
The first, most complex and sensitive file is the integration of the Rapid Support Forces into the regular army. Hemedti wants to postpone the RSF integration process until after the end of the transitional period, and demands that the focus now be on transferring power to civilians as soon as possible; not out of faith in civilian rule, but out of fear that it will be eliminated if the RSF is integrated.
For his part, Burhan insists that the RSF must be integrated before the transitional period is completed, as an essential part of the framework agreement signed on the fifth of last December, and he is thus trying to strip Hemedti of one of his most important cards of power, not only internally, but also externally.
Hemedti has exploited the RSF into mercenaries, whether in Yemen or Libya, and he is making fantastic financial gains through this issue, especially its role in extracting and smuggling gold to countries such as Russia, as recently revealed. Therefore, Hemedti is fully convinced that any integration of the Rapid Support Forces now means that he will be at the mercy of Burhan, and thus get rid of him and his forces that have protected him and relied on them for more than a decade, which contributed to his emergence not only on the local scene in Sudan, but also preserved an important seat for them at the regional and international negotiating table, and moved him from a mere "camel and sheep trader" and militia leader to a politician with ambitions and dreams to fill the political vacuum in Sudan. Sudan after the fall of Bashir.
The second file is the transitional period and its provisions, especially the completion of the transitional period and the formation of a civilian government. For his part, Hemedti believes that the implementation of the framework agreement signed last December between the military and civilian forces, the most important of which is the Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change - the Central Council, which provides for the formation of a transitional civilian authority and the return of the army to its barracks, must proceed. Hemedti insists that this be done without waiting for the rest of the political forces to join the agreement, especially the splinter bloc of the Forces of Freedom and Change – the Democratic Bloc, which rejected the framework agreement and did not sign it, but rather pledged to work to overturn it.
Hemedti's insistence on completing the transitional period is not out of concern for Sudan's democratic transition, but mainly about two goals: first, he wants to get rid of Burhan's control over the Sovereign Council, and second, that this be done before the RSF is integrated into the army, as explained above. As for Burhan, he insists on the need for the largest number of political forces to join the agreement, in order to ensure that they are represented within the new government. In doing so, he is trying to secure civilian allies after the transfer of power to civilians in the coming months.
3. Regional alliances
The third file disputed between Burhan and Hemedti is the file of regional alliances, as both men succeeded in weaving a network of regional relations and alliances during the transitional period that helped strengthen their negotiating cards internally. While Hemedti and some of his civilian forces enjoy the support of some Gulf states, Burhan is betting on Egyptian and Israeli support to support his position and improve his negotiating position, both with Hemedti and with civilian forces. Therefore, both men rushed to shift the positions of these parties in their favor during the past stage, so that they have an important and influential weight in the transitional phase in Sudan, which was evident in the framework agreement that came under the auspices of these countries in addition to the United Nations and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), as well as the United States, Britain and the European Union.
Despite these differences, Burhan and Hemedti agree on only one thing, albeit not publicly declared: aborting Sudan's democratic process. What may now appear to be an acceptance of handing over power to civilians is mainly due to the conviction of the two men that the civilian forces that will take power over the next two years will fail miserably in managing the transition, which may pave the way for the return of one of them to power through its big door, allowing it to get rid of its arch-rival once and for all.