Balkanization of Sudan - Africa

Balkanization of Sudan

Posted by Aneela Shahzad on

Pic shows a refugee camp in Darfur

When you’re sitting in a relatively secure location in Asia, which is not a war-zone yet, you tend to not feel the tremors that are generated from the African continent, caused not by earthquakes or tsunamis, but by the cries of battle, that entrench man against man, tempting genocide, murder and rape, in the name of warlords, the interests of whom are known not of, to the militias that hold the rifles.

As for the case of Sudan, as one delves in the gory details, one feels as if Sudan was not a nation among the nations of the world community, but a game to be pillaged by stakeholders who are ready to prey it bit by bit, until there would not remain the human element in it, but only interests.

The region of Sudan is called the Region of the Upper Nile because it constitutes the higher altitude pathway of the Nile that originates from Lake Victoria in Tanzania and Lake Tana in Ethiopia. At the time of Pharaoh Remises II (~1200BC), the lands of Egypt and Sudan had been combined into one kingdom but after his demise they were separate again.  When the Muslim advents swept North Africa, Sudan due to its proximity with Egypt, slowly came into the folds of Islam, with most of northern Sudan turning into an Arabized Sudan, while the south remained aloof to the new religion. 

Once again in 1821, the Ottoman ruler of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, invaded northern Sudan with the idea of adding Sudan into Egypt’s domain. When the British virtually occupied Egypt in 1882, they too made Sudan a condominium of Egypt. But while Egypt got its independence in 1923, Sudan remained under British enslavement right up to 1956. In all this time the British cultured a North-South divide in Sudan. According to Sarkesian, ‘Under the condominium, British administrators argued that the south should be incorporated into Kenya or Uganda, as the people were considered to have affinity with ‘Black Africa”’. British policies not only limited north-south interaction but also created opposing political structures in the north and south.

Sudan declared independence in 1956, at that time Gamal Abdul Nasser had become a symbol and leader of Arab Unity, a unity that publically threatened Israel’s existence. There was a threat of a possible inclination of Sudan joining Egypt in its Arabism, a wave that was strong in the whole Arab world at that time and also because many nationalists in Sudan supported union with Egypt at that time.

Nasser was seen as a hero after the 1967 Suez Canal Issue, and had revived the Arab Nationalism and Pan-Arabism to the extent that Syria and Yemen agreed to come under his rule in the short-lived United Arab Republic. Israel felt gravely threatened, as they were the most scorned non-Arab entity that had occupied an Arab heart-land by way of thievery and connivance. For Israel the only way of survival in between a host of foes was to create dissension between them. As for Sudan, because of its rather weak status as a nation and several cleavages in its society where it could be broken, tempted Israel to work for its balkanization.  

The same year Sudan was created, arrangements were made between Siddiq al Mahdi of Sudan’s Umma Party and a Jewish firm based in Britain to provide funds to the Mahdi for opposition against Nasser, whom they both termed as common enemy (source). On the other hand, the First Sudan Civil War (1955-72) had unfolded in South Sudan, even before Sudan’s independence. It was led by the AnyaNya rebels. From 1963 to 1972, Israel constantly provided weapons to the AnyaNya, as revealed in Josheph Lagu’s interview to the Haartez. Lagu wrote to the then PM of Israel, promising him that if Israel would support AnyaNya, he would ‘tie down the northern Sudanese armies so as to prevent them from joining the Egyptians and other Arabs from attacking Israel in the future’. Weapons from Israel came through Uganda, Lagu explained how Israeli advisors were embed in the AnyaNya and trained his incompetent forces. The movement weakened only when Idi Ameen of Uganda changed his loyalties towards Egypt and closed the weapons conduit to AnyaNya.

Ethiopia was also a conduit to provided weapons to the AnyaNya, but being landlocked it had to rely on ports in Djibouti. Djibouti hosts the largest American permanent military base in Africa, whereas Eritrea has loaned military bases to both Iran and Israel. Another neighbor of Sudan is Chad, a Francophone country, which again has permanent French military presence, this military force is directly involved in the protection of the Chad government.

When the AnyaNya started the Second Sudan Civil War that lasted from 1983 to 2005, weapons were again transferred by Israel to the AnyaNya via Uganda, Ethiopia and Eritrea. And this war ended only with the creation of a separate South Sudan. Now before this war ended, Sudan was plagued with yet another war; the War in Darfur that began in 2003 and continues to date. This war is fought between the Janjaweed, allegedly funded by the Sudanese government and the non-Arab Fur, Zaghawa, and Masalit ethnic groups. These groups are led by SLM/A and JEM, who get weapons and training from neighboring Chad.

 According to Small Arms Survey, ‘Darfur insurgent groups have been acquiring progressively more sophisticated weaponry, including some heavy weapons, since 2005: not only assault rifles, machine guns, RPGs, and mortars, but by 2007 new-production Chinese 35 mm grenade launchers, and newly produced Israeli TAR-21 assault rifles originally supplied to the Government of Chad’. The report further says, ‘in clear violation of the UN arms embargo—from the Government of Chad, which is engaged in an ongoing proxy war with Sudan… small arms delivered to Chadian armed forces (including assault rifles and ammunition shipped from Israel and Serbia between July and September 2006) emerged rapidly among National Redemption Front and subsequently JEM forces in Darfur in March 2007 and July 2008’.

In the 1970’s the Sudanese Islamic Movement led by Hasan al Turabi grew ties with Iran, deeming the revolutionary Islamic State of Iran as the practical example to be followed. Turabi’s party got much power in the government structure after the 1989 coup led by Col. Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Since then Iran had much diplomatic relations with Sudan, and funded the government in the war against the South. The Non-Aligned stance that Sudan had taken in the Cold War was thus tilted towards Iran and then Russia. According to a SIPRI report, Russia had accounted for 87 percent of Sudan’s major conventional weapons purchases in the period 2003-2007, these weapons were used in the Darfur Conflict.

Sudan’s fragile relations with the US have deteriorated since 1990, when Sudan backed Iraq in its invasion of Kuwait. Later, terrorists like Carlos the Jackal, Osama bin Laden and Abu Nidal found sanctuary in Khartoum. In 1993 US designated Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism and later strict sanctions were imposed. In August 1998, in the wake of the East Africa embassy bombings, the U.S. launched cruise missile strikes against Sudan's Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory. In 2008, the ICC indicted Omar al-Bashir for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and issued an arrest warrant in 2009 – notwithstanding the evidences on the sources that supplied weapons to the rebels.

Thus is clear that Sudan has been a geopolitical playground between international contenders since the beginning, one camp that supports the insurgent groups leading to the break-up of the Sudanese state and the other that support the center. The reasons for the West to support the South were its being non-Muslim, much influenced by Christian missionary activities and later for its discovery of oil. But a more vital reason was perhaps the survival of Israel that depends on weakening of its Muslim neighborhood, as states and as unions.

Indeed Sudan does present a threat, when it hosts Iranian interests on its soil! For long, Iran has used Sudan as a conduit to supply arms to Hamas in Gaza through the Sinai in Egypt. Israel has actively reacted to such activity, such as Israel’s bombing of the Yarmouk arms factory in Khartoum, run by Iran, in 2012. Mossad agents also assassinated Mohammed Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel in 2010 for his being link-man between Hamas and Iran. Israel’s interference in Darfur is also an active reality in today’s date, there was a leaked UN panel report of December 2013, revealing Israeli ACE rifles in the Darfur Conflict and identification of Israeli Micro Galil rifles in the Upper Nile state, which were sold by the manufacturer to the Uganda Ministry of Defense in 2007.

While all these vital strategic maneuvers go on, the people of Sudan and South Sudan face unprecedented hardships and remain victim of constant war, killing, displacement and other heinous war crimes. Rebels’ techniques include wide spread raids, wherein they swipe through several villages at a time, terrorizing, killing and raping. Many times the raids have been so fierce that large population were compelled to be permanently displaced from their home. The refugee camps that are created as a result become hubs for new recruits that are dreadfully in need of any means of survival. The North/South Wars have taken an estimate of 3.5million lives, while the South Sudan civil war has kill some 300,000 and displaced 1,860,000 in 5years.

Why is South Sudan still fighting, when it just got its freedom in 2011, after five decades of bloody war? This time the Arabized fundamentalists of the North are not there to be blamed; now the fight is between Silva kirr’s tribe, the Dinka and Rick Machar’s tribe, the Nuer. A Times of Israel Report confirms Israel’s continuing supply of weapon to the South Sudanese government, which may only have been tripled after 2013. While allegedly Khartoum has been supplying arms to Machar. 

While the war in Darfur goes on, and while South Sudan is all in blood, recently there has been a new intercontinental re-alliance. In the wake of the Saudi-Yemen War, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have been successful in pulling Sudan out of Iran’s pocket. The Saudis have deposited $1 Billion and the Qataris $1.22 Billion in Sudan’s Central Bank earlier in the year. In return the Saudis wanted Sudanese boots-on-ground in Yemen, which not many other countries were willing to give, and the Sudanese forces were well-suited as they were battle-hardened for having a long experience of fighting against the rebels in their south. 

If Sudan has made a real change of heart, it can be assumed that the ICC will dismiss charges against Omar al Bashir or simply become oblivious to them, as Sudan will be entering a pro-US camp. Or will Sudan prove to be not so mature as yet and stick to a policy of shifting sides along with the highest bidders for its loyalties. Whatever the case, the language of the foreign policy and governance for Sudan and South Sudan will be made from the vocabulary of weapons, dollars, battles, raids, rapes and refugees – they will not have the option of nation building.

All the fertility that is brought by the Nile will not be used to feed the Sudanese nor will the oil that comes from beneath their feet used for their progress. In the protection of their vital interests, the world community will ensure that there is no peace or progress for Sudan – and while the world has its eyes stick to popular events like wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, the stakeholders slowly and quietly work to Balkanize Sudan into more pieces.