Begun a month earlier, fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (FAS) commanded by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Force (RSF) of General Mohamed Hamdan Dogolo (aka Hemeti) had already devastated several districts of Khartoum, Sudan. Has done Capital. And the longer the fighting drags on, the more likely it is for outside players to get involved because of Sudan’s geostrategic importance.
Spanning the Nile River, an important artery for Egypt, the country has ports near the Horn of Africa, which controls the Bab-el-Mandeb strait into the southern Red Sea and points to the Persian Gulf. These arteries of the world economy are closely monitored by the US, China and France, each of which has one or more military bases in Djibouti. “Horn is highly strategic, emphasizes Comfort Eero, who chairs the International Crisis Group, a think-tank specializing in the study of conflicts. West meets East there, and the Gulf meets Europe there.”
“The longer the conflict drags on, the more and more outside actors will be tempted to intervene”
The question is whether one of the two Sudanese teams will be able to win sooner. The army has powerful means, especially air means, but for decades it has been more accustomed to suppressing regional insurgencies than fighting in urban areas. As for the FSR, they compensate for their lack of means by venturing into Khartoum, where the behavior of their men further alienates them from residents, who have already blamed them for the massacre of hundreds of civilians in 2019. hold responsible.
Whether the war will go ahead will depend on how Sudan’s neighbors respond. Russia is also worried. The Wagner Group would be involved in gold mining in Sudan and would supply weapons to the FSR. It appears that Moscow’s main objective is to prevent a democratic transition in Khartoum, in order to establish a Russian base on the Red Sea, with the approval of the military regime.
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The Sudanese civil war is not yet a proxy war like Libya, Syria or Yemen. But the country shares a long and porous border with conflict-ridden neighbors such as the Central African Republic, Chad, Libya and South Sudan. The few militias operating in these areas may be taking advantage of the Sudanese chaos. “The longer the conflict drags on, the more and more external elements will be attracted to intervene,” says Suliman Baldo, head of the monitoring group Sudan Transparency and Policy Tracker.
,Cairo’s objective today is to save the Sudanese central power”.
Ethiopian President Isaias Afwerki, close to General Dogolo, who has long supported Sudanese rebels, as well as Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar, affiliated with the Wagner Group and the FSR, could also be lured into intervening. But General Haftar must be careful not to upset Egypt, which has supported him in the past but which sided with the Sudanese army. “Egypt is the main factor, notes Magdi El-Gizauli of the Rift Valley Institute. Cairo’s objective today is to save the Sudanese central power.”
The escalation of the conflict can still be avoided. But meanwhile the humanitarian disaster is getting worse. Water and food are running out in Khartoum. Almost all the hospitals are closed. Pregnant women died on the way to the clinic. Mohamed Lamine, the head of the UN health agency in Sudan, has warned that “if there is no ceasefire, the whole country will be destroyed.”
Djibouti, a highly strategic base for France
On 22 April, Emmanuel Macron’s military advisor asked him for permission to evacuate civilians from Khartoum. It was a high-risk operation in which the special forces had to secure a Sudanese air base in the middle of a war zone. That same evening, the first French military aircraft carrying commandos joined the base at Wadi Sayyidna, north of the Sudanese capital, from Djibouti. In the early morning hours of 23 April, the French and other allies began their aerial circumnavigation. On 27 April, France had evacuated 936 citizens from more than fifty countries.
In recent years, France has been losing influence in Africa following powerful anti-French campaigns and the rise of the Wagner Group. Paris had already pulled 2,400 troops out of Mali last year. Today it is Burkina-Faso that wants to expel French forces from its territory. A situation that prompted Emmanuel Macron to reconsider the French presence on the continent and declare a “visible reduction” of its footprint. But Djibouti, where France maintains 1,500 troops on a permanent basis, is a special case.
The French president, who sees the base as the centerpiece of the French defense system in the Indo-Pacific, has no intention of backing down. For Paris, the success of the evacuation of Khartoum, made possible by the French establishment in Djibouti, confirms more strongly than ever in relation to other French bases in Africa, the interest of maintaining troops there, wherever the French President may be. And let’s decide.