“Forgetting something is ascending towards the gates of abyss”
– Mahmoud Darwish
Khartoum: The quote by the great poet Mahmoud Darwish resonates with the current situation in Sudan, which has quickly escalated into a grinding war that is raging in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities.
On 15 April 2023, war broke out in Sudan between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), just as the month of Ramadan approached its end.
Many observers of this troubled country warned that this clash was inevitable, ever since the two generals in charge of each force rose to prominent and powerful positions after they were on the same side in overthrowing the transitional government and its president, Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, in October 2021.
But the current situation can be traced further back than that.
In April 2019, during President Omar al-Bashir's regime, tens of thousands of Sudanese took to the streets to demand freedom, peace and justice. They pledged to hold demonstrations and sit-ins until he was overthrown.
Tens of thousands of people rallied in towns across Sudan, seeking to sustain pressure on military leaders who staged a coup in October but later reinstated Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok following mass protests https://t.co/ghexNvdV9t pic.twitter.com/LkhYhdFcmL— Reuters (@Reuters) December 14, 2021
This uprising followed months of similar action that had started in December 2018, as conditions in the country worsened after 30 years of corruption and tyranny over the rule of the National Islamic Front which began in 1989.
During the 2019 protests, officers in the central command – including Captain Hamed Osman and Lieutenant Mohammed Sadeek – sided with the protestors and protected them from the regime.
Gradually, there was an increasing alignment among officers and soldiers, who forced the army’s leadership to overthrow al-Bashir on 11 April, and detain him in his home before transferring him to Kober Prison.
Early on in the revolution, then-President Omar al-Bashir had ordered his commander, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti), to bring the RSF to Khartoum to confront and quell the protests, as they had in 2013, when around 200 protestors were killed in less than a week.
However, this time, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) refused to intervene in the protests.
Back then, al-Bashir's office director, Mohamed Osman al-Hussein, oversaw the regime’s brutal use of the RSF, which he referred to as personal protection forces. But in 2019, Hemedti defied al-Bashir.
That decision was a major turning point in the revolution, and it helped to pave the way for the president’s overthrow.