From Sudan, the Perils of Bad Manners
By Chidi Amuta
The two top generals who also happen to be the top political citizens of a nation with many hidden wounds have spared no effort in coming into the open to display their differences and clashing ambitions.
These differences also happen to reflect the many hidden complications in Sudan’s national life: religious differences, economic interests, political ambition, a politicized military, big power transferred aggression and the aggressive strategic goals of big powers.
In a tragic sense, Sudan is somehow lucky. Its leading political figures, who also happen to be combatant generals, have not hidden their differences beneath a façade of mutual deceit. They have instead allowed their differences to blossom into an open bloody confrontation.
When an animosity between two rotten warlords blossoms into a shooting war, it opens the path to either a national meltdown or some kind of settlement. It is either the stronger force subdues the weaker and dictates the terms of a peaceful settlement or an equilibrium of forces is achieved in which case peace through negotiation becomes the only path open to all. In the next couple of weeks, Sudan may have to migrate from the present rage of clashing warlords to a full civil war, yet another in a series since after independence in 1956.
In a little over a week, Khartoum, the capital, has been transformed from a scraggy sprawling city in the sun into the battlefield of an undeclared civil war.
A contest for power supremacy between two corrupt ambitious generals has reopened the window for familiar military adventurism. The bloody rivalry between the two topmost senior military and political leaders has exploded into a real combat situation between factions of the Sudanese military and security forces. War planes, tanks and other weapons of war are being used freely as troops shoot into civilian population centres in Khartoum and beyond.
The raging confrontation is between the forces of General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan, Commander of the Sudanese Army, against those of General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the Rapid Support Force (RSF), a paramilitary security force. Both are semi autonomous forces competing for pre-eminence in the post al- Bashir era. Both men happen to be the topmost political figures, Head and Deputy respectively, in an interim semi military government presiding over the country after a series of shifting power arrangements after the toppling of Omar al Bashir in a 2019 coup led by both men.
Both men also staged a coup that wrested power from the revolutionary civilian coalition of civil society groups whose protests facilitated the ousting of al-Bashir’s three decades of Islamist authoritarianism.
The raging bloody confrontation has degenerated into a blood bath. Casualties have mounted and order has collapsed. Close to 300 deaths have been reported with over 3,500 injured. Most of the victims are innocent civilians and international workers according to independent journalists and observers.
The diplomatic community has been badly hit with United Nations offices and diplomats’ residences openly ransacked and looted. Disturbing cases of open harassment of female diplomats have been reported. Attempts by the international community to broker a cessation of hostilities has led to two failed ceasefires that collapsed within minutes of being announced.
The African Union (AU) has, as usual, been generous with condemnations of the violence with a basket of resolutions and threats, calling on both sides to come to the negotiating table. The United Nations has in turn joined in ritual condemnations of the fighting and its tragic fallouts. Meanwhile, the hostilities are assuming the character and dimensions of a full blown civil war.
The origins and drivers of the resurgent violence in Sudan go beyond a mere interpersonal power tussle between the two very corrupt and ambitious political and military overlords. It goes down to the strategic issues and factors that have always defined the country’s existence and recurrent crises. The primary conflict is that between a growing popular democratic wave and the long standing conservative Islamist power establishment that was the basis of the three decades long Omar al-Bashir hegemony. The pro- democracy forces led the 2018 street protests and revolution that helped topple Omar Al Bashir’s 30 year autocracy remain alive. They had started with agitations and street protests for greater accountability and a better standard of living. Pitted against this nascent populist democratic wave is the conservative Islamist power core of the Sudanese state. The current power structure led by both Generals Hamdani and Dagalo are thinly disguised factions of the al-Bashir regime.
It would be recalled that the popular uprising softened the al Bashir autocracy for toppling by the military. In turn, the two dueling generals staged a coup that upstaged the popular revolution, refusing to cede power to the leadership of the popular movement.
In many ways, a perennial power tussle between factions of the usurping military leaders has become the centerpiece of Sudan’s political life in recent times. It has consistently sidestepped the transition to popular democracy which remains the major issue in the post al-Bashir era. The compromise that legitimized the now crumbling semi military administration remains an attempt to forge a tenuous balance of ambitions between these two dominant forces on the one hand and the popular civil society coalition on the other.
Predictably, therefore, the appearance of uneasy political stability that would lead to the planned democratic elections later in two years was more an appearance than a reality. It has now burst into the bloody confrontation on display in and around Khartoum. It is unlikely that the two dueling generals and their followers will be willing to sheath their swords for as long as they still have forces and formations under their respective command and control. Already, deal to subsume the paramilitary Response Force under the larger umbrella of the Sudanese Armed Forces has fallen apart.
Strategically, Sudan’s peculiarities may escalate the present confrontation. The interplay of internal political interests may be overwhelmed by international conspiracies and interests occasioned by a convergence of Sudan’s strategic location and internal composition.
The United States has always seen Sudan as something of a precarious and suspicious rogue nation that needs to be constantly kept under watch because of its deep Islamic leanings and sporadic terrorist affinities. Sudan was for a long time a hiding place for jihadist terrorist and fundamentalist organizations associated with a long tradition of anti-Western activism.
These range from Yassir Arafat’s temporary refuge in Sudan in the days of the Black September organization. Similarly, al-Queda found refuge in Sudan in its formative years leading President Bill Clinton to send cruise missiles to bomb suspected terrorist havens in Sudan in the run up to the emergence of Osama Bin Laden.
As a result, the two opposing tendencies in the global Islamic world have sought and found allies within the Sudanese political leadership. At different times, Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as their client states and allies in the Middle East have courted different regimes in Sudan. Even now, major interests in the Middle East are tending to support either of the two warring generals. Egypt and Libya have assumed opposing alliances in the ongoing confrontation.
At the present time, the Russians have emerged to further complicate an already complex scenario. They have seen an opportunity in the establishment of a naval base in Sudan as an opportunity to counter long standing US and Western influence in Sudan. Similarly, the Saudi’s remain interested in exploiting the political fluidity in the Sudan to advance their interests. Others like Egypt, Libya and the UAE have of late weighed in in a running jostle for regional influence and pre eminence. Sudan’s neighbours like Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan and even smaller African authoritarian regimes all have an interest in the contest for supremacy among Sudan’s ambitious and politicized military leaders.
As it turns out, contrary to the prevalent notion that Sudan is merely a vast arid semi desert country, the country actually contains 10 percent of the arable and fertile land mass of Africa. In addition, it has an abundance of natural resources. Its oil reserves are the main attraction for an increasing Chinese presence in the country. It also has abundant gold and uranium resources in which both its immediate neighbours and major international players are deeply interested. Therefore, there is a convergence of international interest in the current instability in Sudan which may make the confrontation degenerate into a full-blown civil war with deeply interested external players intent on finding lasting foothold.
For the international community especially both the United Nations and the African Union, a quick resolution to the sudden violent eruption in Sudan is now imperative before the parties ossify into combatant footholds with friends abroad. Sudan should be more than a casual engagement. The international community will have to untangle the web of complex interests that are at play in the Sudanese crisis. The Sudan crisis calls for the highest display of diplomatic dexterity to sufficiently assuage the interests and reassure the combatants. A ceasefire leading to dialogue is the only way out. A quick resolution is imperative if the escalating humanitarian tragedy is not to worsen. Most importantly, the challenge in Sudan is first and foremost that of restoring the original sanctity of the civil society coalition that pressured al Bashir out of power.
This should be quickly followed by the restoration of civil authority through a democratic election and return to civil rule. Continuing to sweep the prodemocracy current under the carpet of warlords can only prolong the crisis and plunge Sudan into yet another avoidable civil war. Sudan is boiling from an urgent desire for genuine democracy, not the superficial contest of the huge ego of ambitious war mongers and power oligarchs.
For Nigeria, the evolving tragedy in Sudan has far-fetched repercussions. The United States initiative with its special military mission in AFRICOM will be in peril if Sudan crumbles in an all out civil war. Sudan holds a delicate geographical place in the international effort to contain the spread of jihadist terror in the Sahel.
Happily, the Nigerian political landscape has evolved beyond the point where politicised generals have privatized commands that can be used to hold the nation to ransom. It is perhaps a happier place to be in the hands of rough political entrepreneurs than be caught in a cross fire between armed warlords funded by the state.
Africa Must Maintain7% Growth Rate Until 2063 to Eradicate Poverty- AfDB
Africa must consistently maintain a seven per cent growth rate for the next four to five decades to eradicate poverty and reach a high income status.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group President, Dr kinwumi Adesina, said this while speaking on the Key Action to Achieving Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development in Africa at the on-going 2023 AfDB Annual Meetings in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
According to him, the need for accelerating growth to improve the leaving standards and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) and the African Union (AU) agenda 2023 is clear.
Adesina said although achieving this goal might be difficult, it was however not impossible for the continent.
On the AfDB outlook report, he said the average Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for the continent slowed from 4.8 per cent in 2021 to 3.8 per cent in 2022.
“And this decline is across the board. 31 out of 54 countries in Africa hosted weaker growth rate in 2022 relative to the previous year.
“However, we anticipate growth increase to four per cent in 2023 and to accelerate further to 4.3 per cent in 2024. Yet we must recognise the fluctuation in growth that has defined our parts,’’ he said.
Adesina recalled that some countries experienced a remarkable growth rate only to fall back during challenging times, stating that we must learn from this to ensure sustained growth and prosperity.
”We acknowledge that our continent had its share of difficulties, growth-stagnation, decline and even catastrophic-growth and these statistics reminds us of the work that still needs to be done.
“We face an increasingly complex and uncertain world.Health, finance, social-economic and environmental shocks threaten our progress towards the UN SDGs, AU Agenda 2063 and all development goals high-five priorities.
“The challenges of COVID-19, conflict and climate change exposed the vulnerability of our health system and the fragility of Africa growth pillars.
“Especially our high dependency on commodity exports and external finance including debt, remittances, foreign direct investment and development assistant.’’
The president said as we acknowledge the challenges before us, we must recognise the incredible potential and opportunities that Africa possess.
According to him, this demographic shift offers us the prospect of demographic dividend, a huge labour force to support Africa’s quest for industrialisation and lower production cost.
He said young people are Africa’s greatest assets and should be invested in. We must equip them with the skills and opportunities they need to drive the continent forward.
On implementation of Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Adesina said it would be a game changer because it could increase trade by 52 per cent.
“It will stimulate intra-Africa trade by up to 7 billion dollars per year and it will reduce import from outside the continent by 10billion dollars.
“Our industrial export will be boosted by up to 45 billion dollars and 21 billion dollars respectively and these figures reflect a brighter future for trade and economic growth ratio among African countries,’’ he said.
He urged economies on the continent to harness the natural resources which Africa was endowed with as it could generate significant returns, drive the youth and foster job creation.
Adesina said the studies served as a vital road map to guide Africa towards the future where each African nation could achieve an annual GDP growth rate of seven to ten per cent over the next 40 years.
He however said that growth alone was not enough and Africa must address issues of good and prosperous governance, inequality and poverty on the continent.
Adesina said:“We have a responsibility to facilitate green prosperous conformation , diversified growth sources and innovatively champion the need to embrace climate change and support environmental sustainability.
“We must create an Africa that is both economically strengthened , socially equitable and environmentally sustainable.
“Todays event marks a significant milestone in our journey as the study consortiums present their emerging findings to these distinguished audience.
“We eagerly await the final report which will be shared by heads of states and governments .
The AfDB president said as we moved forward our feedback and input were important in helping Africa shape its unique development path.
“One that finds the right balance between a colony, social and environmental dimension why also respecting our diverse environment, institution and aspiration
“Let us move forward together, united in our mission to build the Africa we want. Let us open a new era of shared prosperity and let us transform our continent into a beacon of hope, progress and opportunity for all Africa.
The News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) reports that the AfDB 2023 annual meeting which started on May 22 ends Friday. (NAN)
Foreign Ministry Staff Laud Onyeama for Placing Nigeria Top in Multilateral Fora
members of staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have commended the Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama for placing Nigeria at the ”top in the multilateral scene”.
Some of the staff made this known on during a farewell reception organised in honor of the Minister and the Minister State, Zubairu Dada in Abuja, after a successful tenure of eight years.
Amb, Bola Akinremi, Director, Economic, Trade and Investment Division in the Ministry said that Onyeama brought his expertise from the international organization where he worked for over 30 years to make positive impact in the Ministry.
Akinremi said that Onyeama was a major push to making Nigerian take critical positions in world bodies like the African Development Bank (AFDB), among others.
He said that Onyeama’s successes and positive impact could also be seen from Nigeria’s robust relationship with other countries and the diplomatic community in Nigeria.
“It is a very rare occasion to find a Minister of Foreign Affairs serving for eight years. Because what we do is not what we make noise about so it is not often in the public domain.
“But this is someone we know has had great impact in the way things are done. I have had the opportunity of working with him when he came fresh, I was his spokesperson.
“And I knew the antagonism that came with it from politicians and he took it in his strides. He is not someone that is easily pushed.
“Secondly, where we get to the thick of the work, he was able to bring his professionalism to bear, knowing fully well that he came from the World Intellectual Property Organisation in Geneva.
“So when he came, he was able to blend even though he was not a career diplomats.
“International Organizations got a boost under him, a lot of them serving there, like the President of the ADB, he made it a reality, it has been on before he came in, he game it the necessary push.
“We will miss him and I personally will miss him,” Akinremi said.
Amb. Francisca Omayuli, Spokesperson for the Ministry described Onyeama and Dada as teachers and mentors who always ensured they lead by examples.
“I had the opportunity like many others to work with the Minister who is a mentor, teacher, gentle but firm leader.
“The same goes for the Minister of State, and it was a great opportunity working with you both,” Omayuli said.
Responding, Onyeama thanked the staff and the Foreign Service Officers for their cooperation and dedication which was a major contributor to his success.
Onyeama said that it was an honour to serve under President Muhammadu Buhari takes Nigeria’s interests and foreign relations as a priority and this can be reechoed all the Ministers.
“It was indeed an honor of my life to serve under President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Nigeria’s interest and its relations with other countries is always top priority for Mr President and that is visible with the top positions that Nigerians occupy in Multilateral institutions.
“I thank my brother, the Minister of State who we worked together as co-captains to sail this ship. If Nigeria Civil Service were staffed with him 60 per cent, it would make positive impact on our country.
“I want to also thank all the diplomats for the great jobs you are doing in your countries of posting despite the challenges and this can be seen from the warm reception accorded to Mr President by presidents of the countries of posting when he visits.
“I also want to thank the staff of the ministry for their unwavering support,” Onyeama said.
Onyeama however noted the paucity of funding to the Foreign Service with a hope that it changes for good. (NAN
Osinbajo Leads Commonwealth Observer Group to Sierra Leone
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has accepted to lead the Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) constituted by Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, to observe the Sierra Leone 2023 general elections.
Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice-President, said this in a statement on Friday in Abuja.
The secretary-general constituted the observer group, a team of distinguished experts upon the invitation from the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone for the June poll in the West African nation.
As the COG Chair, Osinbajo would be the leader and spokesperson of the group of distinguished experts drawn from around the world, interfacing between the group, the media and the authorities of the host country.
In a statement on Thursday, Scotland expressed gratitude to Osinbajo for accepting the invitation in spite of his busy schedule.
“As a senior statesman from the region, Osinbajo understands in depth, the challenges across West Africa and I am confident he will lead a brilliant team,” Scotland said.
Responding, Osinbajo welcomed the opportunity to lead the election observers in Sierra Leone on June 24.
“I’m highly honoured by the unique opportunity to continue to bring my expertise and experience in contributing to deepening democracy especially in Africa and the Commonwealth by extension,” he said.
According to the Commonwealth Secretariat, Osinbajo will be joined by recognised dignitaries from various fields including politicians, legal, media, gender and election administration professionals from across the Commonwealth to carry out the task in June.
The mandate of the Osinbajo-led Commonwealth Observer Group in Sierra Leone would be to observe the electoral process and provide an independent assessment of whether the election has been conducted in a credible manner.
The group will then report on the conduct of the elections in accordance with the standards to which Sierra Leone has committed itself, including its own laws.
“In line with Commonwealth methodology, the group will consider, among other things, whether conditions exist for credible and inclusive elections, including a fair election environment; whether public media has been impartial; the transparency of the entire process; and whether voters are free to express their will.
“The group, upon completion of its assignment, will submit its recommendations in a report to the Commonwealth secretary-general, who will subsequently share it with the Government of Sierra Leone, the Electoral Commission, political parties and all Commonwealth governments,” the Secretariat said.
The vice-president, on behalf of the Nigerian government, had been at the forefront of championing democratic governments especially in the West African sub-region, under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
On several occasions, Osinbajo had represented President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigeria at different sessions of the Authority of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government.(NAN)
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