The Poisonous Dualism in Sudan's War
Amgad Fareid Eltayeb
In Sudan, war hawks and belligerents are trying to manufacture, disseminate, and market a poisonous dualism that compels the Sudanese to take a side in supporting this or that party in the absurd war taking ravaging the country. The mouthpieces of the two warring parties rely on creating alternative narratives that distort reality to aiming at gaining public support, mobilization, polarization, and recruitment, despite their clear contradiction with what happened and is happening on the ground. This dualism only serves to ignite the flames of war, prolong it, and complicate its consequences more and more. In addition to the repercussions associated with spreading the disinformation in the public space.
On one hand, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and its associated political allies, including some dedicated supporters and members of the Forces for Freedom and Change organizations, endeavor to disseminate a narrative of an alternate reality, with the objective to coerce the public into embracing and conforming to this narrative through the utilization of repetitive messaging and intimidation tactics within the realm of media. This narrative is predicated on the deliberate manipulation of facts and the intentional distortion of differing viewpoints, along with the defamatory portrayal of those who hold opposing perspectives. Moreover, they are promoting their deceitful narrative under the guise of political rationalism and the need to deal with the status quo.
Recently, the Digital Forensic Research Lab of the Atlantic Council(DFRLab) disclosed the existence of a network of fake Twitter accounts that glorify the RSF by copying and pasting similar positive remarks about it, with the intention of promoting positive image of its actions. This network, which was discovered, includes more than two hundred active Twitter accounts, and the discovery of this network follows a past discovery of two similar fake networks functioning in the same manner since April 2023. These networks use a variety of strategies to appear original.
The primary objective of the RSF's alternative reality narrative is to assure its continued existence as a post-war political actor with military and economic influence that can benefit from forging alliances. By producing and marketing political justifications for the Daglo's war and providing justifications for crimes and human rights violations committed by the RSF, this effort aims to assure the RSF's survival in the post-war period. This narrative is an existential necessity for the militia, which has lost all political and even pragmatic justification for its continued existence. And it has demonstrated, through the documented violations it has committed over the past months, that it is a totalitarian apparatus incompatible with the stability of life in Sudan. However, this makes confronting and exposing this narrative an upmost necessity to ensure the future stability and peace in Sudan.
The RSF's counterfactual narrative rests on basic pillars, most notably:
Denial of the RSF's abuses and crimes and its ongoing violations, and the ongoing attempts to question the occurrence of these abuses and crimes and attributing them to other parties, sometimes referred to as wearing "RSF" uniforms, and other times just unknown armed groups. This account directly contradicts what people on the ground actually witness. Nonetheless, you can see this narrative being pushed forward with
remarkable determination, especially among the international community members who fell for its trap in the early days of the war.
The RSF mouthpieces attempt to reinforce the first narrative by claiming a profound animosity between the forces of the former regime and the forces of political Islam in the region. However, it is important to remember that this very RSF is the direct product of the deposed regime, and in fact, creating RSF is one of its most egregious crimes and oppressive strategies. It is important to note that certain individuals who hold positions of influence within the RSF are not only highly visible within the former regime but also the most prominent and violent symbols of the ousted National Congress Party regime, and they were the epitome of its corruption. The RSF and its proprietor, Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, were closely linked with the masters of the deposed regime; Such as TahaOthman Al-Hussein, director of Al-Bashir’s office until 2017, who currently works as an advisor to the Emirati government, and Abdul Ghaffar Sharif, Head of Political Security Department at the National Intelligence and Security Services during Al-Bashir’s era, who is known for his brutality and violence in dealing with political detainees and others. Therefore, their media horns' claims of hostility to political Islam are meaningless and merely deceptive. In addition, the return of Islamists to the state and government apparatus, which occurred gradually and steadily following the coup of October 25, 2021, in which the "Rapid Support Forces" participated, occurred under their watch, supervision, and expanding control over state administration. The involvement of Islamists in exacerbating the war is without doubts, and it can be attributed to their desire to retaliate against the Sudanese people who overthrow their regime in the December 2018 revolution and reclaim the power that was taken away from them. A cursory examination of their Taiba TV channel, presently airing from Turkey, suffices to ascertain the magnitude of their contribution to the instigation of this war. In addition, we observe the
support of various Islamist factions for the two warring parties, which reflects an unprecedented opportunism that recalls the Iran-Contra scandal during the second term of Reagan's administration.
In both the logical and historical senses, it is a fallacy to portray the Rapid Support Forces as counterpart to the Islamists. This militia is nothing more than a product of the Islamist regime to secure itself, and it shares the same fascist and tyrannical fundamentals. The mass killing and political assassination of the Masalit people in West Darfur by the militia during the ongoing war, as well as the large-scale repetition of the Darfur atrocities of 2003, demonstrate that the behaviour of the rebranded Janjweed militia as RSF is the same whether it is fighting to protect Bashir's regime or for its own benefit. Also prevalent in Hamidti's speeches are the discourse of political Islam and Jihadist mobilization slogans such as (victory or martyrdom). As for the argument that Islamists fired the first shot in Khartoum's Sports City on April 15 morning, this is a detail of what occurred after the avalanche began to roll.
This argument, however, absolves the army of the blame for starting the war, as it disregards the fact that Hemidti had moved his forces to besiege the Marawi air base several days prior to the war, under the pretext of Egyptian fighter jets being present there. This issue was the spark that ignited the military crisis that culminated in the current war. And even if Hemedti's excuses were valid, why would he fear the presence of these aircrafts if he had no intention of initiating a military offensive? Not to mention the readiness and complete alertness of the "Rapid Support Forces," which took over Khartoum in less than two hours in a way of executing a predetermined plan, revealing the militia's prior intentions for this war.
There is a lengthy list of crimes that Islamists must be held
accountable for in the situation of Sudan today, but the one that stands out most is the creation of this "fascist militia" currently destroying the temple above everyone's heads.
Another witness to the militia's readiness and preparation for war was the press conference that the militia’s political advisor (Yousif Izat) called for to be held at the General Command of the Army three times during the first and second weeks of the war. Journalists were informed that it was to announce that an agreement had been reached with the "honorable members of the army," but it did not succeed in taking place in all those times. However, this reveals the RSF's prior planning for a full-fledged coup, which even included coordination with some other elements within the army. The fact remains, a failed coup was the trigger of this current war.
Furthermore, the alternative reality narrative of the Rapid Support Forces attempts to establish a false image of Hemditi as the protagonist of goodness in this Sudanese tragedy by claiming that this war is a product of historical grievances of the Sudanese margins, and that it aims to end the grievances of the "1956's state" and achieve a state of rights and citizenship, as stated in the RSF's Twitter hashtag." To that purpose, this narrative aims to claim or borrow the ethnic and regional representation of the people of Darfur. Meetings and consultative conferences have been organized and held for this purpose, during which people's and countries' allegiances are bought and paid for. The most recent of these was a conference held in Lomé, Togo's capital, with the participation of former Sovereignty Council member Mohammad Hassan Al-Taishi and former Minister of Justice Nasredeen Abdulbari, a man who did not hide in his meetings in Washington at the outbreak of the war that his views on ending the war are summed up in replacing Burhan by Hemidti as the legitimate leader of the country's armed forces.
However, this deceitful narrative is dangerous in that it attempts to present the war as a struggle with political, social, and historical roots, rather than mere battle for power between two coup partners. This narrative also ignores the fact that the "RSF militia" is not a natural and organic product of the Sudanese margin's grievances, as it is a creation of the deposed islamist’s President Al-Bashir to protect his regime, and the tool he used repeatedly to suppress this margin, deepen its historical grievances, and complicate the circumstances of coexistence in it. This is not to say that what happened in El Geneina to our Masalit people in terms of political assassination of their symbols and mass killing on the basis of identity, aside from cases of rape and displacement, is certainly an example of the rooted origins of the nature of oppression and authoritarian and ethnic violence upon which the "RSF" were founded. Aren't the Masalit and the other African tribes of Darfur, who are currently condemned to a constant suffering inflicted by the Rapid Support Forces, also from the Sudanese margins?
The Rapid Support Forces militia is not representative of any real historical grievances but is trying to exploit and deepen these grievances on the one hand and raise the social and ethnic concerns associated with them on the other in pursuit of military recruitment, ethnic mobilization, and the search for the false legitimacy of its existence. And this falsity serves only to prolong the war. The "RSF" is neither representative of the Darfurian Arab tribes nor has any legitimacy in the claim of such representation. However, RSF is trying to fan the fires of ethnic polarization in order for it to be acknowledged as a fait accompli.
The "Rapid Support Forces" is a military organization that primarily seeks to achieve its owner's political and economic interests. Its discourse on battling the 1956 state, which deals with and borrows terminology from the "post-colonialism" approach and repeats it with unprecedented lightness, is a cosmetic discourse, neglecting the fact that the "Rapid Support Forces" is one of the products of that distorted state of 1956, as an irregular armed force formed on the foundations of a financial empire that benefited from the allocation of national resources on a political and ethnic basis in the first place. It also ignores the fact that the approach to criticizing the post- colonial state is fundamentally libertarian. It aims at transforming the deformed economic and social structures left by colonialism in the states of the global south, rather than exchanging the centers of control among its tools and products. Similarly, this discourse cannot be adopted by an irregular power known for its loyalties and economic, political, and military agency to other countries and external parties. An entity that does not conceal its tireless military and economic efforts to implement their agendas in Sudan and the region as a whole.
The biggest fallacy in the RSF's alternative reality narrative is the assertion that the "Rapid Support Forces" militia is fighting for democracy and the creation of government. The militia's trumpets resort to demonstrating this claim with its supportive position on the framework agreement signed in October 2022, as if it were the best course of action for democracy and civil rule in the country, and they forget that there is so much disagreement over it among the democratic civil forces that large and appreciative parts of it did not accept the agreement. The issue is essentially a straw-man argument because the "framework agreement" was an attempt by the Forces of Freedom and Change to alter the path of the coup carried out by Hemedti and Burhan in collaboration. The acceptance of the Rapid Support Forces Militia did not stem from a desire to restore democracy or support civil rule, but rather from a desire to preserve the influence of the "Rapid Support Forces" for a period ranging from ten to twenty-two years before merging it into the army, according to the course of the talks leading to the Agreement. Both lengths are absurd, but they ensure that the "RSF" retains its power and autonomous presence during the two-year transition period stated in the agreement, as well as for at least two electoral cycles after it ends. This gives the militia enough time to build a new political corruption apparatus using the political, military, and economic influence granted and approved by the framework agreement with full independence of the state's executive apparatus. The agreement also guaranteed the continuation of the militia economic influence and control over valuable national resources ranging from gold to livestock.
The most disruptive myth in the RSF's alternate reality narrative is its attempt to hide under the slogan "No to War." This slogan reflects the correct patriotic stance, but militia supporters try to use and echo it in the context of whitewashing the militia's image while celebrating its military advancements and even defending its crimes and violations with little regard for the impact on Sudanese civilians. This conspicuous disparity causes many citizens in the middle ground to reject this slogan, despite its veracity, when they hear it repeated by the militia's trumpeters and supporters while they continue to ignore or downplay the violations affecting civilians. These violations and the repercussions of war on civilians are the primary impetus for the civilian appeal to end the war in Sudan. By ignoring them, you make it relatively simple for the army's war trumpets to propagate their false argument for the necessity of the military elimination of the militia, which is neither viable nor genuine.
This blatant contradiction cannot continue; the war must end, not by achieving political gains for either of the warring parties, but by addressing the origins of the conflict, including the existence of this militia and the army's political involvement.
On the other hand, the Sudanese army attempts to portray itself as a defender of the legitimate authority of the state and of itself, as the entity entrusted with the monopoly of the legal instruments of violence in the state. In doing so, however, it forgets that this war is a direct consequence of its collaboration with the militia in the coup of 25 October 2021, which ended the legitimacy accorded by the constitutional arrangements of 2019. Thus, the army has very little validity, if any, when arguing legitimacy and constitutionality in the context of this war. The justification for that coup, with the existence of a political crisis in the country at the time, is refuted by their direct contribution to making that crisis by clamping down on civilians. That contribution amounted up to the incitement of locking down the port of Portsudan in order to strangle the civilian government. In addition to the Armed Forces newspaper and its media activities, which kept mobilizing and urging a military coup against civilians. The army leadership partnered with the Rapid Support Forces militia to overthrow the civilian government in Sudan, after which they disagreed about dividing the spoils of their coup, so they fought over the heads of the Sudanese.
Additionally, the civilian casualties at various sites in Khartoum as a result of the army's aerial bombardment render the Sudanese army incapable of defending its official role and duty to protect citizens. It is not acceptable to justify these causalities based on the crimes of the RSF militia and their presence in residential areas, homes, and hospitals. A crime is no excuse a subsequent crime.
The presence of Islamists in decision-making centers in the army and the state, which increased significantly after the October 25 coup, is also the result of the reluctance and even resistance of the army leadership to start a real and comprehensive reform process in the military and security sectors in Sudan. This could have been an approach that, over the years of
the transitional period, was sufficient to address the crisis of the existence of the Rapid Support Forces militia and the politicization of the armed forces and to prevent the outbreak of this war before it took place. However, the efforts of the army leadership focused on placing obstacles in front of civilian rule instead of paying attention to the existential threat, which its mitigating was at the core of their logical duties and even stipulated in the 2019 Constitutional arrangements.
In this war, the Sudanese army is fighting not for sovereignty of the Sudanese state but rather to regain control over one of its own instruments of violence and repression that has turned against it. The army has simply hoist by its own petard. It's very evident that the crazy war currently raging in Sudan is a bad war and that all of the parties involved are awful. The only good thing to happen in it, is for it to stop as quickly as possible.
This cannot occur unless the underlying and true roots of the war, which are tied to the existence of the RSF and the politicization of the military institution, are addressed. There is no viable way to end this war other than the realisation of the clear eloquent slogan of the revolution (the Army should back to the barracks and the Janjaweed should disband). The toxic narratives that try to produce a poisonous dualism that force the Sudanese to stand with this or that party, it is a naive and malicious simplification of a more complex reality. It is not a tragedy of destiny on the Sudanese to replace one corrupt institution with another that is even more corrupt.
The war of the RSF with the army is a bad war, all its parties are corrupt. It will never be right to promote and encourage one of them, no matter how hard each of their mouthpieces tries to mislead, lie, and distort reality.