After the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in Sudan in 2019, the struggle for power between the military and civilians intensified. Today, two generals are fighting over power: Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hamidti.
The first was the commander of the ground forces during the era of al-Bashir and became commander of the regular army. The second established the Rapid Support Forces, relying on the militias that fought a bloody war in the Darfur region.
During the coup of the twenty-fifth of October 2021, they were allies. Al-Burhan appeared on television to announce the removal of civilians from power and support for Dagalo.
But little by little, conflict between them began to surface.
Finally, Hemedti came out to publicly describe the coup as a “mistake” that led to “reactivating the remnants,” referring to supporters of the Bashir regime. For his part, Al-Burhan stressed that his move was “necessary to involve more political forces in managing the transitional period.”
“The struggle for power in Sudan is no longer between the military and civilians. Now each of Al-Burhan and Daglo has his own alliance,” said Sudanese political analyst Magdi Al-Gizouli of the Rift Valley Institute.
Military expert Amin Ismail believes that differences have existed since the Bashir era between the armed forces and the Rapid Support Forces, which were formed in 2013 to eliminate the rebellion that began in Darfur ten years earlier, and are accused of committing widespread human rights violations in the region.
“The differences are in essence a result of the political aspirations of both men, and the framework agreement in December highlighted them,” Amin says.
Last December, the two men signed a framework agreement that included civil parties, including the Forces for Freedom and Change, which led the protests against al-Bashir, as a first step in a political process aimed at ending the crisis caused by the coup.
The agreement laid out guidelines for a civilian-led transition process, but did not include any timetables, prompting its critics to describe it as “vague”.
In the agreement, the two generals pledged to quit politics once a civilian government was established.
Al-Gizouli confirms that Al-Burhan sees the agreement as a “delaying tactic,” while Daglo seeks to “improve his competitiveness,” and went so far as to describe himself as “an ally of freedom and change.”
However, according to El-Gizouli, “it is clear that neither of them has any intention of leaving politics because they are investing in alliances that will allow them to survive.”
In a speech he delivered to members of the Rapid Support Forces last week in Omdurman (west of the capital), Daglo denied “any disagreements with the army.” “Our differences are with those who are in power (that is, those who cling to it). We are against anyone who wants to become a dictator,” he said.
On Saturday, the armed forces denounced the accusations leveled at the army leadership of “unwillingness to complete the process of democratic transition and to leave politics.”
“These are public attempts to win political sympathy and obstruct the democratic transition process,” she said in a statement.
However, the Transitional Sovereignty Council, which has run the country since the coup, confirmed in a press statement on Sunday that Al-Burhan and Daglo had held talks on the security situation across the country.
Analysts say that security sector reforms and the integration of the RSF into the army have remained at the heart of the disputes.
Al-Jizouli indicated that the two men affirmed on multiple occasions their commitment to the reforms, “but it seems that they have different perceptions about how to implement them.”
“Al-Burhan wants to integrate the Rapid Support Forces into the army according to the army’s rules and regulations,” he added. However, Daglo “apparently wants to restructure the army’s supreme command first so that it will be part of it before merging its forces.”
Political analyst Kholoud Khair believes that an Egyptian initiative was recently put forward, which again fueled tensions between the two generals, as it gave preference to Al-Burhan over Dagalo.
In February, Cairo hosted a workshop between various Sudanese factions and personalities, including former rebel leaders Minni Minawi and Jibril Ibrahim, who opposed the December agreement.
The talks followed a visit to Khartoum by the director of Egyptian intelligence, Major General Abbas Kamel, in January.
Khair wrote in an article she published on the website of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, “The Cairo initiative made political groups in Sudan seek to conclude agreements with one general against the other.”
“This is a wrong choice and can only lead to more polarization in the political space and perhaps an armed confrontation between the forces of Burhan and Hemedti, with dire consequences,” she added.
However, Amin Ismail rules out the military confrontation and says, “It is a political dispute between the leadership and it did not reach the bases, but it may push the Sudanese people to rise up and turn the tables on them all.”