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Is Sudan Dividing? Civil Administration vs. Military Alliance in Khartoum

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Simultaneous with military maneuvers orchestrated by the army in Al-Jazira State, media outlets aligned with the Rapid Support Forces disseminated details regarding the establishment of a civil administration tasked with governing the central Sudanese region.

Last December, the Rapid Support Forces assumed authority over the island, with its leader, Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo, commonly referred to as “Hemedti,” decreeing the appointment of field commander Abu Aqla Kikal as its governor.

According to a declaration from the Rapid Support Forces, representatives from the localities of Al-Jazira State convened to establish a council named the Civil Foundation Council, comprising 31 members. It was further highlighted in the statement that Siddiq Othman Ahmed was elected as the leader of the civil administration in the state.

Furthermore, the statement emphasized that the Civil Administration’s mandate encompasses the restoration of administrative stability, the safeguarding of civilians, and the provision of essential services. This endeavor will be conducted in close coordination with the Rapid Support Forces.

Duplicate experience

Ammar Siddiq Ismail, a member of the external advisory office of the Commander of the Rapid Support Forces, contends that the establishment of the Civil Foundation Council in Gezira State is not a novel initiative. He asserts that the Rapid Support Forces had previously instituted civilian councils in other regions, including West Darfur, South Darfur, Central Darfur, and East Darfur, subsequent to assuming control over those territories.

In an interview, Ismail underscored the multifaceted efforts of the support forces in delivering essential services such as electricity, water, and healthcare to the populace within their jurisdiction. However, he emphasized that effective civil governance and state administration necessitate the involvement of civilian professionals, a pursuit actively pursued by the Rapid Support Forces.

He noted that “the experience will reflect positively on the conditions of citizens in the state of Gezira, and will contribute to providing them with the necessary services.”

However, strategic expert Amin Majzoub holds a contrasting perspective. He posits that “the Rapid Support Forces aim, by forming the civil administration in the state of Al-Jazira, to mislead international opinion that the citizens of the island support them and accept their presence in the state.”

Majzoub, a former Sudanese army officer conveyed, “The announcement of the civil administration in Gezira State is intended to whitewash the Rapid Support Forces’ record of violations against civilians in the cities and villages of Gezira State.”

He highlighted that “those who accepted to be part of the civil administration in Gezira State are unknown and have no influence in the popular incubator in the state.”

The strategic expert cast doubt on the viability of the initiative, remarking, “The Rapid Support Forces had previously appointed a governor in Khartoum from among its members, and that decision had no impact in the executive or civil sphere, and was merely a media sensation.”

Contrastingly, Othman Al-Mardi, a professor of political science at Sudanese universities, opines that “those who supervised the formation of the civil administration benefited from the state of discontent that formed among large components of the island’s citizens against the army after it suddenly withdrew from the state.”

Al-Mardi conveyed, “The army withdrew from the island and did not confront the Rapid Support, nor did it work to recover it, leaving the citizens to face the violations of the Rapid Support, which created a state of dissatisfaction among the citizens.”

The professor of political science highlighted that “the civil administration may serve the interests of the state’s citizens in the issue of providing basic services, especially in light of the state government’s withdrawal with the army, which led to an administrative vacuum that harmed the issue of providing services to citizens.”

He anticipated that the establishment of the Civil Administration would prompt “community and popular disagreements in the state,” noting that “there are components that refuse to coexist or reconcile with the Rapid Support, and may take an oppositional and opposing position against the group supporting the idea of the Civil Administration loyal to the Rapid Support.”

Military path

The establishment of the civil administration in Al-Jazira State coincided with widespread reports of army-led efforts to reclaim the region from the hold of the Rapid Support Forces. What implications does this step hold for the military strategy?

Majzoub responded, “The Rapid Support Forces aimed, by forming the civil administration of Al-Jazira State, to impede the army’s vigorous endeavors to retake control and to oust the Rapid Support elements.”

He elaborated, “The creation of the civil administration is unlikely to impede the army’s plans and actions aimed at wresting control of Al-Jazeera State from the Rapid Support, as the army has firmly decided not to engage in negotiations with the Rapid Support.”

Media platforms associated with the Sudanese army disseminated video footage showcasing military mobilization efforts involving army personnel, the Operations Authority of the Intelligence Service, and several armed groups from Darfur in Omdurman. They stated, “The mobilization is geared towards confronting the Rapid Support in Khartoum and Gezira State.”

On the contrary, Ismail contends that “the establishment of the civil administration has no bearing on the military trajectory and does not signify an imminent withdrawal of the Rapid Support Forces from the state,” emphasizing that “the Rapid Support Forces will maintain their presence in all territories under their control.”

He highlights that “the formation of the Civil Administration underscores the Rapid Support’s commitment to its initiative advocating for the transfer of power to civilians, distancing the military from governance, and prioritizing their focus on military and security duties.”

Furthermore, he asserts, “The inception of the civil administration will enable the Rapid Support Forces to concentrate on their military and security responsibilities both on the island and elsewhere, enhancing their capability to secure victories across various combat fronts.”

In contrast, Al-Mardi suggests that “the formation of the civil administration could potentially influence halting the military operation planned by the army and its allies, including armed movements, against the Rapid Support Forces in Al-Jazira State.”

He suggested that “the civil administration could initiate negotiations with the army, potentially leading to an agreement where the army ceases its assaults on the state in exchange for the withdrawal of the Rapid Support Forces.”

Furthermore, he expressed concern, stating, “What is alarming is that this action may pose a risk of division for Gezira State and Sudan. It is anticipated that the army will reject the legitimacy of the civilian councils announced by the Rapid Support, possibly resorting to a similar tactic by establishing its own government in the areas under its control, reminiscent of the situation in Libya.”

In a statement issued in mid-March, the resistance committees in Wad Madani, the capital of Al-Jazira State, accused the Rapid Support Forces of “committing atrocities and violations against civilians in various villages and cities within the state.”

The statement highlighted that “all hospitals in the city of Wad Madani and several other cities in the state are non-operational, with only emergency, women’s, and obstetrics services partially functioning, amidst shortages of essential medicines. Pharmacies have closed their doors due to concerns of theft and looting.”

According to United Nations agencies, the ongoing conflict in Sudan between the army and the Rapid Support Forces, which began on April 15, has resulted in the deaths of over 13,000 individuals and displaced more than 8 million from their residences.

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