July 17, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10713

Deepening Intellectual-Political Divide In Sudan Raises Concerns Of A Continued Conflict

July 17, 2023
Sudan | Special Dispatch No. 10713

As the war in Sudan rages on, which has claimed lives and displaced civilians for more than three months, the seeming divide between the country's intellectuals and political elites continues to deepen. The ongoing conflict has sparked a heated debate about the most viable solution to end the war. On one side, supporters of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) argue that the nation should unite behind its long-dominant regular military institution to defeat and dismantle the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), regardless of how long it takes. Conversely, SAF has accused those advocating for an immediate end to the war of supporting the RSF and being traitors and agents of foreign nations.

The United Nations expressed its concerns, stating that "the ongoing war between the parties has pushed Sudan to the brink of a full-scale civil war, potentially destabilizing the entire region."[1] The divide among the Sudanese has recently worsened following the participation of representatives from the civilian Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) in the meeting of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Quartet Group of Countries on Peace and Stability in the Republic of Sudan, which was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on July 10, 2023.

During the summit, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addressed the issue of a power vacuum in Sudan and promoted the idea of imposing a no-fly zone in the country. The summit also proposed discussions on deploying the Standby Force for the Protection of Civilians (ISAF) and ensuring the delivery of humanitarian aid, which faced strong opposition from the SAF and its online supporters. Additionally, the SAF voiced opposition to Kenya's chairmanship of the IGAD sessions, citing concerns over "the Kenyan president's lack of neutrality in the crisis."[2]

On July 13, 2023, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi hosted a summit in Cairo attended by the leaders of Ethiopia, South Sudan, Chad, Eritrea, the Central African Republic, and Libya. The summit called on the warring parties in Sudan to commit to a ceasefire and warned against foreign military intervention. It also warned of the possibility of Sudan's fragmentation or "descent into chaos that could lead to the spread of terrorism and organized crime" and called on the international community to meet aid pledges made last month.[3] Unlike the IGAD summit, the SAF welcomed Sudan's neighbors Cairo summit and thanked their ally Al-Sisi for hosting it.[4]

Recently, the FFC has faced intense condemnation and accusations of inviting foreign intervention and aligning with the RSF. In response, pro-FFC voices emphasize the urgency of ending the war and criticize SAF supporters for disregarding the army's past transgressions, including the creation of the RSF and the army's close relationship with the Islamic movement and remnants of the ousted Al-Bashir regime.

This report will highlight the deepening divide among Sudanese intellectuals and politicians, as well as their proposed strategies to bring an end to the war. It will also address the potential for regional military intervention.

Mini Arko Minawi, the governor of Darfur, leader of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and supporter of the (SAF) military regime, indirectly criticized the FFC representatives at the IGAD summit in a tweet posted on July 12, 2023, in which he wrote: "To overcome the Sudanese crisis, we have been and still are looking forward to a positive role from the international community by facilitating the parties of the conflict to engage in a sincere Sudanese dialogue, rather than through interventions that jeopardize national sovereignty. Unfortunately, a certain group of compatriots has turned into cheap tools, driven by their personal desires, using international platforms in a way that deepens the crisis instead of sitting with Sudanese people to resolve it."[5]

The FFC did not comment on the IGAD summit proposal to impose a no-fly zone and the consideration of deploying the Standby Force for the Protection of Civilians (ISAF) in its statement regarding the summit issued on July 10, 2023. Instead, it expressed its disappointment about SAF's refusal to attend and reiterated its call on SAF, RSF, and the regional and international communities "to work earnestly and effectively to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of the Sudanese people."

Concluding, the FFC stressed that they "will continue their diplomatic, political, and media efforts alongside their partners from the political forces that have signed the framework agreement, as well as national figures, in order to end the war, restore democratic transition, and transfer power to civilians, to achieve the goals of the glorious December revolution in freedom, peace, and justice in a democratic civil state."[6]

Sudanese journalist Azmi Abd Al-Raziq, in a July 10, 2023 Facebook post, considered FFC participation in the IGAD summit to be part of a global conspiracy. In it, he wrote: "The hasty rush of the Sudanese political gang, self-proclaimed as the civil forces, to Addis Ababa, and the statements of [Kenyan President] William Ruto and later Abiy Ahmed about urgent intervention and imposing new leadership on the Sudanese, attempting to strip the army of its right to defend its people and country, and equating it with rebel militias, are nothing but a despicable game, pre-programmed in the applications of international conspiracies. It has ignited the war from behind the scenes and has now transitioned to the second phase, the phase of reaping and seizing Sudan's resources after creating what they believe to be creative chaos."[7]

Pro-FFC supporters and those advocating for an end to the war have consistently refuted allegations of supporting the RSF and have emphasized their persistent call for the dismantling of all paramilitary forces. Furthermore, they defend their anti-war stance by highlighting that past conflicts have been resolved through negotiations, not through the use of weapons.

Political activist Muhammad Hassan Boushi wrote, using the hashtags "#NoToWar," and "#PutDownTheFirearms," on July 10, 2023, that "the war in South Sudan and Darfur has persisted for many years, inflicting heavy losses on the country in terms of lives and finances. Sudan has been greatly affected by these wars. However, these wars have come to an end through agreements and not through the use of firearms. Now, the solution to ending the war will not be achieved through military means. As time drags on, it becomes clear that the peaceful negotiation option is the ultimate solution."[8]

The deepening divide become apparent on social media campaigns and in on-the-ground activities. Pro-SAF activists have initiated several hashtags, such as "#FFCDoesn'tRepresentMe," and organized rallies where people publicly express their support for granting the SAF authority to address the situation in Sudan instead of civilian politicians. Furthermore, Islamist preachers and clerics have dedicated their platforms to aggressively expressing support for the SAF while vilifying the FFC as traitors, accusing them of aligning with the RSF and of being agents of foreign nations.

Under a hashtag dedicating July 14 as a day in which people grant the SAF full authority, pro-SAF activists shared videos of rallies showing people shouting "one nation, one army" and slogans vilifying the FFC and calling for the RSF to be defeated. On July 14, Salma, a Toronto-based activist and Twitter user with over 365,000  followers known for her pro-SAF position shared a video[9] of one these rallies from the SAF-controlled city of Kasala, in eastern Sudan.


On July 14, Sudanese Islamic scholar Muhammad Abd Al-Karim, the Secretary-General of the Muslim Scholars' Association, expressed his support for the pro-SAF campaign in a tweet[10] in which he also said that the RSF must be defeated and described FFC members as traitors.

A few days prior, Abd Al-Karim referred[11] to FFC members as traitors during a Friday sermon, asserting that they had been "recruited to provide political cover for the RSF" by a statelet, indirectly referring to the United Arab Emirates.

Prominent Sudanese writer and journalist Hammour Ziada addressed the deepening divide in Sudan through a July 8 article titled "History Did Not Begin on April 15, 2023." The article refers to the date when the war broke out between the SAF and RSF. In it, he noted that some supporters of SAF "want us to erase 30 years from our lives, along with everything we have experienced during that time, including the creation of the Janjaweed militia. They want us to rewrite history, starting only from April 15 and disregarding everything that came before it!"

He then mocked those who blame the political parties and civil society organizations including the FFC, consider them the enemy and accuse them of treason while they are the ones who "stood up against the rule of the Islamists and led this revolution." "They are the enemy," he wrote mockingly, "because everything starts from this war, not before it."

He further condemned the RSF: "The Janjaweed and their supporters want us to overlook their history of genocide and war crimes, considering their mere existence as a flaw and sin. If we do not support them, we are considered part of the 1956-Sudanese state elite, racists who detest seeing marginalized people in power. We are expected to forget all the previous and ongoing crimes committed by the Janjaweed and view them as marginalized forces. As if they were never the brutal arm of the central oppressive authority against the marginalized center and periphery, even just three months ago."[12]

The claim that the FFC has supported and endorsed the RSF has been debunked by pro-democracy activists and civil society members, including Mohammad Naji Al-Assam, a prominent leader within the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA). In a video published on the YouTube channel of the Arab Reform Initiative titled "The Conflict in Sudan: Between Personal Agendas and External Interventions" on July 3, Al-Assam said: "Since the beginning of the war until now, there have been attempts to promote a specific narrative about the war and its causes, placing the responsibility for its outbreak and continuation on the civil forces, the Forces of Freedom and Change, and the revolutionary forces. It is as if all these forces were the ones who created the Rapid Support Forces or allowed them to expand over the past years."

Al-Assam rejected this narrative and noted that its main objective is to "weaken these revolutionary forces and undermine the prospects of the continued democratic transition in Sudan."

He further accused the supporters of the ousted regime and the Islamists of being the sources of this narrative saying they have played a crucial role in igniting the war and its continuation.

According to him, "if there is a party in the Sudanese political landscape that benefits from the outbreak, continuation, and lack of a political resolution to the war, it is undoubtedly the remnants of the old regime and the Islamists. They mistakenly believe that the outbreak and continuation of the war increase their chances of remaining in the political landscape in Sudan."[13]

Unfortunately, it is highly probable that the deepening divide among Sudanese politicians and intellectuals will persist, further fueling the ongoing war. While neighboring countries consistently call for its cessation and peaceful resolution between the SAF and RSF, there is a  risk that the several of the affected nations could heighten their military support for one side or another if events on the battlefield do not resolve themselves.


[1], July 9, 2023.

[2], July 11, 2023.

[3], July 13, 2023.

[4], July 13, 2023.

[5], July 12, 2023.

[6], July 10, 2023.

[7], July 10, 2023.

[8], July 10, 2023.

[9], July 14, 2023.

[10], July 14, 2023.

[11], July 7, 2023.

[12]التاريخ-لم-يبدأ-يوم-15-أبريل-2023/, July 8, 2023.

[13], July 3, 2023.

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