The World Today for March 08, 2023


Second Thoughts


Sudan’s military junta has been colluding with an affiliate of Russian military contractor the Wagner Group to plunder the strife-torn African nation’s gold, robbing impoverished Sudanese citizens of critical funds while bolstering Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The European Union recently slapped sanctions on Wagner’s subsidiary in Sudan, a company called Meroe Gold, CNN reported, for allegedly committing “serious human rights abuses, including torture and extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings,” according to European officials.

The EU prepared the sanctions as Sudanese protesters took to the streets of the capital of Khartoum to call for reforms that would oust Sudan’s military rulers and transfer power to a civilian government, wrote Africanews. Police cracked down on the demonstrations using tear gas and other measures.

Such clashes have been common for at least four years in Sudan. In 2019, civil unrest resulted in the toppling of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir. After a brief democratic period, the military staged a coup in 2021 and took control.

As the Sudanese people complain, the military leaders have struggled to deal with the mammoth changes that have rippled through the world during and after the coronavirus pandemic. Sudan is already one of the world’s poorest countries. Now high energy and food costs have hit the country hard. Droughts due to climate change have worsened the tough conditions.

A third of the country’s population, or around 15 million people, face famine, Agence France-Presse reported. Three million children who are five years old or younger are “acutely malnourished.”

More than 500,000 people also remain displaced in camps in Darfur – 20 years after a conflict began between rebel groups in the region and Sudan’s Arab-dominated central government, Al Jazeera noted. Around 300,000 people died in the fighting between 2003 and 2007. After a joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission withdrew in 2019, fighting in the region started flaring up again.

The country’s dismal progress against global counter currents in recent years might have been one reason why even Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the number two member of Sudan’s ruling council, recently said he felt like the 2021 coup was a mistake – a remarkable admission from a prominent member of the country’s junta.

Dagalo was particularly concerned that elements of al-Bashir’s National Congress party political were regaining power within Sudan’s military and civilian government, added the BBC.

Dagalo, furthermore, has been at odds recently with Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, Sudan’s de facto head of state. Burhan wants a paramilitary force under Dagalo’s leadership to merge with the country’s army, but Dagalo has resisted losing his independence – or his protection – in case of civil war.

Burhan is now in talks to transition to a democratic government, but many suspect that he’s reluctant to hand over power, argued the National, a news outlet in the United Arab Emirates.

As the involvement of the Wagner Group illustrates, Burhan might fear what could happen to him if he’s not in firm control of the country.

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