Sudan is geo-strategically important to the United States’ interests in both Africa and the Middle East. The country’s military rulers are the October 2021 coup leaders, Lieutenant-General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and his deputy, Lieutenant-General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (also known as ‘Hemedti’).
They are seeking to press the Biden administration to focus its Sudan policy on “stability,” rather than supporting the Sudanese people’s call for “democracy,” reported the Middle East Institute (MEI), a Washington, D.C.-based institution devoted to the study of the Middle East.
September marked the installation of the first U.S. Ambassador to Sudan in 25 years, John Godfrey. Godfrey was named ambassador in January with the U.S. Congress approving his appointment in July. He presented his credential documents as ambassador to Sudan’s military coup leader Gen. Al Burhan.
Acting as the current chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereignty Council, Al Burham expressed the importance of developing relations between Khartoum and Washington and emphasized the hope that the appointment represented a new impetus for a relationship between the two nations, reported voanews.com.
According to the Middle East Institute, “Both Burhan and Hemedti have (in recent past) worked to encourage the U.S. to continue its counter-terrorism cooperation with Sudan. Their aim is to convince the U.S. to drop its support for popular calls for democracy and accept their autocratic military rule. They also wish to be seen as agents of stability in the Middle East and East Africa and leaders who can guarantee U.S. interests in these regions.”
This effort appears to involve Egypt and its leader, President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi, who came to power, at least initially, by way of a military coup of a democratically elected government. Near the end of November, reported the Sudan Tribune, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani, with assistance from Egypt’s al-Sisi, helped make it possible his return to Sudan after a decade living abroad.
But his arrival in Khartoum comes while the party is on the verge of breaking up because of a sharp power struggle between his two sons, Alhassan and Gaffar. The former joined the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) and Popular Congress Party that supports a new draft transitional constitution that establishes a fully civilian government. While the latter is allied with the National Consensus Forces Minni Minnow and Gibril Ibrahim in their maintaining of the 2019 constitutional declaration while keeping a partnership with the military.
The father has sided with Gaffar. In a video released on November 16, “the party leader instructed Gaffar to bring order to the party and put an end to the actions of the ‘undisciplined elements’ in the party,” reported the Sudan Tribune.
An earlier edition of the Sudan Tribune reported Al-Mirghani being present alongside the Egyptian ambassador during the signing ceremony involving pro-coup forces which reinforce the view of Cairo’s support of the military. Since the October 25 coup in Sudan the head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, Abbas Kamel, has been visiting Khartoum mostly in secrecy so he could convey specific messages about the situation in Sudan.
In addition, the London-based news website al-Araby al-Jadeed reported that an Egyptian advisory team had been in Khartoum, with the aim of advising al-Burhan, who in the past took up military training with al-Sisi, on how to deal with critical internal political issues.
Notably, Cairo has not been part of efforts initiated by the U.S., European Union, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to reach a political settlement among the Sudanese parties that would reverse the coup and transfer power again to civilians.
The Middle East Institute believes part of the reason why Burhan and Hemedti sent high-level military envoys to Israel, on top of establishing joint intelligence and security relations, was the Sudanese military’s effort to encourage Israel to lobby the U.S. to accept the October 25, 2021 coup.
Khartoum has increased its security relations with Israel in hopes that Israel would encourage Washington to restart its financial assistance. This includes $850 million, as well as the international community reinstating its forgiveness of Sudan’s $60 billion debt.
Muhammad Idris, a professor of international relations, argues that Egyptian president al-Sisi does not support a democratic solution that would include civilian rule. Idris told the Sudan Tribune that al-Sisi would play both sides. He does not publicly oppose the efforts undertaken by the aforementioned countries, but he also would support keeping the military in power, which he sees as interlinked with Egyptian “interests.”
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