The clashes that have been going on for two days in Sudan did not slow down today.
Clashes intensified around Khartoum International Airport in the capital, as well as Maravi and Ubaid airports in the north, the Presidential Palace, the army headquarters in the capital and state television.
Both the HDK and the military claim that they are “close to victory” using their social media platforms. According to the Sudan Central Committee of Doctors, 97 people have died so far.
So why did the conflicts begin?
The Sudanese army wants the HDK, which was established in Darfur during the ousted leader Omar al-Bashir, but later started to operate in many parts of the country, to be affiliated with it.
HDK, on the other hand, states that this will only be possible after the transition to civilian rule.
In the last period, there were intense discussions on this issue between the Army and the HDK.
The disagreement over the past few months over the military security reform, which envisages the “full enlistment of the HDK into the army,” has been the last straw.
What is HDK? Who founded where and when?
The Rapid Support Forces, which originated in the notorious Canjavid militias in the 2003 civil war in the western Sudanese Darfur region, also played an important role in the popular revolution in 2018.
The civil war and the humanitarian crisis that took place in Darfur in 2003, when mostly non-Arabs took up arms against the government due to discrimination complaints, came to the fore in 2003-2004.
According to the United Nations, about 300,000 people died in the war and about 2.5 million people were displaced.
The Sudanese President of the time, Omar al-Bashir, received support from the local and mostly Arab-origin Canjavid militias of the region to fight against the rebels.
With the peace process that started in 2010, Sudan’s leadership at that time started working to integrate the HDK into the army.
For this purpose, the state officially recognized these units, which were established in 2013, in 2014 by integrating them into the Sudanese intelligence agency, first under the name of “Border Protection Units” and then “Quick Support Forces” (HDK).
In 2013, Musa Hilal, who led the armed militias called Janjavid, cut off ties with Omar al-Bashir, a turning point that paved the way for Hilal’s cousin, Mohammed Hamdan Dagalu, known by the nickname “Hmidti”.
HDK leader Dagalu created an effective paramilitary force that took part in the conflicts in Yemen and Libya and in 2017 controlled some gold mines in Sudan’s Darfur and Kurdufan regions.
In January 2017, the Sudanese Parliament passed the “Rapid Support Forces Law” regarding the affiliation of the HDK, which is affiliated with the Security and Intelligence Agency, to the army led by Bashir.
When street protests began in cities such as Atbera, Khartoum and Kesela at the end of 2018, the HDK, which Omar al-Bashir deployed to Khartoum shortly before the overthrow of his 30-year rule to protect the regime, continued to stand by Omar al-Bashir during the protest process.
However, the HDK leader played an important role in the overthrow of Bashir by taking a stand with the people when the revolution came to an end.
Is the Burhan-Hmidti conflict effective in what happened?
Clashes continue between the Sudanese army led by General Abdulfettah al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces (HDK) led by Lieutenant General Muhammed Hamdan Dagalo (Hmidti).
These conflicts dealt a great blow to the friendship between Burhan-Hmidti, which started in Darfur in 2003. However, this was not the first time that these two commanders, who held the fate of the country, had come face to face.
Omar al-Bashir was dealing with a major armed conflict in Darfur in the 2000s. At that time, Abdulfettah al-Burhan was under the command of the Sudanese army in Darfur. Bashir decided to get support from militia groups instead of using only the army in the conflicts.
Lieutenant General Hmidti formed a small armed group to fight other armed movements resisting the Omar al-Bashir administration in the region at that time. Former President Bashir chose to support Lieutenant General Hmidti’s group.
Thus, Burhan and Hmidti began to fight on the same side against a common enemy.
The relationship between the two strengthened in April 2019 under pressure from the great popular revolution demanding the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir. Burhan and Hmidti agreed to form a sovereignty (military) council under the leadership of General Burhan to overthrow Beşir and take over the administration of the country.
Hmidti assumed the role of Vice President of the Sovereignty Council.
In 2021, the new step planned by Burhan and Hmidti against the civilian government led to a rift between the two. So much so that General Burhan brought back some figures from the Omar al-Bashir regime to some important positions in power. However, Hmidti strongly opposed this.
The Sovereignty Council, in which the duo played a leading role, was often reluctant to hand over power to a civilian government, but the economy and security in the country deteriorated significantly. Thereupon, a framework agreement for the transfer of the country’s government to civilians was signed in December 2022.
General Burhan and Lieutenant General Hmidti signed this agreement, which stipulated the transfer of power to civilians and the return of the army to their barracks.
However, a new and stronger disagreement arose between the army and the NGO with the implementation of one of the provisions of the framework agreement on military reform and the integration of the NGO into the army.
On the other hand, a disagreement between the two was over who should run the country. Both had consented to the handover of government to civilians, but still could not agree on who would lead.
While Hmidti demanded that the future civilian head of state lead, Burhan wanted the Prime Minister of the General Staff to lead. Just before the hot clashes, the tension was now reflected in the statements.
HDK Deputy Commander and Hmidti’s brother Abdurrahim Dagalo:
“Our message to our brothers in power is that they hand over power to the people without returning. Starting today, we will not allow young activists to be killed and politicians to be arrested. We put a lot into ourselves. We’re so quiet. We would not want to be the cause of these, but we will not compromise the basic principles that unite the Sudanese people and ensure justice, and we will not back down.”
Burhan responded to these statements of Dagalo as follows:
“We as soldiers are interested in integrating the NGO into the army… Otherwise, no one in the agreement can make any progress.”
How does the conflict in Sudan affect the “Nahda Dam” problem?
The clashes that broke out between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces could lead to a new wave of unrest that could affect Sudan’s Ennahda Dam case.
International observers read Sudan’s fall into the grip of instability as a harbinger of new developments as Ethiopia prepares for the fourth stage of the filling of the Ennahda Dam.
As the two downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan’s theses are close to each other on the issue of the Ennahda Dam.
While Ethiopia has announced that the dam is 90 percent finished, Addis Ababa is preparing to start the fourth filling phase of the Ennahda Dam.
Egypt sees stability in Sudan as strategic for its own interests. One of the worst scenarios for Cairo is that it has to defend its theses without Sudan, especially in international platforms.