As war rages in Sudan, other countries angle for advantage

As war rages in Sudan, other countries angle for advantage

The New York Times reports:

As war consumes Sudan, nations from around the world have mobilized swiftly.

Egypt scrambled to bring home 27 of its soldiers, who had been seized by one of Sudan’s warring parties. A Libyan warlord offered weapons to his favored side, American officials said.

Diplomats from Africa, the Middle East and the West have appealed for a halt to the fighting that has reduced parts of the capital, Khartoum, to a smoking battlefield.

Even the leader of Russia’s most notorious private military company, Wagner, has gotten involved. Publicly, he has offered to help mediate between the rival generals fighting for power, but American officials say he has offered weapons, too.

“The U.N. and many others want the blood of the Sudanese,” Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner founder, said in a statement. Without a hint of irony, Mr. Prigozhin, who is waging a brutal military campaign on behalf of Russia in Ukraine, added: “I want peace.”

The rush of international activity may seem sudden, but it reflects a dynamic that loomed over the country well before its two leading generals turned on each other last week: Sudan has been up for grabs for years.

The revolution of 2019 — in which tens of thousands of protesters ended the three-decade dictatorship of President Omar Hasan al-Bashir — was supposed to usher in a bright and democratic future. But it also spelled new opportunities for outside powers to pursue their own interests in Africa’s third largest country — a nation strategically perched on the Nile and the Red Sea, with vast mineral wealth and agricultural potential, and which only recently emerged from decades of sanctions and isolation.

Russia sought naval access for its warships in Sudan’s Red Sea ports. Wagner gave armored vehicles and training in return for lucrative gold mining concessions. The United Arab Emirates paid one of the warring Sudanese generals, Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, to help it fight in Yemen, officials say. Egypt backed the other general, Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Burhan, sending soldiers and warplanes in a highly contested show of support.

Israel, long shunned in the Arab world, saw a chance to gain something it coveted from Sudan: formal recognition.

And Western countries pushed what may have been the most difficult idea of all — the transition to democracy — while also hoping to counter the expanding influence of China and Russia in Africa.

“Everyone wanted a chunk of Sudan and it couldn’t take all the meddling,” said Magdi el-Gizouli, a Sudanese analyst at the Rift Valley Institute, a research group. “Too many competing interests and too many claims,” he added, “then the fragile balance imploded, as you can see now.” [Continue reading…]

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