Sudan and the permanent revolution

Yossi Schwartz, ISL, the section of the RCIT in Israel/Occupied Palestine, 07.05.2023

More than 500 people have been killed since battles erupted on 15 April between the forces of army (SAF) chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his number two Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, commonly known as Hemedti, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Both were the official military forces in the country at the time.

The two rival generals have agreed to multiple truces but none has effectively taken hold and the number of civilian deaths continues to rise and chaos is spreading in the capital, Khartoum. Susan has known many civil wars but it is the first time it is in Khartoum, where 5 million people live.

About 75,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Khartoum as well as in the states of Blue Nile and North Kordofan, and the western region of Darfur, according to the UN. [1]

Former prime minister Abdalla Hamdok was thrown from power when Burhan and Daglo seized power in a 2021 coup that derailed what was called Sudan’s transition to democracy, established after the dictator Omar al-Bashir was ousted following mass protests in 2019.

“After Omar al-Bashir was removed from power in 2019, Sudan’s authorities and partners overlooked countless calls from Sudanese protesters and activists for justice and reforms. Darfur’s most affected communities were ignored. The Security Council replaced its peacekeeping force with a political mission, UNITAMS, to support Sudan’s political transition, but with no mandate to provide civilian protection.” [2]

The SAF and the RSF have a history of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, whether in the context of counterinsurgency operations in Darfur, indiscriminate aerial bombings in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, or crackdowns against protesters in Khartoum and elsewhere.” [3]

Beginning in 2003 in Darfur, the Sudanese government and allied militias known as the “Janjaweed” – which government forces armed, supported, and fought alongside – committed crimes against humanity and war crimes, including summary executions, sexual violence, and torture, as part of counterinsurgency operations. In 2011, in the states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, the SAF conducted a campaign of indiscriminate aerial bombardments and ground attacks in which these forces deliberately killed and forcibly displaced civilians and destroyed civilian property” [4]

The planned integration of the RSF (Rapid Support Forces) led by Hemedti into the regular army is the main reason for the fight between the two generals.

The RSF, created in 2013 with many troops recruited from among the Janjaweed, committed grave abuses in Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan. Increasingly deployed to Khartoum from 2019 onwards, RSF forces led an attack on protesters in June 2019 that killed 120 protesters and injured 900. [5]

Following the October 2021 coup, Sudan’s security forces clamped down on popular protests, killing at least 125 people while injuring and arbitrarily detaining hundreds. [6]

Sudan’s security forces have unlawfully detained hundreds of protesters since December 2021 and forcibly disappeared scores as part of its broader clampdown on opposition to the October 25 military coup, Security forces have beaten and otherwise ill-treated detained protesters, including stripping child detainees naked and threatening sexual violence against women“. [7]

“In early March 2022 the United Nations’ Joint Human Rights Office in Sudan reported that more than 1,000 people were arrested between October 25 and March 3, including 148 children. The security forces have targeted people who are active or perceived to be active in the protest movement, Human Rights Watch found. Some were arrested during or in the immediate aftermath of demonstrations, and others were grabbed off the streets, or from their cars or homes” [8]

Israel and Sudan

Following the War of 1967, the Khartoum Arab League summit of 1967, held 29 August to 1 September 1967, declared in unison their three No’s: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel”.

Israel’s strategy toward Sudan at that time was laid out by Reuven Shiloah, the founding father of the Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency. According to Shiloah, the people of the region belong to two rings of threat: an external ring that involves non-Arab nations and an internal ring. Shiloah prioritized among elements of the second circle the Maronites in Lebanon, the Druze in Syria, the Kurds in Iraq, and the peoples of southern Sudan.

Sudan’s independence

Sudan won its independence in January 1956. Israel was against the possibility of a Sudanese Egyptian alliance under a Nasserite banner and found an ally in the Umma Party of Abd al-Rahman al-Mahdi, son of the Mahdi, Sudan’s 19th century anti-colonial hero. The Umma Party was keen to counter Nasserite political and military influence in Sudan.

As early as 1954, contacts were established between Umma Party officials and Israeli diplomats in London and, in late August 1956, a senior Sudanese official reportedly visited Israel to discuss economic assistance to the Umma Party. At a more senior level, August 1957 witnessed a meeting between Sudan’s prime minister Abdalla Khalil of the Umma Party and Israel’s foreign minister Golda Meir in Paris. In accordance with the Paris understandings, Israel’s prime minister David Ben-Gurion appealed to the US President Eisenhower to extend political and financial support to the Umma Party government” [9]

The huge Moslem country, three times bigger than Texas, could either be a bridge or a dam to communism in Africa. The trend of the Khalil government is definitely pro-Western and in the Arab League alignment the government leans towards Iraq rather than Egypt”,[10] wrote the editor of the New York Times in unequivocal Cold War terms.

Abdalla Khalil’s government did not last to reap the fruits of his appeals to Israel and the U.S. Protests against the proposed American led by the communist Anti-Imperialist Front and the pro-Egyptian National Unionist Party (N.U.P.) destabilized his government as a result.

Because of the closure of the Suez Canal, Sudan was not able to market its 1957 cotton crop and the 1958 crop proved a failure. Incapable of mustering a functional ruling majority in parliament, he effectively invited the army generals to assume power – which they did in November 1958. Abdalla Khalil welcomed the coup that ousted him, saying it blocked an attempt to annex Sudan by Nasser’s Egypt. The flirt with Israel ended there. The parliament that Abdalla Khalil attempted to control had in July 1958 approved legislation to boycott Israel in a wave of support for Egypt in the context of the tripartite war. This short piece of legislation was repealed by a joint session of the cabinet and the sovereignty council, Sudan’s collegial presidency, on 6 April 2021.

The quest of Sudan’s local rulers for new sources of credit to manage an economy in crisis and stabilize the capitalist system, whether with guns or with money led them to new relations with Israel.

Sudan’s military ruler, General Abd al-Fattah al-Burhan, met with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda’s Entebbe on 3 February 2020. The Sudanese leader said the meeting came “within the framework of Sudan’s efforts for its national and security interests” and stressed Tel Aviv’s role in supporting Sudan’s efforts to exit the U.S. state terrorism list. The event was coordinated by the U.S. with involvement of Sudan’s regional patrons: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), and Egypt. The step was received with appreciation by the Trump administration. Within weeks, Sudanese airspace was open to Israeli planes.

“A joint U.S.-Israeli delegation held talks with General al-Burhan in Khartoum on 22 October 2020 in a final push for an agreement. On 23 October 2020 former U.S. president Donald Trump declared that Sudan would be the third Arab country to normalize relations with Israel on the tails of the U.A.E. and Bahrain, as part of his administration’s so-called Abraham Accords. The office of the Israeli prime minister said on 25 October 2020 Tel Aviv would send 5 million U.S. dollars’ worth of wheat to its new friends in Khartoum to make peace warm, or rather edible” [11]

On 14 December 2020 the U.S removed Sudan’s designation as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’. The normalization deal was sealed on 7 January 2021 in Khartoum by Sudan’s Harvard-educated justice minister Nasr al-Din Abd al-Bari and the former U.S. treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin. In return, the U.S. provided Sudan with a 1 billion U.S. dollar bridge loan to clear its arrears with the World Bank as part of a larger effort to address Sudan’s crushing foreign debt burden

Once Sudan had joined the Abraham Accords, the U.S. military began cooperation with the Sudanese military reminiscent of the 1970s, when Sudan’s army was a pillar and beneficiary of U.S. military strategy in the region amongst other functions as a bulwark against the Derg regime in Ethiopia and against Libya. Commanders of the U.S. Africa Command spent a few days in Khartoum in January 2021 to discuss ‘strategy’ with their Sudanese army and U.S. military ships docked in Port Sudan, a development described in U.S. military news stories as “fundamental change in the bilateral relationship between the United States and Sudan” [12]

“Al-Burhan and his military colleagues dream of a return to the time Sudan as U.S. client during Jaafar Nimayri’s later years in power as Sudan’s president, Sudan’s military received between 1977 and 1985 a cumulative arms package of 1.4 billion U.S. dollars, the single largest commitment of U.S. military-economic resources to sub-Saharan Africa. The U.S. provided Sudan during these nine years with 135 million U.S. dollars in military aid, 160 million U.S. dollars in foreign military sales financing credits, 506 million U.S. dollars in economic support funds, approved more than 581 million U.S. dollars in foreign military sales cash transfer, and authorized 7 million U.S. dollars in military training and education to train 625 military students” [13]

The conflict between the generals and Israel

On December 5,2022 a “Framework Agreement” was reached to resolve the protracted tensions between the regular army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), that previously partnered with the army in ousting dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019 amid major public demonstrations. This framework envisions a two-year transition to civilian rule and the RSF’s merger into the army. Yet the commander of the RSF, Gen. Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo, has insisted that this merger be extended to ten years, further incensing Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the army chief who heads the transitional Sovereignty Council.” [14]

The army is backed by reconstituted Islamist factions that formed the core of Bashir’s regime, while Hemedti is rumored to enjoy tacit support from National Umma Party leader Mariam al-Mahdi, who is suspected of trying to break the army-RSF partnership in the hope of accelerating the transfer of power to a civilian coalition led by herself. Indeed, Hemedti challenged Burhan shortly before the fighting erupted by calling for an immediate transfer to civilian rule. Many of Hemedti’s troops are also followers of the Mahdiyya movement, which harkens back to the Islamic state that Mahdi’s ancestors established in Sudan in the late nineteenth century.” [15]

Israel’s approach to Sudan during the current situation is a boomerang. Israeli authorities have failed to cultivate relations with Sudanese civilian parties, focusing entirely on Burhan, his subordinate officers, and to a lesser extent the RSF. For three successive governments in Jerusalem, no serious effort was undertaken to show the Sudanese people the potential benefits of normalization with Israel. A single attempt to establish a “Sudan-Israel Friendship Association” in Khartoum quickly faded away, and humanitarian aid sent by an Israeli NGO did not receive any publicity. A handful of Sudanese civilian delegations have visited Israel, but these quiet, infrequent trips are dwarfed in number by the high-ranking military delegations that have arrived on semi-secret missions to seek assistance. This imbalance has exacerbated the wide opposition to normalization among Sudanese people, many of whom understand that Israel has been providing intelligence, weapons and cyber tools to the military in order to quell recent protests.

Thus, there is no reason for the revolutionary Marxists to support the army or the RSF nor the civilians who support close relations with Israel and the USA. The only way forward is for the masses led by the working class to fight for democracy. A struggle leading to a worker’s revolution supported by the poor peasants and the regular soldiers.

The transitional demand for a revolutionary constituent assembly is a key demand. Arming the masses is another key demand, as well as turning the regular soldiers against the generals Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, commonly known as Hemedti who are selling Sudan to the imperialists is another key demand.


[1] Agence France-Presse Sun 30 Apr 2

[2] Ibid



[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid


[8] Ibid


[10] Bigart, Homer. “Sudan to Ask U.S. for Aid and Arms During Nixon Trip.” New York Times, 19 Feb. 1957, pp.1 and 14.


[12] Ibid

[13] Lefebvre, Jeffrey A. “Globalism and regionalism: US arms transfers to Sudan.” Armed Forces & Society 17.2 211-227 (1991)


[15] Ibid

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