Tensions escalate in Sudan's divided army

Published 15.06.2019 00:19

The protests in Sudan that started last December over the increase in oil and bread prices and resulted in the ouster of Omar al-Bashir's decades-long rule continue. But the demonstrations take place in the shadow of division in the army.

Due to the lack of one recognized authority in the army, the country may face a worse scenario as some military officials were recently taken into custody and accused of staging a coup. Last week, scores of Sudanese were killed during a sit-in protest in the capital city of Khartoum. The order to disperse the protesters by using bullets was given by the Rapid Support Forces (RPF), which is supported by Saudi Arabia. While this armed faction seemed to be determined to employ brutality to oppress protesters, the ruling military council made a reconciling statement.

The Transitional Military Council (TMC) admitted that it had "decided to disperse the sit-in." Its spokesman Shams al-Din Kabashi said, "We ordered the commanders to come up with a plan to disperse this sit-in. They made a plan and implemented it... but we regret that some mistakes happened."

However, another member of the council claimed, "The army was prepared to eventually hand over power to civilians," but added elections had to be made first. "We do not want to rule Sudan forever; a few months, and we will go home," said Lt. Gen. Salah Abdel Khalig, head of the air force. The optimistic look at the Sudan's situation did not last long as it came apparent that the army was divided into factions. Each faction has different ties with Sudanese society, mostly based on kinship, while international and regional actors support rival factions.

In line with the division within the army, different groups would like to take power. On Thursday, Sudanese military officials from the TMC claimed that there were several coup attempts, but they were thwarted. Moreover, some officers were taken into custody.

According to the TMC, these officers had a role during the deadly dispersal of the sit-in.

"Two different groups of people suspected of involvement in the attempted coups had been arrested. One group consisted of five individuals, while the other had more than 12 members," Kabashi said. The TMC, earlier, said an "independent investigation" was launched into the mass killings. Its results will be presented next week.

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