Slaughter in Sudan and the US Role

Thousands of Americans have been protesting for eight months against the murder and misery in Gaza. We have felt complicit because the bill is largely paid for by the US government, with our tax dollars. Although the number being killed or facing starvation in Sudan is far greater, we have not been moved to parallel action. However, it is in Sudan that there exists the world’s worst food crisis due to drought, the destruction of agricultural land and forced relocation, affecting nearly 25 million; at least 150,000 killed and over 12 million displaced.1,2 Nonetheless, It hasn’t seemed as if it had anything to do with us Americans, that we could wield any influence. This is incorrect. The US is much involved with the tragedies of Africa, of Sudan and many other nations of the region, and has long been so.

The Riches of Africa

The Sahel, the desert strip across norther Africa encompasses eight nations – Eritrea, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Senegal. Under their dry soil lie great riches needed and desired by imperialist world: gold, cobalt, uranium, copper, rare earth minerals, oil, and natural gas – overall 30% of the world’s minerals, 12% of the oil and 8% of the natural gas reserves. Eritrea and Sudan border the critical Red Sea shipping route that leads to the Suez Canal. Djibouti, just south of Eritrea on the Red Sea hosts the largest US base in Africa.3,4

Although France and England were once the main colonial masters of this region, they were overtaken by the US in the last quarter century, and the US is now in intense competition with Russia and China for influence and control. Africom, the US unified military command in Africa (excluding Egypt) was established in 2007 to consolidate and expand the US military role in Africa and had 29 bases in 15 different countries as of 2021.5 Its mission was to control resources and markets, although it was said to range from anti-terrorism to promoting political stability and providing humanitarian assistance. Africom began its activities with the 2011 coup in Libya, overthrowing Qaddafi and ushering in the chaos which has reigned there since.6,7 In fact, the US has supported and emboldened many military juntas in Africa, provided military training that likely enabled twelve coups since 2014, and succeeded only in overseeing an increase in terror incidents..8 Most of the insurgents have since had the ongoing support of Russia.

Recently, the US Africa program has had some particularly drastic setbacks. In July 2023, a coup in Niger, home to one of the world’s largest uranium deposits, deposed the military government friendly to the US, which was forced to abandon its 1000-man military base there that was focused on controlling al-Qaeda and ISIS.9 Chad, where the US extracts oil and gas, may be headed the same way as the US was recently requested to withdraw from a base there. Meanwhile Russian trade with Africa grew to $18 billion as of 2021, while that of China rose to $282 billion.

Sudan

Unlikely as it may seem, the current debacle in Sudan boils down to a struggle to maintain power and wealth between two generals. Each is aided by a vast army and web of allies who wish to enrich themselves via Sudan’s many resources.

In 2019 the 30 year dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir was overthrown by a large popular movement, and a transitional government under a military/civilian power sharing government headed by Abdalla Hamdok was set up with the support of the US, the EU, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the IMF (see https://multiracialunity.org/2022/01/30/sudan-coups-imperialists-and-resistance/ for a review of Sudanese history.). On October 21, 2021, a fully military coup took place, led by General Abdel Fattah al- Burhan, who leads the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), in alliance with the Rapid Support Forces(RSF), led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, widely known as Hemeti. The RSF came into existence in the early 2000’s in response to the insurgency in Darfur, when it was created by Bashir as the notorious Janjaweed militia and killed over 200,000 civilians. After the war, Bashir renamed it the RSF and kept it around to protect himself against any possible coup. The RSF was also empowered by the EU, which gave them millions to block emigration to Europe.10 The RSF has about 100,000 fighters but many potential allies it can mobilize from impoverished western Sudan, while the SAF has about 300,000 soldiers.11

In 2021, the US and the UN pushed a security sector reform plan to return to the 2019 constitution and trusted the new military rulers to follow it. Both armies were supposed to be placed under civilian control, which pleased neither.12 The generals did agree to close the office Hamas maintained in Sudan and to deepen security relations with Israel in order to receive $850 billion in aid and forgiveness for a debt of $60 billion.16 The military government was faced with intense internal civilian protests as they ruled under the Western backed deal that demanded that the two armies merge and dismantle their economic fortunes. Disagreements between the two generals over any merger or loss of their own wealth and power, not ideology, were the sole factors leading them to attack one another in April, 2023.13

The RSF is mostly funded by gold. Gold production massively increased after 2012, following the secession of South Sudan, where most oil reserves are located. Most of Sudan’s gold is smuggled illegally out of the country to the UAE with nearly half of the revenue ending up in private hands, and in return the UAE supplies arms. The RSF also received millions for sending troops to Yemen to support Saudi Arabia and the UAE and has ties to Ethiopia, which is building a hydroelectric dam on the Nile. The SAF is fighting to control investments in oil, gum Arabic (used in food, paint and cosmetic production worldwide), sesame, weapons, wheat, telecommunications and banking. It is closely allied with Egypt, which is opposed to the dam construction that threatens its own water resources.13

Fears of the US

Sudan is important to the US and other imperialists because of its location bordering Egypt, Libya, Ethiopia and Eritrea on the Horn of Africa and the Central African Republic to the south. Sudan itself borders the Red Sea through which 10% of world trade passes, and lies between Egypt and Ethiopia who oppose each other over damming the Nile. Sudan also has large deposits of gold, silver, copper and uranium and 80% of the worlds gum Arabic. The US fears that its own alliances with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which support the SAF, and UAE, allied with RSF, may be disrupted and that the conflict may spread westward to the rest of the Sahel. Just to add more confusion, In April it was disclosed that Iran, with hopes of building a Red Sea base, is sending armed drones to the SAF.14 It is also feared that an unstable Sudan might become a haven for terrorists.15

Perhaps most important for the US is competition with the increasing influence of Russia and China in the region. Russia has looked to Sudan’s resources to counteract Western sanctions imposed since it invaded Crimea and later Ukraine. In 2017, Sudan agreed to let Russia’s Wagner Group mine gold and to build a nuclear enabled military base at Port Sudan on the Red Sea. In this civil war Wagner has been siding with the RSF, exchanging missiles for gold, although on 6/8/24 the New York Times stated they may also be making arms deals with the SAF. The US believes Russia is building a westward corridor through Darfur to its military posts in Chad and Libya. China has also invested heavily in Sudan as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. China loaned $143 million for projects such as pipelines, bridges, factories and railroads, and is now Sudan’s second largest trading partner after the UAE.16 The Chinese seem more concerned with protecting their investments than in taking sides.17

The US is also anxious to continue Sudan’s participation in the Abraham Accords, US brokered alliances between Israel and Arab states, that Sudan agreed to in 2020. Most Sudanese civilians are in opposition, so Israel and the US therefore have a stake in maintaining the military government. Israel is less interested in which side wins than that a settlement be reached.18

Although several peace conferences have been called, so far neither army is willing to consider making concessions, each one hoping to emerge the victor. The US fears the loss of stability in the area and the consequences to alliances with countries on opposing sides of the conflict. Most of all, the US fears the growing military power of Russia and economic clout of China, as well as the loss of mineral resources and an increased risk of anti-Western terrorism.

As in the rest of Africa, Middle East, Central and South America, the US and other imperialists continue to vie for resources – petroleum and minerals – and cheap labor. They use economic tools like IMF loans, which require debt repayments at the expense of needed services, trade regulations to prevent industrial development in the global south, and military might to enforce their wishes. The result is the impoverishment and death of millions. The possibility, the near certainty, of future wider war between the largest imperialists themselves, will risk the lives of all the world’s inhabitants. In most of the current smaller struggles, be it between the generals in Sudan, or Israel versus Hamas, there are no good guys among the leaders. Only when the workers of the world recognize that all capitalists and imperialists are killing them and organize internationally to overthrow them is there hope for our survival and a safe and happy life.

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