The North African state of Sudan is currently experiencing serious Hybrid War unrest as it attempts to gradually transition from the Saudi-led camp to the Turkish-Qatari one, and the geopolitical fate of this beleaguered but strategically positioned country will have serious implications for the future of multipolarity in Africa.
Sudan, no stranger to externally provoked conflicts within its borders, is once again suffering from serious Hybrid War unrest as a violent anti-government protest movement exploded onto the national scene over the past week. The North African country had recently invited Russia to construct the segments of the North-South and East-West Trans-African Railways that are expected to traverse through its territory and President Bashir just paid the first-ever visit of an Arab head of state to Syria since that country’s conflict first broke out almost eight years ago, making many observers suspect that the timing of the latest destabilization attempt wasn’t coincidental.
Before going any further, it needs to be objectively recognized that there are genuine socio-economic concerns in Sudan that created the preexisting political conditions that foreign actors are presently exploiting. This means that the blame for the latest turmoil should be partially shared by the government for its many shortcomings, the so-called “international community” for failing to support the country after going along with the US’ decades-long policy of “isolating” it, and the external elements that are actively provoking violence there. This already complex situation is further complicated by the context in which it’s occurring.
It’s one thing for the impoverished masses to protest against their dismal socio-economic conditions and another thing entirely for them to do so violently by torching the local headquarters of the ruling party like they did in the strategic railway hub of Atbara, which was meant to interfere with the rest of the country’s access to the outside world via the nearby Red Sea coastal city of Port Sudan and potentially exacerbate the national crisis. On top of that, an opposition leader returned to the country after self-imposed exile around the same time and openly called for regime change, which proves that an incipient Color Revolution is indeed underway.
Whoever the foreign forces behind this unrest may be, they aren’t targeting Sudan only because of its economic cooperation with Russia and political support to Syria since these are relatively recent developments whereas the ongoing developments evidently took some time to plan beforehand. The real reason why Sudan is under Hybrid War attack is because it’s gradually transitioning from the Saudi-led camp to the Turkish-Qatari one in what is increasingly becoming one of the New Cold War’s most impactful “defections” because of the far-reaching consequences that it could have for multipolarity.
Sudan’s geostrategic position makes it indispensable to China’s Silk Road vision for Africa, but it’s also of premier attractiveness for Turkey too after Ankara clinched a deal almost exactly 12 months ago to rebuild the Red Sea port of Suakin. This alarmed the GCC for a few reasons, not least of which is because Turkey is allied with Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s Qatari nemesis but also because Sudan is supposed to be their military ally in the War on Yemen. Khartoum reiterated its commitment to that conflict just a few days ago but then Qatar extended its full support to Sudan right afterwards.
There’s no doubt that Sudan is trying to realign itself away from the GCC and closer to Turkey and Qatar, both of which are very close to Russia nowadays too, and it shouldn’t be forgotten that Khartoum invited Moscow to build a naval base along its coast during President Bashir’s meeting last year in Moscow with his Russian counterpart. He even warned during that time that the US wants to balkanize his country into five separate parts, a scenario that might be in the process of happening if the current Hybrid War unrest isn’t properly dealt with before it acquires critical mass and passes the point of no return.
Another point to keep in mind is that Sudan is actively cooperating with Russia in seeking to broker a political solution to the long-running conflict in the neighboring Central African Republic (CAR) where Moscow is militarily involved in an indirect capacity per UNSC approval. Although the Khartoum peace process earlier this year didn’t yield any tangible results, it was nevertheless a step in the right direction, one which might be endangered if Sudan continues to slide further into chaos and ultimately becomes a failed state. That could have profoundly negative implications for the CAR’s fledgling peace process and might reverse the progress over the past year.
Altogether, the destabilization of Sudan could undermine China’s Silk Road connectivity plans for Africa as well as spill over into the neighboring countries of CAR, South Sudan, and Ethiopia, all of which are currently struggling with various degrees of unrest of as it is. Russia and Turkey’s strategic interests in the Red Sea region and their Sudanese gateway into the Sahel could also be jeopardized, as could the foothold that Qatar is trying to establish on the other side of the Arabian Peninsula. While the GCC might lose a valuable military ally in the War on Yemen, Sudan’s collapse could conceivably be to their benefit if it spoils Turkey and Qatar’s plans.
That’s not to say that the GCC has a direct hand in what’s happening just because of a superficial interpretation of the “qui bono” principle, but just that it’s nevertheless capable of turning Sudan’s deepening destabilization into a relative advantage when compared to the strategic losses that China, Russia, Turkey, and Qatar would receive in that scenario. Likewise, Sudan’s successful reorientation away from the GCC would comparatively harm their interests much more than the aforementioned states’, which stand to gain in the event that this happens. Considering this, it’s clear to see that Sudan has suddenly become a country of consequence in the New Cold War.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.