By Zayd Ibn Isah
One of the heartbreaking videos trending on social media currently is that of a young Nigerian student in Sudan. Watching the video, you need not understand Hausa to know from her facial expression that she and her colleagues over there are stuck in a hopeless situation: a situation which requires the urgent intervention of the federal government in order to save them from impending danger.
The ongoing crisis in Sudan is a battle for supremacy between two rival groups: the Sudanese Army led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan , and on the other hand , the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by General Mohammed Hamdan Dagolo – who is widely known as Hemedti. Prior to this , the RSF had been working closely with the Sudanese Army to solidify military rule . However , things began to fall apart when negotiations broke down over how RSF paramilitary officers should be absorbed into the Sudanese Army as part of plans to restore civilian rule. Eventually , the centre could no longer hold when the RSF started deploying members around the country, as well as in Khartoum, in flagrant defiance to the Sundanese Army’s authority. After all, what will two divided rulers bring to a community if not anarchy?
General Dagalo, head of the RSF, rose to prominence during Sudan’s Darfur crisis in the early 2000s when he led the notorious Janjaweed forces. He was notoriously fingered in several human rights violations and crimes against humanity, including the massacre of 120 protesters in 2019. His counterpart, Burhan, also rose to prominence in the 2000s for his prominent role in the dark days of the Darfur conflict. Until recently, the two men were brothers-in-arms who worked together to topple President Omar al-Bashir in 2019, playing a pivotal role in the military coup of 2021. Today, they are at the centre of a crisis that has claimed the lives of at least 459 people, with more than 4,000 injured according to the World Health Organization. Theirs is a proverbial case of how the grass suffers when two elephants fight. Except the casualties of this conflict are more than proverbial grass; they’re actual lives being cut short or thrown into fear, chaos and uncertainty.
For years, Sudan was the largest country in Africa and the Arab League, until its partitioning into two countries in 2011 after South Sudan voted for independence. This was as a result of struggles by the mainly Christian and Animist south against rule by the Arab Muslim north. Although there were expectations that South Sudan would outclass its counterpart as a result of its richness in crude oil, the reverse has unfortunately turned out to be the case. Since its independence in 2011, the country still retains serious humanitarian crisis while being beset by ethnic fighting. South Sudan’s oil reserves are estimated at 3.5 billion barrels, giving it the third largest crude oil reserves in Sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria and Angola. According to the country’s Ministry of Petroleum, nearly 90% of South Sudan’s oil and gas reserves remain untapped. Imagine how a united Sudan with its huge mineral resources would have fared under an altruistic leader.
Although the ongoing violence in Sudan is not unconnected to the country’s huge mineral resources, especially the gold mines, it has been going on for quite a while now, only that it recently just spiralled out of control. In 2017, Sudan produced 107 tonnes of gold, making it the third-largest gold producer on the continent behind Ghana and South Africa.
Another interesting fact to know about Sudan is that it has had more coups than any other African country. Since gaining independence from the British in 1956, there have been coups in 1958, 1969, 1985, 1989, 2019 and 2021. The coup in 1989 brought its longest military ruler, Omar Bashir, to power. He ruled the country for over three decades until a violent protest mainly incited by Sudanese women over skyrocketing prices of bread saw him leave office unceremoniously.
There was wild jubilation on the streets of Sudan after Bashir caved in to the defiant protesters, but little did they know that it was not yet Uhuru. Two years after his removal from office, just when elections were due to be conducted, the military struck again claiming it was stepping in to avert a civil war. No be juju be that?
Now, several countries are evacuating their citizens from Sudan as there seems to be no end in sight to the battle between the two powerful generals. Consequently, all eyes are on the Nigerian government to do the needful and avert a looming tragedy . It is on record that Sudan has the highest number of Nigerians in the world with an estimated number of five million people. Some are permanently residents there and have never been to Nigeria before, while others only school there. The country has one of the best educational systems in Africa and this has attracted a lot of young Nigerians, who go there to acquire a range of certified degrees.
As such, it is commendable that the Nigerian government did not pay deaf ears to the loud cries of its citizens trapped in the war-torn country and has almost completed plans to evacuate them. Interestingly , this is not the first time Nigeria is coming to the rescue of her children in times of crisis. When the Russia-Ukraine war broke out last year and Nigerians living there were stranded, the present administration went all out to ensure that they all returned home safely.
There are many lessons Nigerians can learn from the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Sudan. For one, we should realize that this country is all that we have. And that when our ships are down elsewhere , we can only run back home for safety. It is one thing to “japa” and another thing to have a safe and secured Nigeria to always return to. This isn’t something to be taken for granted at all, and as such, our country’s territorial integrity and internal security must constantly top the list of our prioritized national concerns.
Another lesson is for those beating the drums of war in Nigeria to consider the wanton destruction of lives and properties in Sudan and Ukraine, if only to cool their hearts and tarry a bit. War never actually solves anything; it only creates problems which may only materialize years into the future. The Headquarters of the General Command of the Armed Forces in Sudan used to be a hive of activities. Today, it has crumbled into an eyesore of ruins. The beautiful city of Khartoum has been deserted. Everyone is running scared , hiding in fear , desperate for the sweet relief of peace.
The bottomline is this: war should never be an option for us no matter the level of provocation. If indeed a war is to be fought in Nigeria today, it should be fought against poverty, illiteracy, corruption, insecurity and sundry issues which have bedevilled us for years.
Isah, Media Aide to the Chairman, Police Service Commission, can be reached via: [email protected]