The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Imperialism Created the Powder Keg in Sudan

May 15, 2023

Two generals have been fighting for power in Sudan for nearly a month, creating a crisis for the population there, with nearly a million people fleeing their homes already. Abdel al-Burhan, the general in charge of the military, has been fighting Mohammed al Hamdan, known as Hemedti, who heads the Rapid Support Forces, which grew out of the notorious Janjaweed militias that violently put down a local rebellion in Darfur in the early 2000’s.

Both sides have backing from imperialist forces. Hemedti, who controls the country’s gold resources, has ties with Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, as well as with a warlord in Libya. Both Hemedti and al-Burhan sent troops to fight in Yemen with funding from the United Arab Emirates. Al-Burhan is backed strongly by Egypt next door. Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia all have ties to U.S. imperialism.

Sudan has been subject to the whims of imperialism since 1898, when its current borders were drawn. Sudan was created as a buffer state between British and French zones of colonial domination. Its borders were drawn with no regard to the different ethnic and religious populations living there. During the Cold War, the U.S. poured in over a billion dollars to arm its side in a long running proxy war with Russia. Some called Sudan “the arms dump of Africa.”

There are negotiations ongoing in Saudi Arabia, but they are only between the two generals who are tearing the country apart. That is, if a truce is negotiated, the goal is for the situation to go back to where it was in March: a military dictatorship under al-Burhan and Hemedti.

In 2019, thousands in Sudan rose up against a hike in the price of bread. Dictator Omar al-Bashir, who had ruled Sudan for thirty years, was thrown out—with al-Burhan and Hemedti helping to show him the door. But in 2021 the same generals collaborated in a military coup against the new civilian government. Both of these generals have foreign backers—they are armed and funded. Those governments did not lift a finger against their coup—so much for their words about “democracy!”

The big capitalist countries in their drive for profits have stretched their tentacles to every corner of the world. In countries like Sudan, they arm and finance warlords like these generals who keep their population in line.

This most recent war has the potential to break out and spread to nearby countries: Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Chad. It’s one more symptom of the crisis of capitalism.