Ethiopia and Sudan: The Staggering Giants of the Horn of Africa

Radio Erena: 16 November 2021

The Ethiopian conflict which flared into a full-scale bloody war last year has seen a dramatic change. Right from its beginning in November 2020, the people of Tigray- and not only their political and armed organ TDF, have viewed this conflict as a war of survival and they behaved accordingly. Today what appeared to be a war threatening the survival of these people turned to be a war of political survival for their archenemy Abiy Ahmed.

The course of events passed through rugged political and military terrains for Ethiopia, but what remains unseen is a matter of deep concern.

Either a massive military victory by TDF and its allies, or a miraculously midwife political settlement will no doubt end the political carrier of the Ethiopian Prime Minister. Fighting bitterly for his own survival, Abiy Ahmed will turn the conflict into a life-or-death battle under the pretext of defending the existence of the Ethiopian state. Ironically in this respect that he vowed to defend the ‘country of his ancestors’, such claim is ludicrous, bearing in mind that his very ancestors were not considered citizens of the historically known Ethiopian empire, which Alex de Waal announced its death in his recent article.

This survival dimension of the battle complicates the existing ethnic and armed conflict. Even if parties agree to a peaceful settlement to the conflict, they will use all the weapons at hand to gain leverage before the negotiations, enticing another bloody round of fighting before sitting at the table.

The conflict has so far shown its ethnic bearings in addition to the use of naked force and starvation strategies to win the survival battle, at the end, Ethiopia, the one-time giant of the Horn of Africa with its Africa capital will stagger towards its unavoidable downfall.

Sudan: Desperate Gimmicks to legitimize a putsch.

To the west of Ethiopia, another giant is staggering as well. The Sudanese woke up on October 25 to see the army chief, general Al-Burhan announcing a state of emergency, dissolving the bilaterally agreed upon government in addition to suspending some articles of the power-sharing formula document known as the Constitutional Declaration. Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdouk and key ministers and advisors were arrested.

In justifying the coup, general Al-Burhan accused the civilians of driving Sudan toward civil war and being inattentive to the day-to-day needs of the people.

In his first speech and later interviews, he struggled to name his coup as a “straightening of the path of the Revolution”. Historically, In the four preceding coups in Sudan, specifically in the years 1958,1969,1989 and finally his coup; in all these coups the pattern was the same: the army chief will appear in public to accuse the civilians of corruption and indulging in self-interest and self-enrichment politics to the extent of endangering the country’s safety and integrity, in addition to using the monotonous cliché of leading the country to a civil war, whichever comes first; and finally concludes with the justification of the army’s move as the last resort to ensure the safety and stability of the country. As usual, all the generals read from the same book.

No wonder this time it wasn’t different. Even the smallest details weren’t forgotten: to appear in the awe-inspiring military attire and to show the deadly serious grim face of the country’s strongman. Apart from the reasons offered by the hijacking general and the hollow promises that the army will hand over the power to a democratically elected government in 2023, the real causes of the coup lie elsewhere.

Internally, two reasons propelled the coup. The first and the most immediate one was handing over the presidency of the Sovereignty Council to the Civilians on November, 17, according to the Constitutional Declaration stipulations. Al-Burhan’s deputy in the SC, the notorious Rapid Support Forces commander, general Hamdan Duglo ‘Hamidty’ declared that the officers don’t entertain handing over power to the civilians on the proposed date. Handing over the power to civilians, as the officers feared, would bring them to accountability, especially for the massacre of the Sit-in in June 2019. Prompted by fears of losing power, they planned the coup ahead of the date of the handover. Additionally, the Rapid Support Forces commander has his fears of the civilians’ call for the complete disbanding of his forces and integrating its units into the Sudanese Armed Forces. A demand he will never accept. The second reason was to dissolve the Committee of the Disempowerment of the AlBasheer’s regime. Corruption was the salient character of AlBasheer’s regimes, in this case, the fear is justified by the fact that all the SC members from the armed forces and the RSF were the right arm of the falling dictator, and they wouldn’t be at ease with this Committee approaching them in its investigations.

Whatever the general gives of what appear to be vigilant and nationally sincere reasons for his coup, he won’t reveal the genuine reasons behind this jump into the darkness. It’s again self-protection and self-interest which spurred him into undermining the civilian government, the matter which may threaten the stability of Sudan the other staggering giant of the Horn of Africa.

By Fathi Osman.