23 May 2023

Conflict in Sudan: towards a multipolar world

In light of the recent outbreak of armed clashes in Sudan, Associate Professor Stig Jensen shared his worry over the ramifications of the increasingly multipolar world for the outcome of this conflict, with numerous actors involved and very few interested in dialogue. 

The fighting initially broke out between the country’s de facto leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, leader of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), seemingly as a power struggle between military elites. Nonetheless, the involvement of several international actors, both states and private companies, plays a role in prolonging the conflict and enhancing fragmentation.

The United States (US) and the West stand clearly on the side of al-Burhan, alongside other states like Egypt. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, as well as the United Arab Emirates, have extensive relations with the RSF, which provides mercenaries in their war efforts in Yemen. The Wagner group also seems to be actively in contact with the RSF. However, not all actors have clearly defined allegiances. Warlords in Libya seem to be supporting both parties, while China has not expressed clear support for any of the sides, but it has an interest in keeping the stability.

It is precisely this myriad of clashing interests between international actors which is worrying. This is in part due to Sudan’s position as a resource rich country. These include oil, iron, uranium, gold, and rare minerals. Religion also plays a role in some of the political calculations, especially on the part of the Gulf countries. All these international actors, both state and private companies, do not all have an interest in the emergence of a strong state in Sudan, which is why their involvement could fuel the conflict.

In Stig Jensen’s assessment, Sudan could go on to become the epicenter of this new multipolar world (dis)order. Opportunities for stability also exist and might entail the intervention of a more forceful China, a credible regional actor like the African Union, and a historic international actor like the United Nations.

For more information on Stig Jensen’s analysis of the conflict, read here, or listen to Radio 4, DR, or Radio 24syv podcast episodes (in Danish).