Turkey is now working to broker a peace in Sudan, a sign of its geopolitical interest in the African country. As we read in TRT:
Türkiye’s foreign minister has said he expects a cease-fire to be reached on Thursday between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
Türkiye is in talks with both sides in Sudan for a ceasefire, the Turkish foreign minister has said.
“Both sides are our brothers in Sudan. Why should we take sides here? We are negotiating with both sides. We are negotiating to stop the conflict,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said at an event in Türkiye’s Antalya province on Wednesday.
Cavusoglu said he was expecting a ceasefire to be reached on Thursday.
In the midst of war, there are always outside players looking to exploit the chaos for their own gain. In the case of Sudan, there is Turkey. Turkish history in Sudan goes back to the Ottoman era when the Turks ruled over Sudan between 1820 and 1885. The Republic of Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Sudan’s independence from English colonization in 1956. This is like when Germany was amongst the first states to recognize Croatian independence; Germany once controlled Croatia during the Second World War and then later recognized its independence in the early 1990s only for Croatia to pin its dinar to the value of the German mark. The colonizer becomes the recognizer of independence of its former colony as a way to us that country as a proxy. Various countries have been vying for influence in Africa. France has its Francophone countries; China has risen up as a very robust investor in the continent and Iran is working to spread Shia Islam. Turkey has major power aspirations, not only in Africa, but in the Middle East and the Balkans as well. In the words of researcher Tirab Abbkar Tirab:
“In addition to its foreign policy objectives regarding Africa, which were built upon the principles of having a greater regional role, Turkey might be considering setting up a new order in the Middle East and the Balkans, to effectively contribute to the transformation of the whole area into a regional superpower.”
This same researcher goes on to write that “maximum economic interdependence within the countries of the region [Africa] would be realized, as well as observing Turkish national defense by assuring security and stability in the region and the neighboring countries.” Turkey has aims of providing stability to Africa, especially Sudan. With a war in Sudan, Turkey has the opportunity to act as a force of stability. Turkey’s focus on Sudan is of a geopolitical value. Sudan has an important commercial port on the Red Sea coast, and in the words of Mohammed Amin, “Recent military and economic cooperation between regional actors — especially Turkey and Sudan — will likely change the geopolitics of the Red Sea region, analysts say.” This is why Turkey has been so focused on the Sudanese port city of Suakin which lies right on the Red Sea coast, and would give Turkey direct access to Islam’s holiest city, Mecca. Sudan welcomed Turkey to rebuild Suakin, as we read in a 2017 Reuters report:
“Turkey will rebuild a ruined Ottoman port city on Sudan’s Red Sea coast and construct a naval dock to maintain civilian and military vessels, Sudan’s foreign minister said on Tuesday, as Ankara expands military and economic ties in Africa.”
Sudan made a contract with Turkey to rebuild an old and neglected Ottoman-era seaport on Sudan’s Suakin Island and a dock for civilian and military use. By having a Turkish military base in Sudan, Turkey is expanding its hegemony. In fact, Turkey leased Sudan’s Red Sea island of Suakin for 99 years back in 2017. This put fear in the hearts of the Arabs, with Saudi Arabia and its allies suspecting that Ankara entertains military aims in the region. This means that the Arabs understand and know that Turkey is in Sudan not just for economic reasons, but militarist goals. Sudanese scholar Abdul Wahab al-Afandi writes that Turkey’s presence in Sudan “will continue to be of concern to major Red Sea actors, especially Egypt and Saudi Arabia”.
The former despot of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, was a close ally to Turkey, and after he was overthrown, Erdogan saw it as an attack on Turkey itself. Turkey’s plans for Turkey have gone dormant ever since. Perhaps this war in Sudan will provide Turkey the opportunity to intervene in some way to revive its old dealings with Sudan. Indeed, on January of 2023, the head of Turkish intelligence, Hakan Fidan, had a meeting with Hemedti, in which the two talked about the importance of Turkish-Sudanese strategic relations. As we read in Suna-SD:
The Vice – President of the Transitional Sovereignty Council, Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, received in his office Monday the Head of Turkish Intelligence, Hakan Fidan, in the presence of the Director of General Intelligence Service, Gen. Ahmed Ibrahim Mufaddal.
The Vice – President of the Sovereignty Council has welcomed the visit of the Turkish intelligence Chief, appreciating firmness of the historical relations between Sudan and Turkey.
He affirmed the importance of strengthening further the bilateral relations in all fields, for the interest of the two peoples.
He said that relations with Turkey are strategic and eternal, and that Sudan gives them special attention, stressing the need for cooperation and coordination on the bilateral and international issues and files of common concern.
On his part, the Head of the Turkish intelligence affirmed his country’s keenness to strengthen its relations with Sudan in all domains.
In Turkey’s revival of its Ottoman Empire, Sudan will be amongst its targets.
Fighting has been taking place in Sudan. Hundreds of people have been killed in the clashes between two opposing factions of the military. One faction is loyal to the de facto leader of Sudan, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the other is the Janjaweed, or the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a collection of militia, follow the former warlord Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti. The RSF has its roots in blood, being founded by the former tyrant who ruled over Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, to crush a rebellion in Darfur in which the RSF committed atrocities. In the early 2000s, the RSF raped, pillaged, and burned villages.
In 2019, the RSF and its leader Hemedti, alongside regular military troops under Burhan, did a coup overthrowing Bashir, the very one who founded their paramilitary.
A deal was eventually made to have a transition to a democratic government, but this was disrupted by another coup in October of 2021 which put the army back in charge. However, weekly protests were organized against the military government and Hemedti and his RSF backed the protestors against Burhan. This this is the background of the current conflict, with both the military and the paramilitary fighting for power over Sudan. The RSF is no small paramilitary; it consists of tens of thousands of fighters backed by tremendous wealth that stems from Hemedti’s gold supplies from illegal mines. The RSF has also built up a fleet of armored vehicles and drones. “This is a historical evolution from a militia force to this independent strong military force you’re seeing at the moment,” said researcher Mohamed Osman.
Days before fighting broke out, the RSF were deployed around Sudan, which the army saw as a threat. Now that fighting is ongoing, hundreds have died. The Sudanese air force ordered all citizens to stay indoors as they conducted a full survey from the sky searching for RSF activity. One resident named Bakry described the nightmare of Khartoum by saying that he has never seen anything like what is taking place in the city. “People were terrified and running back home. The streets emptied very quickly as everyone wanted to leave their homes and find shelter,” Bakry said. He stated that the capital had “never seen anything” like this chaos, which left dark smoke billowing over the capital. The military affirmed that there will be “no negotiations or dialogue until the dissolution of the paramilitary RSF”.