Western Sudanese marginalization, coups in Khartoum & the structural legacies of colonial military divide & rule: 1924-present

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This paper discusses the long-term history underpinning the tension between the ‘national’ army and provincial ‘militias’ that led to the outbreak of conflict in Sudan in April 2023. Sudan’s British colonizers created the distinction between what would later become a professional military in the northern region of the country, and what were deemed as ‘tribal’, ‘irregular’ and ethnically defined forces elsewhere. The aspiring revolutionaries of the post-independence era hoped they could use the military as a short-cut to social change and modernization that would sweep away the neo-tribal system of ‘Native Administration’ imposed by the British, but by aligning themselves to an unreformed colonial army and economic system found that they forced violent reactions in marginalized regions. The reactions included Western Sudanese involvement in attempts to change the regime in Khartoum by force in 1971, 1975, 1976, and 2008, which this paper documents. These crises exposed the broader crises of Sudanese nationalism, based as it was on the ideal of synergy between military and people. The paper draws on a wide range of Arabic and English literature, including newspapers and archival content.