Biden Abandons Americans in Sudan, as It Slides Toward Catastrophe

An explainer on the complex crisis in a huge, strategic African nation

By Brad Phillips Published on April 29, 2023

After securing the safe departure of 70 American diplomatic staff in Khartoum, the Biden Administration has signaled to more than 16,000 American citizens trapped in Sudan that it has no intention of facilitating their rescue. And the most insulting part of this is that the US Government claims most of these 16,000 “dual-nationals” don’t want to leave.

More than three dozen countries are engaged in heroic efforts to ferry their citizens safely home through various routes including the border with Egypt or by ship or plane from Port Sudan. We’re not one of those countries.

Eight million Sudanese trapped in Khartoum have fewer options. Most have less than $100 saved in a bank or under the mattress. As of this writing, another 72-hour ceasefire has been declared. However, shelling, bombing, and shooting seem to continue 24/7 without pause.

A Civilian Catastrophe

Factories that process and package food have been leveled by shelling and bombing. Supply chains for food, fuel, medicine and other necessities have been cut. The two main internet service providers (which provide 98 percent of Sudan’s connectivity) are frequently switched off — sometimes for days at a time (along with mobile phone networks). Water, power and electricity have been cut.

Eighty percent of Sudan’s health facilities and hospitals are non- functioning, and those which remain open are overwhelmed and under provisioned for the task of providing care to a flood of patients. Sudanese with pre-existing medical conditions are dying daily from lack of access to basic medical services.

A Crisis for the Region

Sudanese (and Americans) left in Khartoum are faced with the dilemma of starving from hunger or thirst inside their homes, or venturing out for food and water only to risk death from snipers. Untold numbers are perishing by crossfire, artillery shelling or aerial bombardment.

Thousands of decomposing bodies lay in the streets — not the 500 or so reported by institutional media.

Neighboring countries, especially Chad, Ethiopia, Egypt, and South Sudan are receiving a flood of refugees. Inside Sudan, men and boys are arrested unless they have sufficient ID to prove to SAF or RSF patrols that they are non-combatants.

Thousands of Sudanese, especially ethnic Nubans and Darfurians, are making their way down to the one region of Sudan where there is still no fighting— “liberated” areas of South Kordofan State (Nuba mountains region).

As this war enters its third week, both factions seem intent on the total destruction of the other as they re-deploy forces and munitions from the periphery to the center. This threatens an escalation of war to come after foreign evacuations are completed.

A Revolution Hijacked

Following 30 years of oppressive rule by the National Islamic Front (a.k.a. National Congress Party) in December, 2018, street resistance committees, led by the Sudan Profession Association (SPA), launched a nationwide popular uprising.

The trigger for the revolt was a collapsed economy marked by bread and fuel shortages. The clarion call of the “Street” was for the collapse of the Islamist Establishment. After 30 years of Islamo-fascist rule, led by ICC-indicted war criminal and dictator Lt. Gen. Omar al Bashir, Sudan had reached a tipping point.

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Sudan’s popular uprising was led mostly by millions of women and teenage children and resulted in the removal of al Bashir in April, 2019. The Islamist Establishment moved quickly to install Gen. Abdel Fattah al Burhan. He established the Transitional Military Council (TMC) deposing Bashir and pledging to shepherd a transition to democratic civilian rule. Burhan brought with him his partner in war crimes, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo (a.k.a. Hemedti), leader of the “Rapid Support Force” militia (RSF), to be his second in command.

Partners in War Crimes

The “Street” was not fooled. It remembers Burhan and Hemedti’s genocidal past. These men ruthlessly committed war crimes together in Darfur, (as well as South Kordofan and Blue Nile states). The RSF is, in fact, the re-branded “Janjaweed” militia led by Hemedti. He was originally recruited, armed, and deployed by Bashir to carry out “divide and rule” campaigns in Darfur and elsewhere.

For these and other reasons, the “Street” refused to back down. In June, 2019, State Security Forces under the direction of Burhan, and supported by Hemedti’s RSF, unleashed a violent and brutal crackdown against the “uprisers.” Thousands of civilian protestors were murdered and thrown into the Nile or left to rot in the street. Thousands of others were injured. Some were arrested, others tortured and imprisoned. Women and boys were raped. Churches and homes of Christian leaders were demolished. Even some doctors tending to the wounded were assassinated in the house-to-house searches conducted by security forces.

And when the finger of responsibility was pointed against the Military (especially Hemedti’s RSF) he announced it was the act of “rogue forces” who would be held accountable. But no accountability came, and the uprising continued.

The Bare Minimum of Decency

Up to now, the simple demands of the “Street” have yet to be achieved:

  • The military must go to the barracks and handover the government to a civilian-led democratic system.
  • Religion must be separated from the state, i.e. meaning religious freedom must be respected and sharia laws enforced by the Islamic establishment must end.
  • Perpetrators of war crimes, genocide and grand corruption (i.e., the theft of hundreds of billions of dollars in state resources) must be brought to justice and accountability.

In response to this courageous resistance, the TMC announced in August, 2019, the formation of the SMC (Sovereign Military Council). Not surprisingly, the SMC was comprised of the same culprits as the TMC, with few exceptions.

The SMC was supposed to be a coalition of military and civilian representatives. In fact, most of the “civilians” were Islamists and connected to the military. The SMC pledged to a timeline of transition for free elections and Civilian rule.

A Civilian Sock Puppet

During this period, Abdallah Hamdok was selected by the civilians to serve as Prime Minister. But very quickly, it became clear that PM Hamdok lacked any real authority to govern. In October, 2021, Generals Burhan and Hemedti arrested Hamdok in a “coup” — derailing the transition timetable, claiming this move was needed to preserve Sudan’s “stability.” At this point, a fracture in relations between the two Generals began to emerge.

Hemedti had developed the RSF into his own private army, funded by Sudanese gold and other resources harvested with help from the notorious Wagner Group (private Russian mercenaries). Hemedti’s RSF grew to represent almost 40 percent of all Sudan’s Armed Forces. He and Burhan personally profited by contracting their soldiers out to Saudi Arabia and the Emirates to fight their proxy war in Yemen. And RSF forces boosted their ranks by acquiring Islamist mercenaries from Mali, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Libya, and elsewhere. The increasingly powerful Hemedti stalled efforts to fully integrate his forces under a unified command structure of the SAF led by Burhan.

The tension between the two Generals came to a head in January, 2023, when Burhan pressed Hemedti to fully integrate his forces under the SAF command structure. Hemedti responded that he would only do so if the now illegal NCP-dominated Islamist officers be removed first from the SAF. This, of course, would not happen.

Two Dictators at Odds

At the beginning of transition period in April, 2019, Burhan directed Hemedti to position his RSF forces to guard strategic locations in Khartoum. This was done to counter potential threats from other factions within the NCP/SAF who might seek to topple Burhan. But on April 15, 2023, this decision would come back to haunt him.

The rallying of the North Shield Force, and the entry of Egyptian forces into Sudan, triggered a preemptive strike by Hemedti against Burhan inside the capital. And Sudan slid into a full-scale civil war.

Perhaps the biggest mistake of the U.S. government and the international community was to overlook the violent history of these two generals and the Islamist establishment backing them. That provided political cover for the war crimes committed by Burhan and Hemedti. The actions of the U.S. and the international community betrayed the “Street” and the victims of genocide and 35 years of Islamo-fascist tyranny in Sudan, and helped “rebrand” these evil thugs as suitable midwives for a democratic transition.

Spare Me Your Shock and Surprise

Today, these naive, short-sighted diplomats are expressing shock and dismay at the evil nature of the Establishment in Sudan, and the behavior of these two Generals whom they’d supported up till now in the internationally-negotiated “Framework for Democratic Transition.”

Rather than fingering Omar al Bashir alone for Sudan’s bad history, it must be recognized that the source of tyranny and injustice in Sudan is the entire Islamist establishment. This is the system behind not only Bashir’s deeds, but Burhan and Hemedti. This Islamist establishment will remain if either of these two Generals prevail over the other in the present war.

Americans Trapped, Along with Civilians

Sudan’s Islamist Establishment (as noted by the late Dr John Garang) is “too deformed to be reformed.” The idea that either of these two generals can be the shepherds of a democratic transition is fatally flawed. The price of this miscalculation continues to be paid in blood by the “Street”— and now potentially, also by thousands of American nationals trapped in Khartoum.

Many countries have invested in, or otherwise accommodated, Sudan’s Islamist establishment in order to benefit from spoiling the country’s resources — but at the expense of basic freedoms, human rights and self-government for its people. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, the U.S., China, Russia, and Turkey all have a collective responsibility for the death and mayhem happening right now in Sudan.

The Evil of Two Lessers

The worst thing that could happen right now is for these nations to choose between either of the two warring generals. Each man has a blood-drenched past which discredits him from any future leadership role.

The demands of the “Street” for civilian-led democratic rule can only be met by a total collapse of the system that neither Hemedti or Burhan are willing to facilitate. Let us hope and pray that all stakeholders in Sudan’s transition recognize their mistake in coddling war criminals, and cease their support of a policy of “peace at any price.” Our leaders must support a real transition away from authoritarian rule to a civilian-led representative government which respects the freedom and dignity of all Sudanese.


Brad Phillips is the founder of Persecution Project ( a faith-based organization serving the victims of persecution and genocide in Africa since 1997. Brad recently launched as an online platform to support medical services at Gigaiba Referal Hospital in South Kordofan, Sudan.

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