What will be the priorities in Africa for the Biden Administration? The actions by AFRICOM (United States Africa Command) in the first week may provide some insight towards which countries may be important.
During the week of January 23rd senior leaders from the command made a tour of three countries that will most likely draw the interest of policy makers inside the beltway. The first country that was visited was Somalia, The second country that was visited was the incoming chair of the AU,the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the other country visited was Sudan.
The situation in Sudan has drastically changed in Sudan over the last couple of years. The ouster of former President Omar Al-Bashir in a coup has led to a wave of Democratization at a rate which has to be considered a pleasant surprise. However the path on which Sudan travels is by far not totally complete yet.
One critical area that needs to be addressed is the professionalism within the Sudanese Military. Far too often it has taken action against its own citizens, transitioning to a culture based on transparency, accountability and respect for human rights are not a good base for the military but also government institutions a member of the delegation told the Sudanese Military.
There are other reasons why Sudan needs to improve its relationship with the United States. Tensions with Ethiopia have risen since the Tigray Offensive began in November 2020. In Mid-January there were reports of Ethiopian Aircraft making an incursion into Sudanese air space. During the same time frame there have been sporadic clashes between Sudanese and Ethiopian forces. There are some valid concerns that this could explode into warfare at any moment.
Another concern is its southern neighbor South Sudan. A Peace Deal between competing internal factions is still holding. During the rule of President Bashir the government in Khartoum was often seen as a negative factor in the internal politics of South Sudan. How will a democratic Sudan offer and promote stability to its neighbor to the South?
A third situation that often gets overlooked is the role of Sudan in the Libyan conflict. It has been revealed that both the Internationally recognized government in Tripoli and its allies and the opposing Faction based in Cyrenaica led by General Haftar have recruited Sudanese Militias to bolster their forces as they seek victory.
When the conflict ends in Libya will present a new problem for the Sudanese Government. What to do with the returning fighters? They will have to be demobilized before they are allowed to reenter society. They will have to undergo some skills training so the next potential warlord will not be able to recruit these already trained fighters.
The new leadership in Khartoum sees an improved relationship with Washington as a benefit both Politically and Economically. Improved Military Ties between these two countries could provide a new partner for the US to promote its interests in Africa.