Khartoum’s Pregnable Fortress

The Khartoum government has an iron grip on its capital. Machine gun emplacements guard every bridge, major artery and government building. So how did rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement drive into Omdurman, no more than a stone’s throw across the Nile from the capital itself?
One of my good contacts in Khartoum said the idea of a strong military centre was nothing but an urban myth. And something about this rings true. In toe-to-toe contests in Darfur the Sudanese armed forces have often come off worst.
And probably not all the fighters came from Darfur (or Chad). Some were probably already in Omdurman, according to John Prendergast of the Enough Project: “There were more soldiers on the inside than there were soldiers who ventured all the way from Darfur, which should be very worrisome for the government.” Not just soldiers either. Khartoum is filled with southerners and Darfuri students making up a ready enemy within.
But still no-one really thought anything like this could happen – a rebel army simply pitched up in the historic capital and started fighting. As Andrew Heavens at Meskel Square points out:

It is scary how quickly this happened. Look at any map and you’ll see that the Chadian border is a long way away from Khartoum. Two days ago, the Sudanese army put out a statement saying that a body of rebels was heading towards North Kordofan – a vast open region in between Darfur and Khartoum. Most people scoffed at the announcement saying it was a clear propaganda ploy to distract attention from the recent bombing of a Darfur school. But two days later, the guns were blazing in our back yard.

Over at Sudanese Thinker, Drima reckons he smells a conspiracy…

The government knew the rebels were advancing towards the capital days before the attack and yet they did nothing much about it. Seems to me that they might have wanted it to happen because the clear winner in this episode is the government but at this point it’s all just mere speculation.

The other rumour doing to rounds in Khartoum is not just that the government turned a blind eye, but that senior officers in the Sudanese armed forces may have colluded with the rebels. That’s a big jump to make but the army relies heavily on Darfuris for its muscle so it is not inconceivable. Whatever the truth, Khartoum no longer seems the impregnable fortress it once was.