- More than 60 people have died in clashes between Sudan’s military and its main paramilitary, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
- Sudan is regarded as a strategic country by the West, and governments are now attempting to influence what is happening in the country.
- The conflict poses a huge threat to the stability of Sudan and the wider region, and countries around the world continue to evacuate their citizens.
More than 60 people have died in clashes between Sudan’s military and its main paramilitary force as the two groups attempt to control the presidential palace and the airport in Khartoum. In the past few days, countries around the world have been evacuating their citizens as the conflict escalates despite a ceasefire agreement. The conflict poses a huge threat to the stability of Sudan and the wider region.
Origins of the conflict
The paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), backing the former warlord Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, are fighting against the Sudanese armed forces, backing Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the de facto ruler of the country.
The power struggle dates back to the years before the 2019 uprising that toppled tyrant Omar al-Bashir. The former dictator had amassed powerful security forces that he purposefully pitted against each other. The RSF was founded to crush a rebellion in Darfur that began more than 20 years ago due to the political and economic marginalization of the local people by Sudan’s central government.
In order to remove Bashir in 2019, the RSF under Hemedti and the regular military troops under Burhan worked together. Since then, the groups have not seen eye-to-eye. Hemedti controls tens of thousands of combat-tested soldiers and has long been unhappy with his role as the official deputy on the ruling council of Sudan.
What is at Stake in the Region?
Sudan is located in a dangerous area that borders the Red Sea, the Sahel, and the Horn of Africa. The likelihood of a smooth transition to a civilian-led government is hampered by its strategic location and agricultural resources, which have attracted regional power struggles.
Sudan’s relations with Ethiopia in particular have been strained over issues like disputed farmland along their border. Several of Sudan’s neighbors, notably Ethiopia, Chad, and South Sudan, have been impacted by political upheavals and violence. Significant geopolitical factors are also at play as the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other countries compete for influence in Sudan.
The transformation in Sudan has been viewed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as a chance to counteract Islamist influence in the area. They are members of the “Quad,” which also includes the US, Britain, and the UN and has funded mediation in Sudan. Western nations are concerned about the possibility of a Russian base on the Red Sea, as voiced by Sudanese military authorities.
There is a reason for the widespread international concern surrounding the fighting that has broken out in the country. Sudan is not just enormous—it is the third-largest country in Africa—but it also spans a troubled and crucially important geopolitical region. Whatever occurs militarily or politically in the nation’s capital, Khartoum, has an impact on some of the continent’s most vulnerable regions.
Since the country borders the Nile River, its fate is of virtually existential importance to Egypt, which is downstream, and Ethiopia, which is upstream and has ambitious hydroelectric plans that are currently affecting the flow of the river.
In addition, conflict in the western Darfur region of Sudan always spreads to neighboring Chad and vice versa. The region’s open borders frequently allow fighters and weapons from the war-torn Central African Republic and coup-prone Chad to move freely.
The interests of Russia in the country and region are far more extensive. The Kremlin has always sought to create a military facility in Port Sudan, giving its warships access to and control over one of the busiest and most contentious maritime routes in the world. Moscow and Sudan’s military government, which took control in a coup in 2021, are almost done agreeing on an agreement over the base.
It should come as no surprise that a wide spectrum of governments are now attempting to affect what is happening in Sudan. For the time being, it appears that the priority is to put an end to the conflict between the army and the RSF paramilitary group before it escalates and threatens to transform from a relatively simple power struggle into a more complicated civil war.
Countries Evacuate their Citizens.
German and other European countries have been evacuating their citizens from Khartoum and across Sudan in the past few days. More than a week after the conflict broke out US soldiers removed US Embassy personnel from Sudan and President Joe Biden stated, “On my orders, the United States military conducted an operation to extract US government personnel from Khartoum.” He expressed gratitude to the Saudi Arabian, Ethiopian, and Djiboutian authorities for their cooperation with the evacuation effort.