Since the previous Saturday, violent clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have raged in Khartoum, the capital and other strategic regions throughout the country. While it’s vague who commenced the fighting, the crisis brings the de-facto leader of Sudan, the SAF’s General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, into a confrontation with “Hemetti”, his deputy, the RSF’s General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. We will take a look at what’s going on in Sudan these days.
The background of the conflicts
The two leaders had earlier operated together, overturning the al-Bashir regime in 2019 and producing a military coup in October 2021 that sketched the civilian prime minister and cabinet and halted the constitution. Negotiations to settle the issues stalled, and tensions quickly advanced between al-Burhan and Hemetti in the weeks leading up to the recent violence. While immediate details have been challenging to discern, it’s clear the two sides are opposing for control of the country’s leading institutions, as reports reveal much of the fighting has focused around locations such as the presidential palace, SAF’s military bases and Khartoum’s airport.
Both al-Burhan and Hemetti accuse each other of initiating the clashes in Khartoum. But the weeks before, the RSF had deployed many armed forces into Khartoum, and the SAF had deployed tanks and heavy weapons. Moreover, a few days before the contentions in Khartoum, the RSF had deployed to Marowe, a city in the north of the country, and combat had occurred there.
New vs old conflicts
The conflict is dissimilar to what Sudan has experienced in the past. During earlier civil wars in Blue Nile, Darfur and Southern Kordofan (Nuba Mountains), the Sudanese administration or paramilitary groups have opposed armed resistance actions. Today, the SAF is combating a paramilitary force formed by the Bashir regime. The RSF is not a “rebel” group — it’s recognised by law and was generated, tolerated and sustained as an agent of state power, making the situation much more complex. The RSF was created in 2013 and developed from the so-called Janjaweed militias, indicted of war crimes in Darfur. During the Darfur battle in the 2000s, the government used the group to support the army and put down a rebellion. In 2017, a law legitimising the RSF as an independent security force was passed.
A joint declaration from the “Quad for Sudan” (the United States, the U.K., the UAE and Saudi Arabia) repeated each country’s calls for a truce individually. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement and called al-Burhan and Hemetti.
The rising international concerns
International concern about this escalating condition even managed to override international competition between the United States and China and tensions over the crisis in Ukraine, with the U.N. Security Council requesting to cease hostilities, restore calm and return to negotiations immediately. The African Union Peace and Security Council also had a crisis session on Sunday and asked to stop the conflict. At the council’s instruction, the chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki, planned to travel to Khartoum as soon as the security status permitted.
During fighting days that have left at least 400 people dead, governments from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas vacated nationals – students, teachers and workers, and embassy staff – from the capital, Khartoum. The view of diplomats fleeing Sudan amid messy scenes reflects the seriousness of the situation and the importance of international appeal in the strife-torn country.
Where is Sudan and why is it so important?
Sudan is located at a crucial nexus geographically. It connects Ethiopia and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa, Egypt and Libya in North Africa, and Central Africa’s Chad, the Central African Republic, the East African nation of South Sudan; Sudan also has a strategic place on the Red Sea, a body of water that about 10% of global trade crosses through, with the Suez Canal joining Asian and European markets. And then there are Sudan’s massive mineral resources. The nation is Africa’s third-biggest producer of gold, has significant oil reserves and delivers over 80% of the world’s gum Arabic – a component of food additives, paint and beauty products.
Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commonly known as Hemetti, the boss of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, believe: “God forbid if Sudan is to reach a point of civil war proper … Syria, Yemen, Libya will be a small play,” Hamdok expressed in talks with Sudan-born telecoms tycoon Mo Ibrahim at an event in Nairobi. “I think it would be a nightmare for the world,” he said, adding that it would have several other branches.
British government’s prescription about Sudan events
Andrew Mitchell, Minister for International Development and Africa, delivered an update to the House of Commons on the government’s reaction to the situation in Sudan. He noted More than 427 people had been killed, including five aid workers. Over 3,700 people have been wounded.
They now estimate that around 16 million people – a third of the Sudanese – require humanitarian assistance.
The government took the challenging decision to evacuate all British embassy teams and their dependents to meet our duty to safeguard our staff as their employer. This highly complicated operation was completed yesterday. The process includes 1,200 personnel from the 16 Air Assault Brigade, the Royal Marines and RAF.
U.K. government resumed advising all British nationals in Sudan to remain indoors wherever possible. We identify circumstances that will change in different locations across Sudan, so we now request British citizens to make decisions about their events, including whether to relocate. But they do so at their own risk. Over the weekend, the Prime Minister talked to his counterparts, including the U.S. Secretary of State and Foreign Ministers of France, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Sweden, Turkey, Cyprus, Germany, the UAE, Egyptian President Sisi and the President of Djibouti. The Foreign Secretary contacted the Kenyan President and the E.U. High Foreign and Security Policy Representative. The Defence Secretary confronted partners in Djibouti, the US, France and Egypt.
Latest update about Britons in Sudan
They have temporarily shut down the British Embassy in Khartoum. The U.K. has appointed a temporary office at the Coral Hotel in Port Sudan. Junior foreign office minister Andrew Mitchell expressed 2,000 Britons in Sudan had registered with the Foreign Office. There are around 4,000 British passport holders in Sudan – as foreign secretary James Cleverly alerted the U.K. government.
Thousands more British citizens may stay in Sudan against a constant clashing in Khartoum.
In the interview with the Observer, Alicia Kearns, The Conservative chair of the foreign affairs select committee, had obtained information that elements of the Sudanese armed forces had precluded British nationals as they endeavoured to navigate the treacherous way to the airbase north of Khartoum. The lengthening of the U.K. evacuation follows a last-minute U-turn by the government to permit NHS workers to join British nationals who get stuck in Sudan on flights on Saturday. It came after a doctors’ union called for NHS medics without U.K. passports to be included in the airlifts.
The FCDO affirmed that evacuation measures had been passed on Saturday to include “eligible non-British nationals in Sudan working as clinicians within the NHS, and their dependents who have left to enter the U.K.”.