After months of growing tension between Sudan’s national military and Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group, things took a turn for the worst on Saturday, April 15th, when the two forces launched attacks against one another. The conflict between the two armed forces saw gunfights occurring across Sudan with gunfire, plumes of smoke, and explosions heard all over, including in the capital city of Khartoum. In video footage shown on news networks and social media, a jet is seen firing toward the ground. According to the Central Committee of Sudan doctors, at least 56 people were dead and 595 more were injured. It is likely that the dead and injured are a combination of civilians and the armed forces. More casualties will be expected as the fighting continues.
The fighting between the two military forces originates from the coup d’etat that occurred in 2021, ousting the country’s power-sharing government and effectively installing Sudan’s military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan as the nation’s president. Rapid Support Forces’ leader, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, was in all practicality al-Burhan’s deputy. However, the two leaders could not agree on how the RSF would merge with the national army and how the leadership of this military force would be set up. There was disagreement over what the status of RSF forces in the national military would be and who would lead the armed forces. According to the BBC, there has also been a failure to reach an agreement on the shift towards a democratic, civilian-led government.
In the days leading up to the Saturday conflict, RSF allegedly began moving their forces across Sudan, a move that the national military saw as dangerous. It is not clear who fired the first shot but both forces have laid claim to control over key national sites. The key sites they have claimed to have control over are the airport in Khartoum, state broadcasters, and the presidential palace. Both groups of armed forces sought to control airports as they would be an important asset to receive resources.
“The Rapid Support Forces control more than 90 percent of strategic sites in Khartoum,” Dagalo said in an interview with Sky News Arabia, a claim that was denied by al-Burhan who claimed the military remained in control of major government sites.
“To our honorable people, the rebellious forces are continuing with their cycles of traitorous plotting and attacks against our country and its national sovereignty. Since this morning, your Armed Forces sons have been fighting with their lives for our nation’s rights and dignity,” a statement from the official spokesman of the Sudanese national military said. The national military added that there would be no negotiations with RSF and labeled Dagalo a “fugitive criminal.”
During interviews with news corporations, Dagalo also called al-Burhan a criminal and blamed him for instigating the destructive conflict.
There have been several calls for the two conflicting armed forces to find a solution to the conflict. The United Nations, the African Union, and several others have called for the conflict to end.
“The Chairperson of the AUC has continued to follow very closely and with deep concern the developments in the Republic of Sudan and to encourage, directly and indirectly, the political parties, civilians, and military to find a consensual solution to the crisis created by the October 25 coup and its harmful consequences,” the statement from the Chairperson of the AU said.
“Today, with the situation going dangerously out of control and parties resorting to armed violence as a means of resolving political differences, the Chairperson of the AUC launches a fervent appeal to all parties, the armed forces and the rapid intervention forces, in particular, to immediately stop the destruction of the country, the panic of the populations and the bloodbaths of the innocents in the last ten days of the holy month of Ramadan.”
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken also called for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. He called the situation dangerous and called for a solution that would benefit all citizens of Sudan and ensure the country returns to being a democracy.
After the expulsion of long-term dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019, Sudan was supposed to move toward a democratic, civilian-led mode of governance. However, the coup carried out in 2021 put this on hold, with military leaders looking to cling to power instead, leading to the country’s current predicament.