Heavy fighting in Sudan following escalation between rulers

North Africa

Heavy fighting in Sudan following escalation between rulers

Smoke over the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

Smoke over the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

Photo: Marwan Ali/AP

In the Sudan’s capital Khartoum there is shooting: warplanes are flying, an airport is being stormed, tanks are driving. The rivalry between Sudan’s supreme commander and his deputy has escalated.

Khartoum. In view of the heavy fighting in Sudan, the UN Security Council has called on all parties to the conflict to cease fighting and to start talks to end the crisis. In addition, humanitarian workers must be given safe access and UN employees must be protected from attacks, the most powerful body in the United Nations demanded on Sunday morning. The statement emphasized the goal of “the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Sudan”.

The serious state crisis in Sudan continued on Sunday night with further fighting between the army and an important paramilitary group. Artillery clashes broke out again in the capital Khartoum, according to videos from local media. There were also reports of airstrikes by the Sudanese air force on paramilitary bases. It is feared that many people, including civilians, have died in the fighting that has been going on since Saturday morning. A Sudanese doctors’ organization told the US news channel CNN on Saturday that 25 people had died and more than 180 were injured.

power struggle

The background is a power struggle between Sudan’s ruler, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and his deputy, Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, leader of the armed Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Since the fall of long-term ruler Omar al-Bashir in 2019 and another coup against a civilian government that was set up as a result – but in fact controlled by the military – the army has been in control of the northeast African country with around 46 million inhabitants in 2021. The RSF were also involved in the putsch two years ago.

In the course of the planned transition to a civilian leadership in the country, the paramilitaries were to be integrated into the regular armed forces, which led to tensions. Daglo insinuates that al-Burhan does not want to give up his position as de facto head of state.

The RSF claimed on Twitter late Saturday night that they had taken over 90 percent of military-controlled areas in Sudan and invaded the army’s command center. The army dismissed this as lying. It is unclear who currently has the upper hand in the capital. In any case, the military was unforgiving: There would be no dialogue or negotiations with the RSF, the group had to be dissolved first, according to a statement distributed on Facebook.

Worldwide reactions

The escalation of violence sparked concern around the world. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on the parties to the conflict to “immediately cease hostilities, restore calm and engage in dialogue to resolve the current crisis.” Guterres spoke to RSF General Daglo on the phone on Saturday night. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also called for an end to the violence. At the request of Great Britain, the UN Security Council is to discuss the situation in Sudan next Monday.

Al-Burhan accused the RSF of attacks on strategic targets and his house in an interview with Al-Jazeera television on Saturday. RSF leader Daglo called for al-Burhan and his allies to be brought to justice. His rival is to blame for the conflict and will either be captured “or die like a dog,” said Daglo Al-Jazeera.

The RSF had mobilized their units just a few days ago after the military again delayed the appointment of a prime minister and thus the handover of power. Observers interpreted the mobilization as a threatening gesture by Daglo against the commander-in-chief al-Burhan. Most recently, Daglo spoke out in favor of a rapid transition to a civilian government, thereby opposing al-Burhan.

The RSF was formed in 2013 from militias in the western state of Darfur. During the decades-long conflict there, the RSF were seen as brutal supporters of the Arab-dominated government, which used violence against the African minority. The group and its leader, Daglo, have been blamed for mass rapes and other gross human rights abuses.

After the overthrow of ruler al-Bashir in 2019, Daglo was considered the most powerful man in Sudan. However, al-Burhan, the inspector general of the Sudanese armed forces, took over the business of government. This retaliated with Daglo and initially refrained from incorporating the RSF into the state military. Daglo became al-Burhan’s deputy in the ruling transitional council.

© dpa-infocom, dpa:230415-99-324786/12 (dpa)

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