Middle East

Clashes between Sudanese military, RSF enter second week

Power struggle between rival generals has brought country to brink of civil war

Omer Erdem and Ahmed Satti  | 24.04.2023 - Update : 24.04.2023
Clashes between Sudanese military, RSF enter second week


Heavy fighting in Sudan between the army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has entered a second week despite a temporary truce for the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday.

At least 413 people have been killed and 3,551 others have been injured since April 15, when a conflict broke out in the capital Khartoum and other cities between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF, which the military had declared a rebel group.

In the last few months, a disagreement between the army and RSF over military security reform has turned into a hot conflict. The reform envisages the full participation of the RSF in the army, one of the main issues in the negotiation process carried out by international and regional parties for the transition to civilian and democratic rule.

The power struggle between army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and RSF commander General Mohamed Hamdan 'Hemedti' Dagalo has brought the country to the brink of civil war. It comes after the country has grown increasingly unstable politically and economically following military coups in 2019 and 2021 and after public protests in 2018 over soaring living costs.

The RSF triggered the clashes on April 13 by sending a large contingent to a military base at Merowe Airport, around 436 kilometers (271 miles) north of Khartoum.

Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said al-Burhan, the country’s de facto ruler who is chairman of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council, decided to declare the RSF an insurgent force against the state and dissolve it.

Below is a rundown of important developments since the beginning of the conflict.

April 13

Nabil Abdullah, a spokesman for the Sudanese army, said that without the approval or coordination of the Armed Forces Command, the RSF was active and had deployed troops in the capital and other cities.

Abdullah said the RSF has “stirred up panic and fear among people, exacerbated security risks and increased tensions between regular forces.”

He said attempts by the armed forces to “find peaceful solutions to such violations” were aimed at preventing an armed conflict with the RSF.

The RSF, on the other hand, denied reports that it was carrying out hostile actions in the northern town of Merowe, calling them "misleading and false.”

In order to calm tensions between the army and the RSF, some prominent former rebel leaders tried to mediate between the two sides. There were also similar efforts by the UN and the Quad, a bloc comprising the US, UK, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. However, fighting broke out two days later.

The US embassy in Khartoum has advised American citizens to avoid traveling to Merowe and the surrounding areas due to the increased presence of security forces while banning its staff from traveling outside the cities of Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri until April 19.

April 15

Gunshots were heard in Sudan Sports City in the capital Khartoum, the General Staff, the Presidential Palace, state television and the area where Sovereignty Council president and Army Commander al-Burhan resided.

After the gunfire, which started around 9 a.m. local time, dense smoke was seen rising. There was also intense activity around Khartoum Airport and the sounds of clashes could be heard.

The army announced that the RSF had carried out a comprehensive attack on its headquarters in Khartoum.

It said the RSF has turned into a "rebel force" that poses a threat to the state and national security.

Military jets began bombarding some points in Khartoum. The RSF responded with anti-aircraft guns.

Chad closed its borders with Sudan.

April 16

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) announced that three of its personnel had been killed in the conflict and that its operations in Sudan have been suspended.

The two sides accepted a UN proposal to open safe passages for humanitarian cases for a three-hour period, but the heavy gunfire did not stop.

The Sudanese army called on RSF members to join the army.

April 17

RSF Commander Mohammed Hamdan Dagalu said, "the international community must act now and intervene in the crimes of the radical Islamist Sudanese General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who bombarded civilians from the air."

Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said al-Burhan had decided to dissolve the RSF and declare it a rebel force against the state.

The UN announced that it had decided to halt its operations in the country due to the conflict.

April 18

The Sudanese army announced that they would comply with a call for a 24-hour cease-fire proposed by international parties from 6 p.m. local time. Dagalu also announced that they had accepted a 24-hour cease-fire proposal by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The UN reported that the conflict continued despite the parties' declarations that they would comply with the cease-fire.

Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the international community to condemn the RSF's "revolt" against the armed forces.

April 19

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors and Sudan's Doctors Union estimated that 39 out of 59 hospitals in the capital and nearby states were forced to cease operations due to clashes between the army and the RSF.

Although the parties declared for a second time that they would comply with the international community's call for a 24-hour cease-fire for humanitarian aid and evacuations, the clashes continued.

April 20

Sudanese Army Commander al-Burhan said that they wanted a cease-fire that would allow Sudanese people to move freely.

Dagalu, on the other hand, said the aim of the RSF’s military operation is “to get rid of Burhan, to imprison him and to start the process of democratic transformation.

The Egyptian army confirmed the return of three flights of Egyptian troops that had been stationed in Sudan at the military base in Merowe for training purposes.

The RSF claimed that the Egyptian soldiers it had captured had been handed over to the Red Cross.

April 21

The army announced the gradual clearing of "riot spots" in the capital Khartoum.

The RSF said they will implement a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire starting from the first day of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The army also announced that it will comply with a cease-fire call by international circles.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that 413 people have been killed and 3,551 others have been injured amid clashes in Khartoum and other cities since April 15.

The latest situation and evacuation efforts

April 22

Al-Burhan agreed to provide assistance in line with the requests of some countries to facilitate the evacuation of their citizens and personnel at diplomatic missions from the country.

The military said the US, UK, France, and China are expected to evacuate their diplomats and citizens by air in the coming hours with military transport planes belonging to their armed forces from Khartoum.

The military has declared that it will respond harshly to any violation of its airspace.

A Sudanese military official told the Al Jazeera news channel that they could not intervene because there were families trapped and detained in the airport district, where the airport is located in the capital.

The Saudi Arabian embassy in Khartoum reported that its diplomatic staff was brought by land from Khartoum to Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast in the east and from there they were evacuated by sea to the city of Jeddah.

Kuwait’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said that its citizens trapped in Sudan have reached the city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and will be transferred to Kuwait from there.

Khartoum Airport officials announced that the decision to close Sudanese airspace to flights has been extended until April 30.

The US embassy in Khartoum said that “due to the uncertain security situation in Khartoum and closure of the airport, it is not currently safe to undertake a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of private U.S. citizens,"

Clashes between the two sides, especially in Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri, continued for an eighth day despite a cease-fire.

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