Khartoum International Airport in Sudan today, Sunday, April 16, 2023 (Photo: Planet Labs, via AFP)

Sudan: From Political Solution Moves to Military Escalation


Wed, 19-04-2023 06:45 PM, Aden

The outcome of the current Sudanese crisis is not clear amid open timeless clashes between the two parties.

Farida Ahmed (South24) 

On the morning of April 15th, violent clashes erupted between the Sudanese Army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). They have been ongoing for the third day in a row amid mutual attempts to extend influence in some areas inside and outside the capital city of Khartoum. Some of the clashes have reached the Republican Palace, airports, and vital locations. The first day of these confrontations led the death toll to reach 56 from both sides according to a statement by the Central Committee Of Sudan Doctors. Moreover, 595 military personnel and civilians were injured. Other death casualties were documented in Khartoum Airport and Omdurman as well as the Nyala, El Obeid and Al Fashir in the west of Khartoum.

The Sudanese Army is led by "Abdulfatah Al-Burhan". He is the head of the Transitional Sovereignty Council, formed in May 2021 as an institution that holds power in participation with the civilian government since overthrowing former President Omar Al-Bashhir in 2019. 

Al-Burhan's Deputy Head of the Transitional Sovereignty Council is Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo who is known as "Hamedti". The latter is the Commander of RSF that were previously consisting of paramilitary militias known as "Janjaweed". They fought on behalf of the Sudanese government during the Darfur War. Moreover, Hamedti sent part of its forces to participate in the Yemen war against the Houthi militia as part of the Riyadh-led military Coalition. The escalation in Sudan was not a surprise as it was preceded by several stations to implicitly reach this outcome. The most prominent of which included Al-Burhan's declaration about dissolving the civilian government and imposing a state of emergency in October 2021 and his pledge to hold elections in July 2023. Moreover, the main political forces in Sudan signed the "Framework Agreement" in late December 2022, which included the exclusion of the army from politics and making security reforms. This agreement was sponsored by the UN, the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the quartet (the UAE, Saudi Arabia, United States, and European Union). The agreement was supposed to be signed in early April, but the signing was postponed twice, without announcing a new date yet.

In February this year, disputes escalated further over the mechanisms, timing, and conditions of the merging operation. The army proposed subjecting the RSF officers to the conditions stipulated in the Military Academy, stopping external contracts and recruitment, and staying away from political work. On the other hand, RSF had some conditions before the merging process including restructuring the armed forces, criminalizing military coups, imposing civilian oversight on the military institution through the parliament, reviewing and developing the military doctrine and clearing the army and the RSF forces from the elements of the former regime and those with ideologies. However, the escalation of disputes delayed the signing of the final agreement to transfer power to civilians, according to what was scheduled to be announced in early April.

Later, On the night of April 12th, the Sudanese Army warned that the state is passing through a dangerous turn. This came after the deployment of armed RSF in Khartoum and the main cities, especially since these moves occurred without the green light of army commanders or even coordinating with them. RSF deployed their units in the capital, Merowe, and other cities. More than 50 vehicles affiliated with RSF entered Khartoum. Reinforcements also arrived from Darfur, western Sudan, which eventually led to the outbreak of violent confrontations between the two sides.

Sudanese journalist and political analyst Mohey Jibril told "South24 Center" that "the nature of the dispute between the army and RSF is a strategic not a tactical one. What pushed these disagreements to the surface is the matter of merging RSF with the army. The latter wants to make the merger period two years while RSF want it to be 20 years. There are 5 other armies in Sudan affiliated with commanders of armed movements. Their security arrangements and their integration into the army are stipulated under the Juba Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan in 2020".

As a result of the rising escalation, "the Sudanese Army believes that RSF expand investments and economy and have wide political relationships internally and externally under the supervision of the (Dagalo) family, to which (Hemedti) belongs. This created the impression that there are two military institutions in the country. This has irritated the army who believes that this is not in the interests of Sudan strategically" according to the Sudanese analyst. He added that "This created a conflict in positions at the level of foreign policy. Additionally, RSF Leader have international and regional relationships. This has been a major dilemma for the army, the latest of which was the Central Africa file in which RSF intervened independently of the state".


Many local, regional, and international reactions denounced what is happening in Sudan. They called Sudanese parties for self-restraint and return to dialogue. The Sudanese civil forces, who signed a preliminary power-sharing agreement with the army and the Rapid Support Forces, have called on both sides to stop fighting. They said in a statement: "We call on the leadership of the Sudanese Armed Forces and RSF to stop hostility immediately and spare the country the evil of slipping into the abyss of total collapse."

Egypt and South Sudan said that they are ready to play a mediation role among the Sudanese parties. A video published by RSF in which the latter capture Egyptian soldiers, who are there as part of the announced joint training plan with the Sudanese Army, has been widely circulated. This pushed the Military spokesperson for the Egyptian Armed Forces to write on his official Facebook page: "Egyptian Armed Forces are watching closely the current events in Sudan. The Egyptian Armed Forces call for maintaining the security and safety of the Egyptian forces". In response, Hamedti said: "We are fully committed to the security and safety of Egyptian soldiers. We will discuss with the Egyptian side soon how to evacuate them". This was preceded by an statement issued by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry which called all Sudanese parties "for maximum restraint to protect the lives and capabilities of the brotherly Sudanese people and uphold the supreme interests of the country".

In this regard, Saudi Foreign Ministry "Expresses Deep Concern over Escalation and Military Clashes between Army and Rapid Support Forces in Sudan" according to a statement published by Saudi Press Agency "SPA". It added: "‏The Kingdom calls on the military component and all political leaders in Sudan to give priority to the language of dialogue, restraint, and wisdom". Likewise, Emirati and Qatari statements expressed concern about what is happening in Sudan, and emphasized the need for restraint, stopping fighting between the warring parties, giving priority to the public interest, and sparing civilians the consequences of fighting.

Internationally, "the Security Council members expressed deep concern over the military clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces and RSF. They urged the parties to immediately cease hostilities, restore calmness, and called on all actors to return to dialogue to resolve the current crisis in Sudan". Moreover, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that "we are in touch with the Embassy team in Khartoum - all are currently accounted for. We urge all actors to stop the violence immediately and avoid further escalations". High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said that "the European Union calls on stakeholders and regional partners to get the transition process back on track".

Towards pacification or escalation?

Despite the continuous calls for pacification, the battles between the two sides are ongoing and the humanitarian situation had escalated alarmingly. The United Nations proposed opening safe passages for the humanitarian cased for three hours a day starting at 4:00 pm in local times (14:00 GMT). The parties accepted the proposal but announced that it maintains the right of reply in the face of any transgressions by what it called "insurgent militias" according to him. Additionally, The African Peace and Security Council and the League of Arab States held two emergency meetings in Sudan. The Head of the African Commission Moussa Faki Mohammed announced that he will immediately go to Sudan, according to an official statement, "to talk with the two parties about the ceasefire." This indicates that there are tireless regional and local efforts to reach understanding or to contribute to creating a political horizon between the two warring sides.

However, Jibril does not currently expect that there will be a chance for long-term pacification. According to him, "This is due to the big security polarization led by several parties and directly impacts the two fighting parties and the Frame Agreement". He said that "One can't predict the future of this agreement without reaching a clear outcome in the current operations. If one party defeats the other, it will undoubtedly have a stance towards the Frame Agreement, whether to resume or thwart it. Both forces have at least the elements of dictatorship if not military totalitarianism".

Regional and international communities support the peace process in Sudan according to the previous triple and quadruple mechanisms. Likewise, the same stance is adopted by Troika Which includes Britain, the US and Norway. Troika coordinated many political processes, including the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement in southern Sudan, and it engineered the last Framework Agreement, according to the Sudanese analyst "Jibril".

Thus, the outcome of the current Sudanese crisis is not clear amid open timeless clashes between the two parties. This came after long months of paving the way for a political process that is supposed to lead the country toward a comprehensive and permanent peace. It is not clear yet the scale of the impact of the erupting conflict on Sudan's ties with its neighbors, especially Egypt, or its impact on the Sudanese ports overlooking the Red Sea considering the regional and international competition for influence in the region.

Farida Ahmed 

Executive Director of South24 Center for News and Studies

SudanEgyptSudanese ArmyRapid Support ForcesKhartoumAbdulfatah Al-BurhanHamedtiDagalo