Conflict in Sudan: origins and international context

In mid-April this year,  fighting broke out in resource-rich Sudan between troops loyal to Chief of the Armed Forces Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and a paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of Gen Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo. Just 18 months earlier, the two generals had organised a military coup to halt the country’s pro-democracy transition. The commanders’ tensions arose during negotiations with civilian parties over a return to democratic transition.

The conflict threatens to dash the hopes of Sudan, inhabited by 46 million people, to emerge from decades of autocracy, internal strife and economic isolation and destabilise an already troubled region bordering the Sahel, Red Sea and Horn of Africa. Civilians are harmed in the clashes – there are already hundreds of dead and wounded. The population suffers from shelling and fighting in densely populated districts and dwindling food supplies. Even before the conflict began, almost 16 million people in the country needed humanitarian assistance.

The events in Sudan, triggered by, among other factors, disagreements over negotiations on the integration of the RSF into the army and the transition to civilian governance, also have an international context. This is because they are part of the competition for influence in this part of the world between Russia and the United States and regional powers vying for the favour of various local political actors. Egypt, for example, supports Gen. al-Burhan’s forces, while Russia, especially the Wagner Group mercenaries, is developing contacts with Gen. Dagalo’s forces.

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