Sudan is facing the prospect of a full–blown civil war after an outbreak of violence between the military and a rival paramilitary force in the capital city of Khartoum left hundreds dead or injured over the weekend.
According to reports, fighting broke out on Saturday between the Sudanese Army and the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group that had allied with the military to overthrow longtime dictator Omar al–Bashir in 2019. The two groups had shared power in the transitional government, with General Abdel Fattah al–Burhan leading the Sovereign Council and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo acting as deputy head.
The conflict, which has already spread beyond the capital, has reportedly claimed the lives of at least 97 civilians and injured 365 more, according to one doctor‘s group. The World Health Organization puts the death toll at 83 people and 1,126 injured since April 13.
The fighting was sparked by a disagreement over the integration of RSF forces into the regular armed forces, but some fear that the situation may escalate into a full–blown civil war.
“We feel powerless,” Omar Farook, a resident of Khartoum who participated in the anti–government demonstrations in 2019, told the New York Times. “Everyone is worried this will go the way of Yemen or Syria. The ghost of civil war is here.”
The conflict has also caused the U.N. World Food Programme to suspend its operations in the country, further exacerbating the food insecurity already experienced by one–third of the nation’s 46 million people.
The United Nations Security Council has issued a statement condemning the violence, and the Arab League has called an emergency meeting on Sunday to “stop the bloodshed.”
The dispute has also taken an international turn, with reports that at least 30 Egyptian soldiers and seven warplanes have been seized by RSF forces at an airbase 125 miles north of Khartoum. Egypt has said that the soldiers were in Sudan for a training exercise, but a relative of General Handam told the New York Times that the soldiers were there to conduct air strikes on behalf of the Sudanese government.
-The escalating tensions in Sudan have the potential to undo much of the progress the country has made in rehabilitating its image on the world stage in recent years.
The U.S. removed Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terror after al–Bashir was overthrown and the country normalized relations with Israel. The transitional government also helped negotiate a peace deal with rebels in Darfur in 2020. However, the outbreak of violence threatens to reignite conflicts across the nation and the region.
With the forces of the rival generals turning on one another, the prospects of the promised democratic government seem grim. It is now up to the international community to step in and help stop this conflict before it spirals out of control and plunges Sudan into yet another civil war.