Key Points to Know…
- Sudan, a member of the Arab league, is a predominantly Muslim country in North East Africa.
- It is bordered by Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west, Egypt to the north, Eritrea to the northeast, Ethiopia to the southeast, Libya to the northwest and South Sudan (which separated from Sudan in 2011) to the South.
- It is the third largest country in Africa by land area.
- The military-led state has a population of 45.7 million and is one of the poorest countries in Africa.
- Sudan is run by a council of generals, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of armed forces, and his deputy General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (AKA Hemedti), who is also the leader of a paramilitary force called Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
About the Conflict:
- The conflict is between the army and the RSF, arising from opposing views concerning Sudan’s move towards civilian rule.
- It is unclear which party started the conflict as both sides blame each other.
- With an estimated 300,000 troops compared to RSF’s 100,000 troops, the Sudanese army is the bigger, as well as more sophisticated, force of the two.
- The shooting which began on 15th April has escalated into a full-blown humanitarian crisis which has resulted in over 4,000 casualties and a death toll of over 500.
- The military conflict has tragically disrupted, and ended, the lives of ordinary civilians as much of the attacks take place in urban areas.
- The UN reported that over 75,000 people have been internally displaced as a result of the conflict
- Sudanese air force has deployed air strikes in capital city Khartoum, in advertently destroying private and public property alike and civilian lives.
- Multiple ceasefires have been declared to allow people evacuate, but they have not been adhered to as attacks followed often moments later. The latest was a 72-hour truce declared on Friday, however, Reuters reported air strikes today.
About Evacuations so Far:
• Egypt has evacuated over 6,000 Egyptians and as of Thursday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry reported that 14,000 Sudanese nationals and 2,000 others had entered Egypt from Sudan.
• The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has evacuated 4,879 people from Sudan, including over 100 Saudi nationals. The country’s commercial centre Jeddah has received nationals from France, India, China, Kenya, Iran and about 70 other countries.
• Chad has received over 200 evacuees and about 20,000 more who fled to the neighbouring Central African country on their own.
• Over 10,000 have fled to South Sudan, including 4,000 South Sudanese nationals who were forced to return home.
• The Nigerian government has commenced the evacuation of about 5,500 Nigerian students in Egypt-bound buses.
• The US special operations teams evacuated its 70 US Embassy staff to a nearby military base in Djibouti on Monday. Plans to carry out mass evacuations for interested US nationals are currently underway.
• England has evacuated about 900 people on 8 UK-bound flights, as of Thursday.
• Canada has airlifted over 100 people from Sudan, including Canadians.
• Italy has sent military planes, from Djibouti, to evacuate 83 Italians and 13 others.
• The Netherlands has evacuated about 100 of its citizens as well as citizens from 14 other countries.
• Germany has evacuated over 500 people from over 30 countries, including its own citizens.
• Ukraine has evacuated 87 of its citizens, most of whom work in the aviation industry.
• South Africa, Iran, Indonesia, Japan and Switzerland have also evacuated their citizens from Sudan.
Most of the citizens of various countries have been airlifted to their own countries from Saudi Arabia, Chad and Egypt.
A Tortuous History of Conflict
The RSF, formed in 2013, originated from the infamous Janjaweed militia who fought rebels in Darfur, a region of western Sudan, in what was widely termed an ethnic cleanse.
RSF have since intervened in Yemeni and Libyan conflicts. Through RSF, Gen Dagalo has also been able to garner significant economic influence, including controlling some of Sudan’s gold mines.
Sudan’s current conflict can actually be traced back to 2019, when long-serving President Omar al-Bashir was ousted by the army and RSF. The coup against al-Bashir ended a nearly 30-year rule, marked by severe economic crises and autocracy.
Here are the five top African countries that made the list and why.
Tensions brewed as civilians continued to clamour for democracy and not too long after, a joint military-civilian government was formed but was overthrown in another coup in October 2021.
This second coup was also a joint effort from Burhan’s army and Dagalo’s RSF, with the army taking the lead.
However, a rivalry would soon start between General Burhan and General Dagalo, who claims to be a proponent of democracy.
Earlier this month—on the fourth anniversary of the ousting of al-Bashir—a final deal stamping the country’s transition to civilian rule was to be signed.
Both the army and RSF were required to cooperate and give way to civilian parties. However, two main bones of contention stood in the way.
The first was the manner and timing with which the RSF would be integrated into the army, and the second was when the army would be formally placed under civilian leadership.
When the fighting started, both parties pointed fingers at each other for initiating the conflict. The army accused the RSF of illegally mobilising its troops around the country, while the RSF alleged the army was in cahoots with al-Bashir loyalists to seize full power of the country.
Prior to the conflict, Dagalo aligned himself with civilian parties from a coalition dubbed Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), which was the civilian arm of the military-civilian government before the 2021 coup.
However, experts opined this was just a part of Dagalo’s strategy to reinvent himself as an influential political figure. Both the FFC and Dagalo have been vocal about the need to side-line al-Bashir loyalists who, according to them, have deep roots in the army.
Al-Bashir loyalists are some of the main opponents to the country’s transition to civilian rule.
Notably, al-Bashir was indicted for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court following the war in Darfur, which lasted nearly 17 years and claimed over 300,000 lives, according to the UN.
It is hard to believe Dagalo is truly for democracy, considering years before, he shut down protests by Sudanese who sought democracy, and worked hand in hand with al-Bashir.
What’s in the Cards for Sudan?
Several foreign governments who have some stake in Sudan have made efforts to put an end to the conflict, however, the conflict devastatingly persists.
Many observers have voiced fears that Sudan could be on the brink of another civil war, the first of which lasted decades and birthed South Sudan.
However, it is unlikely that such a split would occur again, considering there is no clear geographical separation between both sides of the conflict.
Nonetheless, there is an urgent need for the conflict to be resolved so the thousands of people affected can try to reclaim a semblance of the normalcy that predated April 15.
While the few foreign interventions so far are much appreciated, it is hardly possible for the bulk of the affected population to be rescued or to flee. What about those who are too ill or incapacitated to flee?
Moreso, can neighbouring countries afford to handle the inundation of refugees? For example, Chad is already struggling with its over 500,000 refugees, but the UN estimates that at least 100,000 refugees will arrive from Sudan.
Even though the conflict has only lasted a few weeks, it has gone on for far too long with too many lives hanging in the balance.
The conflict in Sudan is more than a minor internal, military squabble; it is a humanitarian crisis that the world needs to pay attention to.
Sources: BBC, Reuters, Guardian