The Sudan Crisis Explained

Tanya Taylor
Many countries are working together to evacuate their citizens from Sudan. The conflict started last Saturday and is showing no signs of de-escalating.
Sudanese military using machine guns on the streets during Sudan crisis.
Conflicting Sudanese military groups are using machine guns on the streets of Sudan. Photo: Bexar Arms on Unsplash

The North African Nation of Sudan is in crisis. Violent clashes broke out ten days ago between two rival Sudanese military groups. Since then, the conflict has escalated, and many civilians and foreign nationals have fled the country. 

The current crisis isn’t surprising – tension has been rising in Sudan since 2019. It represents a step back for the country and its hope for a civilian-led government. To understand what’s happening in North Africa, here’s the Sudan crisis explained:

The Political History Of Sudan

Sudan gained independence from the UK and Egypt in 1956. It was the largest African nation until South Sudan voted for independence in 2011. Sudan has an unstable political history and has experienced several coups since its independence.  

In 2019, long-term dictator, Omar Al-Bashir, was removed from power. According to the BBC, Bashir took control of Sudan in 1989 with a military coup when the country was amidst a civil war, and his reign was violent. 

In 2005, The International Criminal Court (ICC) released a warrant for his arrest for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Despite the accusations, he attained power in the 2010 and 2015 elections. In 2018 due to civil unrest, the military removed Bashir from power. 

A transitional government ruled Sudan from 2019 – a mix of civilian and military groups. But in 2021, Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the military leader – led a coup to overthrow the government to gain power.

General Mohammed Hamadan Dagalo, the leader of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group, assisted with the coup to help Burhan gain power.

Burhan promised an election by the end of 2023 to transition the country to civilian rule. However, it became apparent he had no desire to relinquish his power or share it with RSF leader, Dagalo. Burhan and Dagalo have become locked in a power struggle, and it seems that neither intends to return Sudan to its citizens. 

The Recent Conflict

The Sudanese Army has deployed fighter jets against the RSF. Photo: Patrick Campanale | Unsplash

Tensions have been rising between Dagalo, also known as Hemedti and Burhan, for many months and came to a head on 15th April. 

According to The Conversation, The RSF started deploying its members around the country – without the army’s permission. The deployment came after a dispute about how the RSF would incorporate into the military and the positions they would hold.

Aljazeera reports that gunfire occurred between the groups in the capital, Khartoum. The army declared the RSF a rebel group, and violence between the military groups spread throughout the country. 

According to The Times, both men have a history of military violence. Dagalo has allegations of human rights atrocities in Darfur, including genocide. Burhan faces criticism from human rights groups because of his crackdown on pro-democracy groups. He was also a commander under Bashir during his era of war crimes. 

Escalating Violence

Many countries are evacuating citizens from Sudan. Photo: Photo by Ginge Armour | Unsplash

Since the conflict began, violence has escalated. The army has deployed jet fighters, and there has been endless gunfire on the streets between the groups. At least 400 people have died, and more than 3500 are injured, with many civilian casualties. 

This week, people scrambled to leave the country, with many civilians, Sudanese and foreign nationals, heading for the borders. Several countries, including the UK and US, have arranged emergency evacuations for their citizens. 

Yesterday, both parties agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire, but today, The Guardian reports that the RSF claims the army has breached the ceasefire. There is notably less gunfire, but tensions are high, and a minority of fighters are still engaging.   

The international community condemns the violence, and there are concerns the fighting will bring more instability to a politically delicate area.


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