Fighting rages in Sudan: What to expect next?

Haitham Nouri , Saturday 15 Apr 2023

Ahram Online talks to experts on reasons that led to outbreak of fighting in Sudan between the Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and what to expect.

Heavy smoke bellows above buildings in the vicinity of the Khartoum airport on April 15, 2023, amid
Heavy smoke bellows above buildings in the vicinity of the Khartoum airport on April 15, 2023, amid clashes in the Sudanese capital. AFP


Tensions between the two sides simmered after the RSF deployed its forces to the key city of of Marawi in the north of the country on Wednesday.

Marawi is home to a civilian airport, a military air base and one of the largest hydroelectric dams in the country.

The city of a quarter million is also a tourist centre as it is the capital of the ancient Nubian civilization with its famous temples and pyramids.

The Armed Forces described the RSF move as "illegal" and deployed its own forces in Marawi.

Amid statements and counter statements from the two warring sides, military deployments spread to the city of El-Obeid, which is the capital of Western Sudan, and to El-Fasher in the far west of the country, which the largest city in the Darfur region. 

The two sides also deployed forces also in the White Nile region, which is the centre of sugar and rice production, as well as in the capital of Khartoum.

The situation in Khartoum  will determine the outcome of  the conflict, according to former Sudanese General Amin Majzoub.

In the capital, clashes took place around the headquarters of the General Command of the Armed Forces and around the Presidential Palace.

There were also clashes around the historic Radio and Television complex in Omdurman which led to the interruption of transmission for several  hours.

Fighting was also reported around the residencies of the two opposed military commanders – the Commander-in-Chief of the Sudanese Armed Forces Lieutenant General Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan and the commander of the RSF Mohamed Hassan “Hamedti" Dagalo.

The two sides currently claim control over the situation.

On the one hand, the RSF Rapid Support Forces claimed control of the airbase and civilian airport in Marawi; the military hospital and the civilian airport in El-Fasher; and Khartoum Airport and the headquarters of the Armed Forces in the centre of the capital.

On the other hand, the Armed Forces announced in a statement that it still controls "all their bases and airfields," describing the RSF's control claims as "psychological warfare."

"The army in Sudan has more capabilities than the RSF. It has military bases and military schools," says Amin Majzoub.

"The RSF are an "alien force" to the capital," Majzoub added.

He continues, "the RSF began to be present in Khartoum in the last years of Al-Bashir's era. However, the size of RSF forces in the capital was much small compared to the the dominating presence of the Armed Forces army in the city."

The RSF are mainly composed of elements from the Janjaweed militia accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur region.

Khaled Mahmoud, a researcher specialising in Sudanese issues, says, "Marawi and Atbara in northern Sudan are important for controlling all goods, weapons and fuel coming from the country’s main port of Port Sudan on the Red Sea.”

"It seems that Hemedti fears that supplies from abroad will reach the army, which would resolve the battle," says Mahmoud.

"France and Russia could help the Sudanese army because they fear the rapid support of forces hostile to the two countries in the African Sahel and Libya," according to Mahmoud.

On the other hand, Arab countries are concerned about the deepening of the conflict in Sudan and that is why no Arab country will provide support to any side.

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