Demons of Darfur

Fighting in Sudan between forces loyal to two top generals has put the nation at risk of collapse, and could have consequences far beyond its borders.

By Dr. Farah Naz | June 2023

Since April 2023, war has erupted in Sudan leading to the killing of hundreds of people, and more than 200,000 migrants into neighbouring states, displacing another 700,000 inside the country, and risks drawing in outside powers and destabilizing the region. Fighting has rocked Khartoum and adjoining areas as well as Geneina in the Darfur region. For civilians, the conflict has unleashed a nightmare of bombardment, random gunfire, home invasions and looting, flickering electricity supply, shortages of water and food, and little chance of medical help with injuries.

The warring army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF agreed on a “declaration of principles” on May 11, 2023. According to a Saudi diplomat, representatives of both generals have been in the Saudi city of Jeddah for a week, for talks intended to protect Sudan from any escalation that will lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.

The world is watching carefully and is strongly condemning the war. It is believed that the conflict can potentially destabilize an already volatile region. Alan Boswell believed that whatever happened in Sudan will not stay in Sudan as the war in Sudan will have spillover effects on other regional states. Here several questions come to mind, such as why war in Sudan, who is fighting it, and what is at stake in the region As well as why does Sudan’s conflict matter to the rest of the world? To answer all of the above questions, one needs to understand what makes Sudan an important country in the region.

Sudan, the third largest country in Africa, is located in north-east Africa, covering 1.9 million square kilometres. The country is in a strategic location bordering the Red Sea, the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. Sudan borders five additional countries: Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic, Eritrea and South Sudan, which seceded in 2011 and took 75% of Khartoum’s oil resources with it. Nearly all neighbouring countries are mired in their internal conflicts, with various rebel groups operating along the porous borders.

It is also one of the poorest countries in the world, where 46 million people live on an average annual income of $750 per head. The population of Sudan is predominantly Muslim, and the country’s official languages are Arabic and English. According to the Central Bank of Sudan, in 2022, the largest number of Sudanese imports are from the UAE followed by China, Egypt, KSA, Russia, Turkiye, the USA, etc.

Sudan is caught in a power struggle between two top generals. The ambition and rivalry between the Sudanese Army, headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary force called Rapid Support Forces (RSF), headed by General Mohammed Dagalo ‘Hemedti’, are at the centre of the crisis. The fighting that has erupted in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, and elsewhere in the country is a direct result of a vicious power struggle within the country’s military leadership. Fighting in Sudan between forces loyal to two top generals has put that nation at risk of collapse and could have consequences far beyond its borders.

Both sides have tens of thousands of fighters, foreign backers, mineral riches and other resources that could insulate them from sanctions. Since the 2021 coup, Sudan has been run by a council of generals, led by the two military men at the centre of this dispute: Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the armed forces and in effect the country’s president and his deputy and leader of the RSF, Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.

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