Fighting has erupted in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, and across the country as a result of a power struggle within the military leadership. Since the coup in October 2021, Sudan has been run by a council of generals, and the current dispute centers on two military men: Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the armed forces and the country’s de facto president, and his deputy, Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, leader of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
The violence follows days of tension as members of the RSF were redeployed around the country, a move the army saw as a threat. The RSF, formed in 2013, originated from the notorious Janjaweed militia that brutally fought off rebels in Darfur. It has since become a powerful force, intervening in conflicts in Yemen and Libya and controlling some of Sudan’s gold mines. It has also been accused of human rights abuses, including the massacre of more than 120 protesters in June 2019. The military’s continued involvement in Sudanese politics has been a source of instability in the country. The fighting is the latest episode in bouts of tension following the ousting of long-serving President Omar al-Bashir in 2019. There were huge street protests calling for an end to his near-three decade rule, and the army mounted a coup to get rid of him. But the civilians continued to demand a role in the plan to move towards democratic rule.
A joint military-civilian government was established, but it was overthrown in another coup in October 2021. Since then, the rivalry between Gen Burhan and Gen Dagalo has intensified. If the fighting continues, it could further fragment the country and worsen political turbulence. Diplomats, who have played a crucial role in trying to urge a return to civilian rule, will be desperate to find a way to get the two generals to talk. In the meantime, it will be the ordinary Sudanese who will have to live through yet another period of uncertainty.