sudan conflict

Written by Muhammad Shaheer Mahmood 8:05 pm Articles, Current Affairs, International Relations, Published Content

Understanding the Sudan Conflict for Solutions: SAF & RSF

Muhammad Shaheer Mahmood aims to give a detailed insight into the ongoing conflict between the two military factions in Sudan, the Rapid Security Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). He also discusses the impact of the Sudan crisis on both local and international political (and economic) spheres. He then deliberates on the role of regional stakeholders who have a responsibility to find an indigenous solution to resolve the terrifying conflict.
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Mr. Muhammad Shaheer Mahmood is an advocate. He has a keen interest in observing and analysing the changing geopolitical environment.


Sudan has become a warzone because of a conflict between its two strong yet uncivilized military factions: the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) led by General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan who is the de facto ruler of the civil war-hit Sudan and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group, commanded by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.

Until recently, the commanders of both forces were on the same page to restore civilian rule after ousting the detested military dictator Omar al-Bashir. A transitional council was set up in this regard, where General Burhan was made head and General Dagalo was made deputy. A difference of opinion arose between the two generals regarding the integration of the RSF into the regular army.

The situation worsened further when General Burhan became suspicious of the redeployment of the RSF at the key sites of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. Hence, an all-out civil war broke out between the two armed groups on April 15, leading to the deaths of more than 400 people and leaving over 4,000 injured.

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The timing of the ongoing armed conflict could not have been worse, as Sudan was already caught between climate catastrophes and a poor economy. Moreover, the ongoing struggle for power has cornered the civilians, who are finding it hard to ensure shelter and health facilities, let alone food or other commodities.

The World Health Organization has stated that only 16% of health facilities in Khartoum, which is the most volatile region at present, are functioning. This leaves a fair chance that most of the injured cannot even get first aid. In addition, there is something common between SAF and RSF and that is their track record of violating international humanitarian law, as evidenced by the counter-insurgency operation in Darfur, indiscriminate aerial bombings in Southern Kordofan, or crackdowns against protestors in Khartoum and elsewhere.

Sudanese Safety at Risk

All these unfortunate events are forcing the locals to migrate either along the borders of the country or to settle as refugees in neighbouring countries. The UN has warned that more than 8,00,000 people could flee the fighting and dire conditions in Sudan. The African Union had already suspended Sudan from any sort of participation and had asked the current stakeholders to ensure civilian rule in the country, but this does not seem to be effective, as the Sudanese stakeholders have shown little or no interest in seeking the reversal of the ban.

Moreover, the stakeholders, at the regional and international levels, seem to be diverted as they are busy safeguarding their own citizens and calling back their missions. It seems that no one is available at the time who can cool down both sides and bring them to the table. South Sudan did try to act as a peace broker by ensuring a week-long ceasefire but with little success as the ceasefire is continuously being violated.

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It has to be understood that the current trifle is not an ideological one; rather, it is a quest to safeguard interests and gain a maximum say in the affairs of the country. Thus, a lot of effort is required by the international and regional players to make the contesting parties compromise on their hawkish goals and resume the bedridden agenda of bringing back civilian rule to the country.

External Influences on the Conflict between SAF & RSF

Another point worth mentioning is that the current tension in the domestic arena of Sudan can open the doors for regional and global powers to increase and exert their influence by taking sides. This can have a spillover effect on the rest of the African nations, which have long been a prey to power politics at the hand of the global powers. The Libyan civil war is a pertinent case study in this regard, where national interests forced powers like Russia, the United Arab Emirates, France, Turkiye and even the United States to play a proactive role.

These countries made alliances with the contesting parties, causing Libya to nosedive further in terms of prosperity, peace, and growth. This is primarily the reason why the African Union has cautioned the global powers against any external interference which could complicate the situation. Moreover, an unstable Sudan means an unstable Africa, as it shares borders with seven countries, many of which are in worrisome states in terms of peace and economic growth. Thus, a prolonged state of war in the country is perhaps the last thing the other African nations can think of.

The power struggle between two non-democratic and belligerent forces Is something that transcends the basic decorum and limits of a fair and upright rivalry. This makes everything suspicious and uncertain, causing a great deal of trouble and worry for both global and regional nations. For instance, the ongoing tussle between the two armed groups in Sudan has made Israel worry about the derailing of the commitments made under the Abraham Accords as Sudan lacks leadership.

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Moreover, South Sudan has raised concerns regarding its oil pipeline that is laid across the country. Lastly, the other neighbouring countries are witnessing a massive influx of new refugees from Sudan. In other words, the armed conflict between the two military factions has not only raised economic, humanitarian, and political costs for Sudan itself but also for neighbouring regional powers. Thus, as a regional and global issue, it demands a proper and timely response from both global and regional stakeholders in this regard.

Solutions to End the Clash in Sudan

The African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have to look for an indigenous solution by engaging the disputing parties and providing them with certain incentives which can make them sit together at a table. Otherwise, any of the military commanders would not surrender unless they lose the war. Moreover, the policy of divide can be utilized by regional and global organizations by offering the soldiers pardons and monetary compensation in exchange for their individual surrender. This can reduce the military might of the contesting parties and force them to sit together and look for a middle way.

Most importantly, sufficient humanitarian assistance should be provided to the devastated Sudanese without pause. While General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo are contesting for power and preserving their self-interests, the general public of Sudan is suffering as they are trying to survive with the bare minimum. Thus, a concerted effort is required by regional and international humanitarian organizations to generously and wholeheartedly support the people of Sudan.

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