Sudanese Military and Paramilitary Forces at Loggerheads

April 16, 2023 written by Osetemega Iribiri

Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan of Sudan’s military force and Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo, widely known as Hemedti,  of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), have been unable to come together to integrate both forces, thus leading to violent clashes in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital city. The pro-democracy Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors reported that the violent conflict has left twenty-five civilians dead and others injured.

Following a substantial civilian uprising, the two leaders helped depose former long-time Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. After that, the military and the RSF staged a second coup, took over in October 2021, and agreed to hold power jointly, but tensions between the military leadership and the paramilitary force have increased in recent months.

In December 2022, the two forces agreed to hand power back to a civilian-led government this month. The plan has been sabotaged by tensions between the army and RSF over who should lead and become the de facto head of state before elections. It escalated after both forces disagreed on restructuring the military. Their agreement is vital to allow for elections that would bring the country back on a civilian track after years of turmoil. On Thursday, a top army general accused the RSF of deploying forces nationwide without the army’s consent, warning of potential clashes. The paramilitary force, which had deployed troops near the northern town of Merowe, some 330 kilometers (186 miles) north of Khartoum, defended the presence of its forces. In a statement later, the military said it was in control of the RSF’s Merowe base, adding that paramilitaries had fled.

Fighting erupted early Saturday morning at a military base in Khartoum and quickly spread to the presidential palace, the international airport, and the headquarters of the state broadcaster. Video footage circulating online shows smoke billowing from the Khartoum airport, shotting in the streets and people taking cover inside. Consequently, flights to and fro Khartoum are halted. Embassies such as the US and UK have also advised their staff to take shelter while the situation is being closely monitored. As of Saturday evening, it was unclear who was in control of the country, and it appeared that the fighting had spread to other parts of Sudan, including parts of the remote Darfur region.

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