There has been intense fighting in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, between the army and a paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
The conflict arose due to increased tensions between the RSF, led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti), and the military, headed by Lt Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. The disagreement between the two generals is centred around the transition to civilian rule in Sudan.
Origin of the Sudan Conflict
- The conflict in Sudan originated in April 2019 when the country’s long-serving authoritarian President Omar al-Bashir was overthrown by military generals after a nationwide uprising against him.
- After years of international isolation, Sudan finally saw a ray of hope as financial aid poured in and several countries invested billions in development projects, anticipating the country’s transition to democracy.
- Despite Bashir’s ouster, civilians continued to demonstrate for democratic elections. An agreement was reached between the military and protesters to form the Sovereignty Council, a power-sharing body of military officers and civilians, and hold elections in 2023.
- However, the military overthrew the government in October 2021, and Lt Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan became the de-facto leader of the country, announcing that the military would hold power until elections are held in July 2023.
- Tensions rose between the army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group, over the proposed transition to civilian rule in Sudan.
- The RSF was redeployed around the country, which the army saw as a provocation and threat, leading to a recent outbreak of violence.
Which Countries have a Stake in Sudan and Why?
- Sudan has always been a highly desired nation for external powers due to its strategic position on the Red Sea, its access to the Nile River, its vast reserves of gold, and its potential for agriculture. This has attracted interest from several countries, including its neighboring nations, the Gulf countries, Russia, and Western nations.
- The strategic location of Sudan, which shares borders with seven countries, including Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic, Eritrea and South Sudan, makes it a crucial nation in the region.
- The ongoing conflict between the military and RSF has raised concerns that it could spill over into neighbouring countries that are already grappling with internal conflicts, leading to destabilization of the entire region.
- Chad, which is prone to coups, is already facing a severe refugee crisis, and the conflict in Sudan may worsen the situation.
- South Sudan, created in 2011 and still reeling from violent civil wars, remains unstable.
- Egypt is also closely monitoring the situation, as it shares a strong bond with Sudan’s military, whom it views as an ally against Ethiopia.
- Russia has long been interested in building a naval base in Port Sudan, which can accommodate up to 300 soldiers and four ships, due to its location on one of the world’s busiest sea routes. In 2021, Russia came close to finalizing a deal with Sudan’s military government, which took power after the 2021 coup.
- Israel is seeking Sudan’s support to form a political and military alliance against Iran with other Arab and Muslim countries. To this end, the two countries normalized their relations in 2020 and established official diplomatic ties in 2023.
- When Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in 2019 after months of protests against his authoritarian rule, the West, including the United States, celebrated the move as it hoped it would help Sudan transition to democracy and limit the growing influence of China and Russia in the region.
- The conflict has also been receiving attention in India because of the situation of approximately 3,000 Indians who are stuck in Sudan.
Repercussions for Sudan
- Sudan’s economy is struggling due to hyperinflation and massive foreign debt.
- The country has seen repeated pro-democracy protests since the 2021 coup, and some experts fear that the tussle could escalate into a wider conflict leading to the country’s collapse.
- Furthermore, the ousting of the government resulted in billions of dollars in international support and debt relief being frozen.
Division of Sudan
- The conflict in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions began in the early 2010s between the Army of Sudan and the Sudan Revolutionary Front.
- It was triggered by a dispute over the oil-rich region of Abyei in the months leading up to South Sudanese independence in 2011.
- South Sudan eventually gained independence on July 9, 2011, after a referendum held in January of that year saw 98.83% of voters support independence.
Facts About Sudan
- On January 1, 1956, the Republic of Sudan became an independent sovereign state, after the end of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, which had been jointly ruled by Egypt and the United Kingdom.
- Capital – Khartoum
- Area – 1,861,484 sq.kms
- Population – 4.57 Crores
- Currency – Sudanese Pound
- Majority Religion – Islam and Christianity
- Major Languages – Arabic and English