What is happening in Sudan

Violent clashes in Sudan have already left more than 400 dead and more than 3,500 injured, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), while the Sudanese Doctors Union warns that the death toll could be much higher due to the inability of emergency teams to access certain areas.

The fighting is concentrated in the capital, Khartoum, but is spreading to other regions of the country, which could plunge into generalized conflict. The international community calls for the immediate cessation of hostilities in a country that is immersed in a process of democratic transition.

Tweet from the United Nations Office.

Who are facing?

Tension has erupted between the Sudanese Army, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces (FAR), led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, alias Hemedti.

The FAR is a paramilitary force created by former Islamist president Omar al Bashir. They were born from the Yanyaweid (Janjaweed) militias, which committed mass killings and rapes in the Darfur conflict (2003-2008).

After the overthrow of Al Bashir, in April 2019, it was reconverted into a regular military force. It is currently led by ‘Hemedti’, who after the 2021 coup is vice president of the Sovereign Council and number two in the Army.

On the other hand, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan is the head of the Army and leader of the council that has governed Sudan since 2019. He shared this council with his current rival, Hemedti, and they carried out the coup together, but the disagreements between them in about how leaving power and the integration of the RAF into the Army have caused chaos in the transition.

What is the origin of the conflict?

Sudanese history changed when Omar al Bashir carried out a coup in 1989 and established a dictatorship with Islamist ideology. During his leadership, the new military government outlawed political parties and the Army concentrated power.

In 2018, the Omar al-Bashir regime adopted an austerity plan, transferring import sectors to the private sector. This caused a rise in the price of bread and gasoline that led the population to mobilize against this policy. The attempts of repression by the police forces clashed with the Army, which was with the protesters.

In April 2019, the Army managed to overthrow Al-Bashir. The military promised to cede power in two years and in August 2019 they reached a compromise with civilians in the Sovereign Council, which would lead the country to elections at the end of 2023.

However, tensions between the military and civilians increased until, in October 2021, the military staged a coup and dissolved the transitional government.

In January 2022, thousands of Sudanese took to the streets to protest calling for the military who carried out the coup to hand over power to civilians.

Negotiations between the military and civilians for a second transition have been interrupted by tensions between the Army and the FAR.

Why fight?

The differences between the Sudanese Army and the FAR date back to 2019. Then the FAR was accused of being responsible for the repression that killed hundreds of protesters.

The opposition platform Forces for Freedom and Change then called for its dissolution and recalled that this group committed crimes against humanity in Darfur.

It was then that the leader of the FAR, Hemedti, affirmed that the eviction of that sit-in “was a trap and the objective was the FAR.” According to him, they were victims of officers of different ranks, although he did not formally accuse the Army.

The sum of these situations makes it difficult for the FAR to integrate effectively into the Sudanese National Army, despite the attempts and commitments announced by both Al Burhan and Hemedti.

According to the agreement between the military and civilians to unify the Army, the Sudanese Armed Forces will only be subject to a “civilian authority” in order to avoid its politicization.

To create a unified national Army with the integration of other paramilitary units, they held a military and security reform workshop. The reform also separates the Army from political life and economic, commercial and investment activities in the country.

However, tensions increased between the FAR and the Sudanese Army after holding this workshop due to disagreements between the two leaders. It is the great stumbling block due to which it has not been signed and which continues to delay the expected definitive agreement that completes the transition.

The main problem for such integration is that the FAR is a group with tribal loyalties -the combatants come from the Riezigat tribe, originally from Chad-, in addition to the fact that during the years of conflict they have amassed large fortunes by taking mines by force. gold, Sudan’s main resource.

The role of the international community

Regional and world powers and international organizations have called for an end to the violence. The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, has met with the African Union, the Arab League and representatives of other organizations to discuss the situation.

“We reiterate to the parties to the conflict that they have to respect international law. They are obligated to protect civilians and ensure the safety of all UN personnel and partners, as well as their facilities,” the spokesperson recalled.

According to the United Nations humanitarian services, food and fuel are running short in some areas of Sudan. Many people need urgent medical care that they are unable to access due to violence.

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