Sudan Crisis: Putting the Army-RSF conflict into perspective 

Red Sea city of Port Sudan; Sudanese army soldiers loyal to the army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan sitting on a tank on April 20, 2023. The citizens are bearing the brunt of the conflict. PHOTO/AFP Via Getty Images.
Red Sea city of Port Sudan; Sudanese army soldiers loyal to the army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan sitting on a tank on April 20, 2023. The citizens are bearing the brunt of the conflict. PHOTO/AFP Via Getty Images.
  • Hundreds of civilians have lost their lives in the conflict.
  • Previous efforts to reconstruct Sudan’s democracy were expected to help.
  • The citizens are bearing the brunt of the entire turmoil.
  • Sudan can potentially get back on track and pursue democracy and peace.

A power struggle, a fight for control between Sudan’s army and a famed paramilitary force, has continued to tumble and reel the East African country, with nearly 500 civilians announced deceased.

Citizens skipped gunfire in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan as rival forces fought over the presidential palace, state TV, and army headquarters.

The rivalries spewed and surged after disagreements over a proposed evolution to civilian rule.

Both the army and its foe, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), contended they had the management of the airport and additional key zones in Khartoum, where battling proceeded for more hours.

Grounds and recent advancements

In Omdurman, which lies beside Khartoum, and close to Bahri, heavy artillery and guns were heard early hours of Sunday morning a week ago. 

Onlookers also revealed gunfire in the Red Sea City of Port Sudan.

Amid rising death tolls in areas around Khartoum, more people are fleeing their homes. PHOTO/AFP.

Then, the army let out that jets were striking RSF bases, and the country’s air force warned people to stay in their homes on Saturday night while it administered a full aerial survey and analysis of paramilitary activity.

It felt like the darkest nimbus rainless cloud with bullets fired which caused panic among the Khartoum citizens.

This left dozens of civilians dead and many others hospitalized and nursing injuries, with over 500 people nursing wounds.

In World Food Programme’s (WFP) quest as a UN body that delivers food assistance to vulnerable communities to offer humanitarian aid, three of their employees were killed after the RSF and armed forces exchanged fire at a military base in Kabkabiya.

It should be noted that the militia has been running Sudan since a coup in October 2021.

The conflict is between army units loyal to the de facto ruler, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the RSF, controlled and commanded by Sudan’s deputy leader, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti.

Hemedti said his troops would keep fighting until all army bases were captured.

In response, Sudan’s armed forces ruled out negotiations “until the dissolution of the paramilitary RSF.”

Khartoum’s early sunset

Dozens were running to take cover over the black smoke that rose over Khartoum.

It was observed that there were armored vehicles in the streets and a civilian plane ablaze at Khartoum Airport in a video showing an Airbuses that came under fire in the Saudia Airline.

This propelled the suspension of flights by numerous airlines to Khartoum, with neighboring Chad having closed its border with Sudan.

Residents had not been expecting the clashes, and many had been caught in transit, with bridges and roads closed and many schools in lockdown.

They said a military plane flew over their buildings, shooting live ammunition, and they had to take shelter. 

It was a disconcerting sound of gunfire and fighting.

Key issues and options

Earlier in December 2022, after months of unrest, turmoil and uncertainty, the UN mission in Sudan declared openly the signing of a Framework Agreement between the country’s military and political parties.

The Secretary-General accepted the agreement and advised Stakeholders to work towards a lasting concession.

The Spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres handed out the succeeding declaration:

“The Secretary-General welcomes the signing of a framework agreement between civilian political forces and the military in Sudan. He hopes that this can pave the way for the return to a civilian-led transition in the country. 

He calls on all Sudanese stakeholders to work without delay on the next phase of the transition process to address outstanding issues to achieve a lasting, inclusive political settlement.

The UN, through the Trilateral Mechanism comprised of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), remains committed to supporting the process going forward.

The Secretary-General reaffirms that the United Nations will continue to support the aspirations of the Sudanese people for democracy, peace and sustainable development.”

Heavy smoke above buildings near Khartoum’s airport on April 15, 2023, as clashes rock the capital. PHOTO/AFP Via Getty Images.

The agreement was geared toward expiring a deadlock between the two sides ignited by a coup in October 2021. 

A product of international mediation led by the US, the framework consensus seemingly provides for a two-year, “civilian-led” shift towards elections.

On March 2023, there appeared advancements in the change to a civilian government in Sudan.

On 19 March 2023, Sudan’s civilian forces, Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), and the Parliamentary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) hit an agreement to shape a contemporary, transitional government. 

They approved the conclusive agreement paving the route for the transition of sovereignty to a civilian government on 11 April 2023.

Heretofore the climax of last year, Sudan’s political coalition groups— the military leadership and civilian political parties— had been mediating a consensus agreement geared toward putting back a civilian government. 

The parties had set up an eleven-member committee to formulate new legislation, encompassing nine members from civilian organizations, one from the army, and one from paramilitary forces. 

In lantern of this agreement, the transitional legislation was to be embraced on 6 April, and the organizations of the transitional sovereignty were to be solidified on 11 April. 

This like-mindedness consensus was implied to assemble on the political strategy embarked on 5 December 2022, by the Trilateral Mechanism constituted of the AU, the IGAD, and the UN.

Here, the SAF and RSF autographed a Framework Agreement with Sudan’s political parties, including the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), a civilian coalition, and some tinier CSOs, to solidify a transitional civil oversight and sit to resolve the disagreement that arose on 25 October 2021.

Glancing at the advantageous transitional advancement, Sudan’s pro-democracy disciples were hopeful about the country’s fortune and destiny after sovereignty was shifted from the TMC to the Sovereign Council.

Got at the intersections of Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, Sudan has stood in catastrophe since the prominent uproar that tumbled the long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir in 2019. 

The military uprising led by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan in October 2021 exacerbated, worsened and surged the nation’s intricate political and economic actualities.

It wrecked and ravaged the democratic evolution accomplished coming after Omar al-Bashir’s three-decade tyranny, totalitarianism, despotism and dictatorship.

Sudan’s chronology and political civilization are overseen by military coup d’états.

The military has a lengthy record of meddling in politics.

After three decades of tyranny, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who mounted to sovereignty in a bloodless uprising, was ousted in a distinguishing military coup on 11 April 2019, led by the former Defence Minister and Vice President of Sudan, Lt. General Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf. 

Nonetheless, after barely hanging around in authority for merely a day, Auf stepped aside owing to continuous rallies calling for a democratic transition and was succeeded by Lt. General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan as a Chair of the Transitional Military Council (TMC).

On 14 May 2019, the military and the protesters’ representatives led by the FFC agreed to a three-year transitional arrangement. 

After months of intense discussions, violence, and contestation, Sudan’s TMC and the FFC reached an agreement in July 2019 to share power during the transitional period until elections.

 Then, the Sovereign Council would be formed of five civilians and five military members, with one remaining seat to go to a civilian chosen by both sides. 

Citizens wave to army soldiers loyal to Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan on 16 April 2023. PHOTO/AFP.

The Council was to be governed for 21 months by a military figure, followed by an 18-month civilian leader, and on 20 August 2019, the TMC transferred power to the Sovereignty Council with Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan as the Chair and Abdalla Hamdok, as Prime Minister for the transitional cabinet.

Coming after this, several agendas to enhance societies and demonstrate accountability for dreadfulness and atrociousness stood outlined in the Constitutional Charter. 

State supremacies were to hold former government members accountable for conspiracy and crime accomplished against Sudanese people since 1989. 

The Charter also calls for the institution of a nationwide and equitable interrogation and investigation council to glance into the 3 June bloodbath. 

In expansion, it solidifies 11 self-sufficient carcasses, one of which is a transitional justice commission. 

Once the just-installed civilian-led government was in place, the AU peeled off Sudan’s prohibition the next day.

Nonetheless, there were severe working liaisons between civilian and military members of the Council. 

As a pivotal deadline for the military to wholly transfer over the transitional “Sovereign Council” to civilians loomed, the military utilized the pretext of a political disagreement to take hold of full sovereignty once more on 25 October 2021.

They broke up the civilian administration and arrested its foremost officers, encompassing Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, effectively finishing up the military-civilian power-sharing coalition intended to give rise to a near-to-democracy Sudan, with elections slated for 2023. 

The AU annulled the nation once again, and the uprising was met with revolts, riots, strikes, civil rebelliousness and unruliness in Khartoum, Omdurman, and other locations across the country.

Despite these occurrences, it was dreamed that the signature of a political framework agreement in December 2022 and the April 2023 agreement to solidify a new transitional authority would lay a climax and demise to the political quagmire and steer Sudan towards a civilian government.


It is authentic to say that after the 2021 uprising, which aroused a new outbreak of harsh repression that already claimed the lives of some 120 protesters, Sudan should get on its route back to the highway towards democracy and never accept anything apart from democracy.

It is time to comprehend that consensuses between the military and political elites, regardless optimistic they may seem on the exterior, will not assist Sudan attain serenity and resilience. 

Sudan requires a new political agreement central to capitalizing on the pro-democracy campaign and functions to support it and assemble democratic oversight and surveillance potential.

Maintaining military rule living in any pattern or structure would only give rise to additional agony and fluctuation in the country.

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Sudan has the right to a chance to change positions beyond military rule, not a “framework deal”, full of tales of empty promises. 

The military should be returned to its barracks and let the civil society compose a democratic administration for their country.

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Awadifo Kili is a Ugandan Lawyer and Author. She is the Author of the books "Victorious Tales", "Echoes of Wails" and her recent book "Stains on a Cowrie Shell", a book crafted in an African narrative that presents the extent to which some traditions and customs are a barrier to the promotion and protection of human rights. Kili is passionate about human rights and her literature is around domestic, regional, and international human rights Law and perspectives.


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