Sudan’s Conflict Is a Crisis That Was Hiding in Plain Sight

Sudan’s Conflict Is a Crisis That Was Hiding in Plain Sight
A destroyed military vehicle is seen in Khartoum, Sudan, April 20, 2023 (AP photo by Marwan Ali).

More than 300 people have been killed and thousands more wounded in the week since fighting broke out in Khartoum between the Sudanese armed forces, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, under the control of Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo. The two rivals are battling for control of the military regime that seized power in October 2021, after ousting the hybrid civilian-military transitional government that had led the country since the overthrow of longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019.

Four years ago, hopes were high that Sudan’s pro-democracy movement, whose massive protests played a key role in toppling Bashir, would help steer the country’s transition to an elected civilian government. But tensions between the civilian and military pillars of the transitional government culminated in Burhan’s takeover in 2021. Since then, amid the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, Sudan’s transition dropped off the international agenda, even as regional powers became involved in the intra-regime jockeying between Burhan and Hamdan, known as Hemedti.

Now, with repeated cease-fire agreements having failed to hold, the fighting is escalating and spreading. In addition to creating a humanitarian crisis in Khartoum and worsening the country’s already grave food security and health care crises, the conflict now risks drawing in regional actors, with potential fallout for neighboring states that are already straining from political and security challenges of their own.

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