“Power Tussle” as Sudan Military Clashes with the RSF



Political strife and constant clashes over who heads the military welding more control in Sudan have continued to derail the course of transition into civilian rule thereby crushing the hopes of the common citizens who wish to experience a fresh breath of Democracy and freedom from military dominance.

On the 15th of April, civil strife broke out in Sudan between the Sudan Army Forces (SAF) led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitary group called RSF (Rapid Support Forces) led by Hemedti originally known Hamdan Dagalo in Khartoum and one of the major and immediate causes is the failed attempt to incorporate the Rapid Support forces into the Sudanese army which led the RSF to deploy its forces into the capital without the permission of the army. On the other hand, the Sudanese army was demanding the dissolution of the RSF, and its members integrated into the regular military ranks. As of 17 April, UN reports showed that more than 180 people have been killed, 1,800 injured and UN facilities had been looted and damaged.

Sudan in general since independence has had more conflict than any other African region since independence. The transition was to mark the beginning of civilian rule in Sudan which the military refused to carry out. The recent outbreak was a time bomb waiting to explode. It has been brewing since the transition that followed Omar al Bashir’s toppling from his 30-year-old government in 2019. This coup was masterminded by the army and paramilitary and both parties’ intentions were to collaborate to seize power. The power-sharing agreement signed by both entities recognized the RSF as a regular entity affiliated with the armed forces but placed under the direct supervision of a civilian head of state and the agreement as well required the integration of RSF into the army, but the exact time of integration wasn’t negotiated and since then the agreement deepened the distrust between Hemedti and Burhan. The events leading to the signing of the agreements on 17 July 2021 were met with confrontation and tensions between the civilian opposition and the military council over the transitional agreement over who welds power however, this led to violent clashes on 3 June 2021, which led to the death of up to 120 protesters in Khartoum. The killings were met with international leaders condemning the act and AU suspending Sudan’s membership.

Hence, the architect of the civil strife can be traced to Bashir’s regime, rather than rebuild the military, he decided to arm local paramilitary groups headed by Hemedti which led to the proliferation of groups such as the RSF which started in Darfur and spread across Sudan. The reason for his actions was because of his fallout with Hassan al-Turabi, Sudan’s leading Islamist over the military failed to stop the assault on Khartoum by the Darfuri rebel Justice and Equality Movement in 2008. Solidifying their stance in the country, Sudan’s parliament passed an Act putting the paramilitaries directly under the office of the president in 2017. Not until 2019, did Bashir’s ruinous policies, corruption, extravagant spending on the defense sector, and too many foreign debts, shortage of supplies like food and medicines drive the country into an economic crisis led to protests that forced Bashir out of power which marked the victory for the Sudanese and at the same time a new beginning of civil strife towards successful transition into the civilian rule.

Considering the politics at play, one can describe the fallout of both groups as a “clash of interest”. Since the overthrow of Bashir’s autocratic rule and the signing of the constitutional declaration agreement between the military and the Freedom and Change (FFC) which is an umbrella representing the civilians and armed opposition groups, transferred most powers to the civilian administration. Despite the agreement, Burhan breached the agreement because eventually most significant positions were controlled by the military. According to Alan Boswell a project director at Horn of Africa Nairobi’s report on International Crisis Group, the transitional period was met with army officers seizing power and was bent on preserving and consolidating power and protecting its economic interest, this was evident in the dissolution of the civilian cabinet which was paving way for reforms. These single actions disrupted the transition that was supposed to make way for elections in 2023.

It remains unclear what will become of Sudan during this period and of course after the crisis given its economic turmoil, political instability, hunger, and division amongst faction groups. On Friday, one week after the crisis that engulfed Sudan erupted, Sudan’s top military general army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan declared the military’s commitment to a civilian-led government. This pledge was welcomed by mixed feelings from many Sudanese who believe the pledge came from the same person who joined forces with the current rivals to seize power 18 months ago.

However, with the growing tension in Sudan coupled with civilians' divided interests, one can argue that the transition to civil rule in the nation may not be in sight. The Sudanese Armed Forces, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group, led by Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo must come together to resolve and implement the agreement signed in December 2022 thereby stepping away from Sudan's political affairs for a successful transition into civilian government. On the other hand, f the crisis continues, the country would be depriving itself of international funding and support thereby worsening the economic condition of the state, as well as increasing the level of political instability that has hitherto ravaged the nation.