Plans to institute a civilian led government in Sudan have stalled indefinitely after violent conflict broke out between two military factions involved in the deal.
The agreement between the military and civilian groups was supposed to have been finalized on April 6th, the anniversary of civilian protests that eventually led the military to overthrow Sudan’s former President Omar al-Bashir (he/him) in 2019. Frustrated pro-democracy protestors began demonstrating in the capital city of Khartoum after the signing was delayed for a second time since April 1st. It was the country’s largest mass demonstration so far this year, according to Reuters.
Tensions between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF) delayed the agreement. The RSF sought formal integration into Sudan’s armed forces, but the two groups disagreed about the timeline of the transition and who would oversee the committee for reorganization, according to the Associated Press (AP). The disagreement also reflects a struggle for power between General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (he/him), leader of the Sudanese military (and by extension, the country), and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the RSF.
Unable to resolve their differences, the talks have devolved into open conflict between the military and the RSF. On April 15th the two groups began fighting in Khartoum, and the violence spread throughout the country. The exact number of casualties is in flux as the conflict unfolds. According to Al Jazeera, Volker Perthes (he/him), the UN Special Representative for Sudan, told reporters in a video conference that over 185 people were killed and over 1,800 were injured.
Streets where protesters marched are now empty as residents have been forced to take shelter inside their homes. “We’re scared, we haven’t slept for 24 hours because of the noise and the house shaking. We’re worried about running out of water and food, and medicine for my diabetic father,” one Khartoum resident told Reuters. Hospitals in Khartoum have been hit by shells, and the city’s international airport has closed after planes were bombed. Residents in many parts of the city are without power or water, reported The New York Times.
World leaders have spoken out against the conflict. “The humanitarian situation in Sudan was already precarious and is now catastrophic,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres (he/him) on April 17th. “I condemn the deaths and injuries to civilians and humanitarian workers and the targeting and looting of premises.” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (he/him) has spoken to both al-Burhan and Dagalo, and said he urged them to declare a cease-fire.