Violence erupted in Sudan between the army and a paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on Thursday, and it has continued into its third day, resulting in nearly 100 deaths and an estimated 1,100 injuries. The fighting is part of a power struggle within the country’s military leadership, which has escalated into violence between rival factions. Sudan has been under military rule since 2019 when a coup overthrew the long-standing authoritarian president, Omar al-Bashir.
The two men at the center of the power struggle disagree over how the country should transition to civilian rule. The RSF is a notorious paramilitary force commanded by Sudan’s deputy leader, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti, and has about 100,000 soldiers. The major sticking points are over the plans to incorporate the RSF into the army, and over who would lead the new force.
Both sides claim to control key sites in the capital, Khartoum, with residents sheltering from explosions. The RSF has claimed to occupy sites such as the presidential palace and the adjoining city of Omdurman, as well as in the western region of Darfur and Merowe Airport in the north of the country. However, some accounts indicate that the army had regained control of the airport, with the military saying they were dealing with “small pockets of rebels.”
Residents of Khartoum have spoken of fear and panic, with reports of gunfire and explosions. Hospitals in the area are overwhelmed, with doctors warning that the fighting is stopping both staff and medical supplies from reaching injured people. The situation at hospitals in Khartoum is extremely difficult, and the fighting has made it challenging for medics and sick people to get to and from hospitals while the fighting was raging.
The brief pause in the fighting on Sunday followed complaints from doctors’ unions. International voices have called for a permanent end to the violence, including leading Arab states, the US, and the African Union, which has announced that it is sending its top diplomat, Moussa Faki Mahamat, to try to negotiate a ceasefire. Egypt and South Sudan also offered to mediate between the warring factions.
The World Health Organization says more than 83 people have been killed, and more than 1,100 people have been injured across the country since Thursday, when the RSF began mobilizing its forces. The death toll estimates vary, with the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors reporting 56 civilians killed as well as “tens of deaths” among security forces, and a doctors’ trade union putting the death toll at 97, with 365 injured.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has suspended its operations in the country after three of its staff members were killed in the fighting. In a statement, the WFP said it was “horrified” by the news of the deaths, adding that one of its aircraft had been damaged at Khartoum International Airport during an exchange of gunfire on Saturday, which impacted its ability to provide aid.
Sudan state television is reported to have stopped transmissions, but it was not immediately clear what caused the break in programming.
The ongoing violence has left the people of Sudan in fear and uncertainty, with the situation remaining highly volatile. The international community has called for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, and for the safety and well-being of all civilians caught up in the fighting.