| 19 June 2024, Wednesday |

Sudan in chaos as military rivals face off in power struggle

Sudan’s army conducted air attacks on a rival paramilitary force’s camp in the capital on Sunday in an attempt to reclaim control of the chaotic country after a power struggle exploded into riots that killed 56 civilians and dozens of combatants.

On Saturday, violence erupted between army forces loyal to General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), commanded by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti. It was the first such outbreak since all sides joined forces in 2019 to depose President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

International powers – the United States, China, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Nations, European Union and African Union – have appealed for an immediate end to the hostilities.

Efforts by neighbors and regional bodies to end the violence intensified on Sunday. That included an offer by Egypt and South Sudan to mediate between the fighting parties, according to a statement by the Egyptian presidency.

At the end of a day of heavy fighting, the army struck a base belonging to the RSF in the city of Omdurman, which adjoins the capital Khartoum, witnesses said late on Saturday.

Both the military and the RSF claimed they had control of Sudan’s airport and other key installations in Khartoum, where fighting raged overnight.

The two rivals have been competing for power as political factions negotiate forming a transitional government after a 2021 military coup.

In the early hours of Sunday, residents reported hearing gunfire and explosions from heavy artillery through the night. Al Arabiya television broadcast footage showing thick plume of smoke rising over some districts in Khartoum.

“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,” Huda, a young resident in southern Khartoum told Reuters.

“There’s so much false information and everyone is lying. We don’t know when this will end, how it will end,” she added.

Tagreed Abdin, an architect living in Khartoum, said the power was out and people were trying to conserve phone batteries. “We can hear air strikes, shelling, and gunfire,” she said.

Doctors unions said it was difficult for medics and the sick to get to and from hospitals and called on the army and RSF to provide safe passage.

Sudan’s MTN telecommunications company has blocked internet services on the orders of the government telecommunications regulator, two officials from the company told Reuters on Sunday.

The weekend fighting followed rising tensions over the RSF’s integration into the military. The disagreement over the timetable for that has delayed the signing of an internationally backed agreement with political parties on a transition to democracy.

A protracted confrontation could plunge Sudan into widespread conflict as it struggles with economic breakdown and tribal violence, derailing efforts to move towards elections.

  • Reuters