Following the outbreak of fighting throughout Sudan on Saturday, a number of major developments have occurred that have drawn the attention of the international community.
The Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group in Sudan with ties to the Russian Wagner Group, are now embroiled in a second day of heavy fighting with the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). Sudanese delegations have urged the world to stay sidelined, declaring this to be an internal matter.
An emergency meeting of the Arab League was held on Sunday to discuss the Sudan conflict at the request of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Sudan is one of the 22 members of the Arab League, founded in 1945.
Recent months have seen discussions between the military and civil groups to discuss the formation of a new government. The RSF and other paramilitary forces have been largely opposed to many of the agreements between the SAF and civil groups, as the RSF is reluctant to give up its military power and merge with the Sudanese Armed Forces. This breakdown in agreement is likely what led to the conflict now occurring in the country.
Egypt and the RSF are currently in talks to return the captured Egyptian soldiers from Merowe Airbase. The commander of the RSF has been openly apologetic for the capture of Egyptian soldiers and has expressed a willingness to return them safely. Egypt itself has sent delegations to both the SAF and RSF but has not yet ruled out military intervention, despite warnings from the European Union and the United Nations that direct involvement would see them sanctioned. The RSF reported the Egyptian soldiers as healthy and safe.
The Egyptian Armed Forces released a statement Saturday evening stating that they are in talks to secure the release of their soldiers and equipment, claiming they were there to “conduct joint training with their Sudanese counterparts.” Egypt and Sudan have been working to develop a closer military partnership since 2019 and often take part in military drills together.
As far as reports of the fighting, the RSF initially made lightning advances across the country, taking several military bases and key infrastructure before the military could mount a proper defense. However, starting throughout the evening on Saturday and continuing into Sunday, the SAF have reestablished control over many of these key locations. Making good use of it’s well-equipped air force, Sudan has conducted a series of close air support attacks and bombing campaigns across the contested areas. Videos have emerged of Mig-29 multirole aircraft doing low passes over cities and Sudanese tanks firing at RSF positions as the paramilitary groups struggle to combat the heavy equipment. Despite this, reports still stream in of other militias merging with the RSF and intense fighting throughout the countryside and capital city of Khartoum. The Sudanese Armed Forces claim control of the strategic city of Port Sudan, while the RSF claim control over the Sudan Presidential Palace in Khartoum.
International experts note that the RSF seem to be losing momentum as they struggle to combat the heavy equipment of the SAF, leading to speculation that the RSF will either withdraw into a lengthy civil war or commit to a leadership purge in order to secure peace.
Thousands of refugees are being reported as having fled their homes in Marawi and Khartoum as clashes intensify. Chad and Ethiopia both confirm military buildup on their borders to ensure no fighting spills over. United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken communicated directly with his counterparts in countries that have influence in Sudan to pressure the fighting to stop, whereas Egypt, the United Kingdom, South Sudan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and China are all reported to be directly involved in the peace process in Sudan. The African Union issued a statement in solidarity with the government of Sudan and called “for an immediate ceasefire by the two parties without conditions, in the supreme interest of Sudan and its people, in order to avoid further bloodshed and harm to innocent civilians; to protect civilians, especially women and children; and to provide humanitarian support to civilians caught up in the conflict.”
Reports indicate that nearly 100 fighters and civilians have been killed in the fighting so far. However, this number is likely to be tentative until the smoke clears and the situation is more properly assessed by external watchdogs. Three workers with the United Nations have been reported killed during the fighting.
According to the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan, the leadership of the paramilitary RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces have agreed to a three-hour ceasefire for humanitarian relief. The statement from the UN reads:
“General Burhan, the Commander of the Sudanese Armed Forces, and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, Commander of the Rapid Support Forces have agreed to a proposal by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan, Mr. Volker Perthes, and the Trilateral Mechanism (the AU, IGAD and UN) to commit to a temporary pause in fighting on humanitarian grounds today from 16:00-19:00 today.
He acknowledges their efforts to come to this agreement and holds them and their forces accountable to honor this commitment.”
The ceasefire will take place between 16:00 and 19:00 local time today.