An October 2021 coup added new dangers to the turbulent transition that followed Sudan’s 2019 ouster of Omar al-Bashir, one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders. The strongman’s toppling, prompted by a sustained, peaceful campaign by a diverse and well-organised protest movement, raised hopes that the country might make a transition to more inclusive, civilian-led rule. Military officers were however reluctant to change. Civilians blamed them for inciting an ethnic group demanding greater representation under an October 2020 peace deal to block access to Khartoum from the coast, causing crushing shortages of essentials in the capital. Sudan matters because it sits in one of the most geostrategic locations on the continent, straddling the Horn and North Africa, with a long Red Sea coastline, and serves as a historical bridge between North and sub-Saharan Africa. Through research and advocacy in Sudan, we aim to reduce the likelihood of domestic conflict by encouraging more inclusive governance and positively engaged regional and foreign policies.

CrisisWatch Sudan

Deteriorated Situation

Conflict between Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and army escalated as mediation efforts failed, with fighting drawing in other armed groups and Darfur witnessing worst violence since civil war.

Fighting intensified in Khartoum and Kordofan states, drawing in rebel group. Army continued aerial bombardment of RSF-controlled areas of capital Khartoum, including residential and commercial neighbourhoods; notably, air attack 17 June killed at least 17. In North Kordofan state, where RSF and army fought over state capital El-Obeid, RSF 3 June reportedly killed over 50 civilians in al-Humaira village. Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) 8 June reportedly mobilised in South Kordofan state, raising fears conflict could spread southward. Army 21 June accused SPLM-N of attacking army unit in South Kordofan’s capital Kadugli; SPLM-N and RSF same day reportedly attacked army in al-Dalanj city. In first reported fighting in Blue Nile state, residents 26 June said SPLM-N attacked Kurmuk city.

Ethnic conflict escalated in Darfur. Violence in June killed or displaced thousands in Darfur as conflict took on ethnic dimension involving Arab Rizeigat and non-Arab Masalit tribes. RSF 14 June allegedly killed West Darfur state governor after he accused RSF of genocide. In North Darfur state, fighting 2-3 June reportedly killed over 40 civilians in Kutum town, with renewed clashes reported 22 June in state capital Al Fashir. Clashes 20-25 June reportedly escalated in South Darfur’s state capital Nyala, killing at least 25. Violence risks drawing in other tribal militias including from neighbouring Chad.

Conflict raised risk of state failure. Hostilities led to breakdown of governance, law and order, and economic collapse. Meanwhile, UN agencies 2 June reported increasingly “desperate” situation for civilians as rainy season started, which could complicate relief efforts.

Various mediation tracks struggled to gain traction. U.S. and Saudi Arabia-brokered 72-hour ceasefire 20 Jun broke down; U.S. next day adjourned Jeddah talks, saying format was “not succeeding”. Warring parties 26-27 June announced ceasefires for Eid al-Adha holiday, but fighting continued. Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) leaders 12 June met in Djibouti, adopting roadmap for conflict’s resolution; army 15 June opposed Kenya taking lead, jeopardising track. African Union’s late May roadmap for peace failed to make progress. Competing mediation tracks risk hindering efforts to resolve crisis.

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In The News

31 May 2023
The concern now is if these Jeddah talks collapse, it confirms more or less that Sudan is basically in freefall into a full civil war. Al Jazeera

Alan Boswell

Project Director, Horn of Africa
3 May 2023
Both sides [fighting in Sudan] have their own reasons for confidence, which is one reason we haven’t gotten to peace talks. Washington Post

Alan Boswell

Project Director, Horn of Africa
18 Apr 2023
You need a cease-fire [in Sudan] quickly or you are staring at civil war. Bloomberg

Murithi Mutiga

Program Director, Africa
15 Apr 2023
Sudan is on the precipice of civil war. This is the double-headed monster that seized power after Bashir. Now the two heads have turned on each other. Washington Post

Alan Boswell

Project Director, Horn of Africa

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Shewit Woldemichael

Senior Analyst, Sudan
Shewit Woldemichael

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