Apr 15, 2023 - World

U.S. urges calm as deadly fighting erupts in Sudan

 Smokes rise after clashes erupted in the Sudanese capital on April 15, 2023 between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Smokes rise after clashes erupted in the Sudanese capital on April 15 between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Photo: Omer Erdem/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The international community, including the U.S., called for an end to the violence in Sudan on Saturday after deadly fighting erupted between the Sudanese military and a powerful rival militia in the capital Khartoum and several other places across the country.

Why it matters: The armed confrontation has further deteriorated the political crisis the country has faced since a military coup in October 2021. The fighting between the military and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) also increased fears that the violence could plunge the country into a wider conflict.

Driving the news: Saturday's fighting follows growing tensions between the Sudanese military headed by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the RSF, which is led by Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo — known as Hemedti.

  • Al-Burhan demanded that the RSF become part of the Sudanese military and adhere to its chain of command. Hemedti, who in recent months became an ally of some of the civilian parties, tried to stall this process.
  • The military on Thursday issued a statement against the RSF claiming the militia forces deployed in several areas around the country without approval from the armed forces. Fighting then erupted on Saturday.
  • The military claimed the RSF initiated the confrontation when it sent forces to attack one of its bases, but the militia claimed it was attacked first by the military.

Catch up quick: A December 2018 uprising, which eventually saw the ouster of 30-year ruler Omar al-Bashir, was followed by a power-sharing agreement between the military and the Forces of Freedom and Change, a coalition of different political parties and factions that demonstrated against al-Bashir, Wasil Ali wrote for Axios in December.

  • But on Oct. 25, 2021, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan staged a military coup that ended the partnership model.
  • Late last year, the Sudanese military and the country's coalition of civilian parties signed a political agreement in which the military agreed to hand over power, but the process has largely stalled due to growing disagreements between al-Burhan and Hemedti.

State of play: Heavy fighting has been reported in Khartoum since Saturday morning local time.

  • The RSF claimed it had taken over several military bases, the presidential palace and the Khartoum international airport, which was shut down.
  • John Godfrey, U.S. ambassador to Sudan, who just returned last night to the country wrote on Twitter that he was sheltering in place with the embassy team.
  • “Escalation of tensions within the military component to direct fighting is extremely dangerous. I urgently call on senior military leaders to stop the fighting," he wrote.

What they're saying: Al-Burhan told Al Jazeera the military has the situation under control.

  • Hemedti also spoke on the phone with Al Jazeera and claimed he was fighting for democracy and said his forces will arrest al-Burhan and bring him to justice. If he refuses, “he will die like a dog," Hemedti said.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken wrote on Twitter that the U.S. is deeply concerned about the violence between the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces.

  • “We urge all actors to stop the violence immediately and avoid further escalations or troop mobilizations and continue talks to resolve outstanding issues," Blinken said.

Saudi Arabia, which is deeply involved in the country, also called for calm.

  • "We call on our brothers in Sudan to stop all military operations immediately, avoid escalation and return for the framework agreement," the Saudi foreign minister tweeted.
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