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Battling for supremacy: Tearing Sudan apart (Sudan civil war 2023)

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Historical background:

In 2019 Sudan president Omar-al-Bashir made Abdul Fattah al-Burhan Inspector General of the Sudanese army and then 2 months later, General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan along with his deputy General Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo overthrew president Omar al-Bashir and General Burhan got the top job and he became the President of Sudan on April 11 2019.

In August 2019, General Burhan formed a body called the Transitional Sovereignty Council TSC as a federal government to run Sudan. TSC was a multi-partisan body that was a coalition of both civil political groups and the Military Junta that was a group of military leaders and the chairman of this multi-partisan body TSC was General Burhan. Basically he created this constitutional body so that when he again becomes the head of the country by appointing himself as the chairman of TSC at that time he should look a little democratic. General Burhan then made general Muhammad Hamadan Dagalo the vice chairman of TSC. So the whole purpose behind the creation of TSC was to make the political scenario in Sudan look a little democratic.

2021 Sudan coup d’etat:

On 25th October 2021 general Burhan and his deputy general Dagalo along with the Sudanese Military hijack the government in a military coup. They detained several civilian government officers, ministers, member of political parties, lawyers, civil society activists and journalist. Many of them were even put on house arrest. So the October 2021 Sudan coup d’etat was organized because the military didn’t want to hand over the government control to the civilian political parties. After this coup both generals Burhan and Dagalo ruled Sudan.

Clash between both generals:

After October 2021 coup, general Burhan initiated the process of reinstating individuals who were previously associated with Omar -al Bashir’s regime that included islamicists to the former positions. This is when Dagalo started having doubts. Dagalo felt that Omar al-Bashir’s people will never fully trust him because in 2019, Dagalo betrayed Omar -al Bashir.

Sudanese politics:

Sudanese politics have always been dominated by an elite group of people who largely came from ethnic groups that are based around the region of Khartoum and the river Nile. But Dagalo belongs to Darfur in the west of Sudan which is a rural area. The Sudanese political Elite often talked about him and his soldiers that is RSF in derogatory terms. They used to called them “country bumpkins” unfit to rule the state. After that over the last two years that is since the 2021 coup Dagalo has been trying to position himself as a national figure. Basically he started acting like a real politician, he started calling himself as a representative of the marginalized sections of society. He even started firming alliances with rebel groups in the Darfur region and South Kordofan because he knew these regions thoroughly.

RSF (Rapid Support Forces) against the SAF (Sudanese Armed Forces):

The two Generals are battling for supremacy and tearing Sudan apart. Over the last few years Dagalo has built a vast business empire including interest in Gold mines and many other sectors including investment, mining, transport, car rental, iron and steel. So even he has resources as well as power. The situation has become tensed as both the civilian political leaders and the general Burhan who represents the Sudan armed forces are considering a proposal to place the paramilitary rapid support force RSF under the control of the Sudanese Army . RSF has around 100000 members. On the other hands Dagalo who is the leader of RSF is not at all in favor of this. According to Al Jazeera, general Burhan has ordered to disband and dissolve the RSF and declare it as rebel group. Naturally Dagalo is not going to get scared or back off. So this has actually become the main source of recent tension. On 15th April Saturday morning it is said that the RSF fired some shots in public. This quickly escalated in different parts of the country. It is not exactly clear where the RSF bases are but it seems that their fighters have moved into densely populated areas. The Sudanese Air Force has mounted airstrikes in the capital city against RSF members which is also likely to have led to civilian casualties.

What do the two sides want?

General Dagalo is presenting himself and the RSF as being on the side of the people. He is telling to the people of Sudan that he is with them and together they all are going to go against the Khartoum political Elites. While he is getting some support from Darfur region and South Kordofan. But there are many people who don’t believe in him because he and his RSF has conducted many counter operations against innocent people. While on the other hand, general Burhan is saying that army will only fully hand over power to an elected government and he also expects that the civilian politicians will have to share power with the military. Basically general Burhan wants this situation to be how it was before 2021. Again there are many people who don’t believe general Burhan as well.

What other countries are doing:

There is a broader power struggle behind this Chaos in Sudan . The UK , U.S and European Union has called for a cease fire and talks to resolve the crisis but Western Nations have very little leverage right now because Sudan has been largely isolated since the 2021 coup. The United States is right now looking at the full range of options, the only thing that they can do is put sanctions against members of SAF and RSF. But that is not going to help and many experts don’t think that the United States is going to put troops in Sudan because the U.S doesn’t have the appetite to enter into another conflict. Meanwhile some of the Western media outlets have suggested that the Russian mercenary group called The Wagoner group is operating in Sudan and Russia is indirectly supporting general Dagalo. Now these Western media articles also say that the Russian mercenary group is getting gold in return for helping general Dagalo and the RSF. After the Russia Ukraine conflict, these Western media articles have permanently taken a stand against Russia so they will write everything against Russia but one thing to be noticed is that Russia wants to establish a Naval base in the Red Sea on the Sudanese Coastline to get access to the Indian Ocean and it is general Dagalo who went to Moscow and agreed to this plan. So if we see Russia does have any interest in Sudan.

As in past the RSF has sent thousands of Fighters to support the Saudi war in Yemen. But now it is not clear whether Saudi Arabia wants to get involved in Sudan because right now it is busy forming new relations with Iran. Anyhow it is important to note that many African countries possess abundant natural resources such as oil, gas and minerals. The methods employed by global powers such as Western Nations as well as those in the east like Russia and China to get involved in these countries are quite different. Western countries often use justification such as promoting democracy, human rights, women’s rights etc., whereas Russia and China tends to intervene through infrastructure investment.


So any kind of mediation from the Western countries in Sudan will come only through United Nations and African Union. The United States will not get directly involved but Western powers fear Russia could establish a military base on the Red Sea. Now when it comes neighboring countries like Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea, their interest will align with the side that emerges as the winner once the two Generals resolve their conflict.