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Fierce Clashes Erupt between Sudan’s Military and Paramilitary Forces, Prompting International Calls for Ceasefire

Fierce clashes between Sudan’s military and the country’s powerful paramilitary erupted in the capital and elsewhere in the African nation after weeks of escalating tensions between the two forces.[0] The fighting flared up in the Sudanese capital between the national army and the paramilitary forces on Saturday morning as the two sides traded accusations over who started hostilities.[0] According to witnesses, the armed combatants in densely populated areas engaged in gunfire from armored vehicles and machine guns installed on pick-up trucks.[1] Tanks were spotted in Khartoum.[1] Using planes and drones, the military initiated assaults against RSF positions located in and around the capital.[1]

According to international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the RSF originated from Arab militant factions that were allegedly responsible for perpetrating atrocities in Darfur during the early 2000s. The RSF was formed in 2013 as a result of the Janjaweed militia, which was deployed by former president Omar al-Bashir to target non-Arab ethnic minorities in the western Darfur region ten years prior, leading to allegations of war crimes.

The current tensions arise from a dispute regarding the integration of the RSF into the military and the supervisory authority responsible for the process. The merger is an essential requirement stipulated in Sudan's transition agreement with political factions that remains unsigned.[2] As part of a political agreement backed by the UN, which was reached after months of negotiations in February, the incorporation of the RSF into the military has been a topic of discussion.

The conflict arises following a period of heightened hostility between the military leaders and prolonged political turmoil that ensued after a military coup in October of 2021.[1] The struggle for power in Sudan has been ongoing for years. Sudan's years-long power struggle explained.

The outbreak of violence prompted concern from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other high-ranking diplomats.[3] On Twitter, Blinken stated that it is important for all parties involved to put an end to the violence without delay and refrain from any further amplification or deployment of troops. Instead, he urged them to engage in discussions to reach a resolution for any unresolved matters.[4] The United Nations, African and Arab regional blocs, and the European Union also called for an immediate ceasefire and for both parties to return to negotiations to settle their dispute.

According to the RSF, they held dominance over important areas in Khartoum and the northern city of Merowe, which is approximately 350 kilometers (215 miles) to the northwest of the capital.[5] The military refuted the allegations as false.[3] In response, the military declared the RSF to be a group of rebels.[3] Since the coup, tens of thousands of troops from the military and the RSF have gathered in Khartoum and Omdurman, where the sound of intense gunfire echoed throughout Saturday.[1]

The international community, including the US, 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.[4] Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Josep Borrell, the top diplomat of the European Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the head of the African Union Commission, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the chief of the Arab League, and Qatar collectively urged for a cessation of hostilities and a return to negotiations for resolving the conflict between the two parties.

In his statement on the current fighting, Mr. Perthes reached out to both parties asking them for an immediate cessation of fighting, to ensure the safety of the Sudanese people and spare the country from further violence.[5]

0. “Al-Burhan says he was surprised by RSF attak on his house” Sudan Tribune, 15 Apr. 2023, https://sudantribune.com/article272974/

1. “Dozens killed in Sudan as army, rival forces fight for power” Al Jazeera English, 15 Apr. 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/4/15/army-and-rival-forces-clash-as-power-struggle-rocks-sudan

2. “Heavy gunfire, blasts heard in Sudan’s capital Khartoum” Al Jazeera English, 15 Apr. 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/4/15/heavy-gunfire-heard-south-of-sudanese-capital-khartoum

3. “Choas in Sudan amid an attempted coup as government fighter jets fire missiles over capital” Daily Mail, 15 Apr. 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11977019/Choas-Sudan-amid-attempted-coup-government-fighter-jets-fire-missiles-capital.html

4. “U.S. urges calm as deadly fighting erupts in Sudan” Axios, 15 Apr. 2023, https://www.axios.com/2023/04/15/sudan-fighting-death-toll-khartoum-rsf

5. “UN chief and officials condemn fighting between Sudanese forces” UN News, 15 Apr. 2023, https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/04/1135702