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Analysts: Sudan Fighting Presents 'Critical Test' to Global Community

Smoke rises in the background as a car drives along an almost deserted street in Khartoum on April 16, 2023, during ongoing fighting between the forces of two rival generals.
Smoke rises in the background as a car drives along an almost deserted street in Khartoum on April 16, 2023, during ongoing fighting between the forces of two rival generals.

WASHINGTON - Security analysts say failure to engage in meaningful dialogue by rival military factions in Sudan could have degenerated into its deadly weekend violence, adding the current state of affairs present a critical test to the international community for peace to prevail in the region.

Clashes between Sudan's army and the paramilitary force known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has led to the deaths of more than 100 people, according to Sudan Doctors' Syndicate, a pro-democracy group monitoring casualties as fighting entered day three on Monday.

David Otto Endeley, executive director of Geneva-based Center for African Security and Strategic Studies, told VOA that although the breakdown of law and order in the northeastern African nation is not surprising, the intensity of the mayhem is "unprecedented."

"It's quite unprecedented in Africa in the 21st century — the level and intensity of the violence, the use of fighter jets, armored personnel, carrier vehicles, vehicles armed with machine guns, and the exchange of fire within Khartoum," Endeley said.

"This is clear evidence that things were boiling underneath," he said, adding that "the clashes were not surprising, but the intensity of it is something that has been very shocking," considering that the two military factions principally formed a coalition to overthrow the military dictatorship of Sudan’s former leader, Omar al-Bashir.

Endeley said stakeholders may have missed red flags in the Horn of Africa that could have led to the degeneration of violence, citing the establishment of a military base by Egyptian authorities in the northern Sudanese town of Merowe, more than 300 kilometers north of the capital Khartoum, as a possible tipping point.

"There was some level of disagreement between the Sudanese army and the RSF as to the installation of that Egyptian base," he said.

On Saturday, head of the RSF said his forces were ready to cooperate with Egypt to ease the return of Egyptian troops, who they said had surrendered themselves to the group, according to Reuters. The troops had been the Sudanese military base for exercises when fighting broke out.

On Monday, the United Nations envoy to Sudan Volker Perthes said the two sides are "not giving the impression that they want mediation for a peace between them" immediately.

He told reporters in New York via video that more than 1,800 fatalities have been recorded with 1,800 plus injured, including three World Food Program staff killed in north Darfur.

Endeley said it is still not clear if there's an end in sight for the fighting, noting that "both military leaders (Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the army and leader of Sudan's ruling council and RSF leader Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti) believe that they can secure critical infrastructure."

"Fighting will continue for about a week or two before we see some level of de-escalation. This latest conflict is about absolute power," he noted.

Action on Armed Violence, AOAV, a London-based charity focused on conducting research and advocacy on the incidence and impact of global armed violence, said that since 2010, it has recorded 120 incidents of explosive weapon use in Sudan. Those incidents have caused 1,489 civilian casualties – 397 killed and 1,092 injured. It said 2023 is already "the most injurious year" on record so far.

"From 2010 to 2022, state actors caused 59% of recorded civilian harm in the country, but it has been impossible as of yet to disaggregate the harm caused by the military and the RSF over the weekend," AOAV reported.

Its executive director Iain Overton told VOA in an emailed statement that the situation in Sudan is "a crucial test for the international community's ability to support peace and stability in the region."

"The ongoing violence highlights the urgent need for dialogue and compromise between the rival factions, as well as a clear commitment from regional and international partners to support the restoration of civilian rule and the implementation of democratic reforms," he said.

Neighboring South Sudan and Egypt have offered to mediate peace talks, while continental bloc, the African Union, has rejected any external interference to avoid complicating the situation in Sudan. The United States, the European Union, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Nations have also urged an immediate end to hostilities.

"As the fighting continues, the international community must work together to facilitate dialogue between the two generals and help Sudan navigate this turbulent period toward a more stable and democratic future," Overton said.