The ongoing conflict in Sudan may spread beyond the country’s borders and have far-reaching consequences, warn analysts, as a new ceasefire seeks to enable Sudanese citizens and foreign nationals to flee. The fighting began 10 days ago as a result of a power struggle between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) under President Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemedti). The two factions had shared power in Khartoum since a military coup in 2021 dissolved a civilian-led transitional government put in place following the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019. A US-brokered 72-hour ceasefire began on Monday, which governments and international bodies hope will allow civilians to leave the country.
However, several previous truces have quickly failed, and hundreds of people have already died in what the United Nations has classified as a humanitarian catastrophe. The World Health Organization has confirmed 459 dead and 4,072 injured in the fighting so far, but the true toll is likely to be higher. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of a risk of a “catastrophic conflagration” that could consume the region and beyond if a solution is not found soon.
Sudan’s size and location at the junction of the Indian Ocean, the Horn of Africa, North Africa, and the Arab world give it particular geostrategic importance. Sudan has land borders with Egypt, Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, and sits across the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia. Escalating conflict in Sudan may lead to wider political fissures and make it more difficult to find a resolution, according to analysts.
The RSF has close ties to a number of actors, especially Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in Libya, via whom it has connections to the UAE and other regional actors. Notorious Russian mercenary force Wagner Group has been linked to various commercial and military operations in Sudan, including arms provisions to Hemedti’s forces. Moscow’s interest in Sudan is long-standing, with former President Bashir signing a number of deals with the Kremlin in 2017. These relationships increase the likelihood of Sudan becoming embroiled within broader political fissures, according to experts.
Despite the three-day ceasefire, neither leader has signaled a willingness to begin negotiations to end the conflict, which analysts believe will quickly engulf the country’s infrastructure and draw in surrounding nations. Verisk Maplecroft expects Chad to be drawn in on the side of the SAF, and the conflict also is likely to prevent a resolution to the dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The contest over who is the dominant security actor for the state does not bode well for hopes of an imminent resolution.
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