Sudan Conflict: Exploring the Military Rivalry Behind Clashes in Khartoum


The recent outbreak of violence in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, is a direct result of a power struggle between two of the country’s top military leaders. Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the armed forces and president of Sudan, and his deputy and leader of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, have been at odds over the nation’s transition to civilian rule.

The tension between the two men escalated on Saturday when members of the RSF were redeployed across the country, which the army viewed as a threat. This led to clashes at strategic locations in Khartoum, resulting in dozens of casualties. Despite attempts to resolve the situation through diplomatic talks, these efforts have been unsuccessful.

The RSF was formed in 2013, and is made up of the Janjaweed militia that fought off rebels in Darfur. Since then, Gen Dagalo has built a powerful force that has been involved in conflicts in Yemen and Libya, and controls some of Sudan’s gold mines. The RSF has also been accused of human rights abuses, including the massacre of more than 120 protesters in June 2019. This strong force outside the army has been seen as a source of instability in the country.

The current crisis began with mass protests in 2019 that called for an end to President Omar al-Bashir’s near-three decade rule. The army responded by mounting a coup to remove him from power and a joint military-civilian government was established. However, this was overthrown in another coup in October 2021. Since then, the rivalry between Gen Burhan and Gen Dagalo has intensified, leading to the current unrest.

Diplomats have been trying to broker a deal to return power to civilians, but talks to finalize the details have failed. If the fighting continues, it could further fragment the country and worsen political turbulence. The ordinary Sudanese will be left to live through yet another period of uncertainty unless a way can be found to get the two generals to talk.