Sudan extended ceasefire ‘not respected’ amid fears of conflict spill-over
Despite the extension of the ceasefire the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) agreed upon and that would start today, explosions were heard in the Sudanese capital this morning. Countries in the region fear an escalation of the conflict. The army may not want to return to the former ‘political process’.
Intermittent clashes took place in the vicinity of the Republican Palace along the Blue Nile in in central Khartoum, and shells fell on Tuti Island at the convergence of the Blue and the White Nile, although both parties agreed on a three-day extension of the ceasefire.
People living in the vicinity also reported renewed battles near the General Command of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), the area east of the Khartoum international Airport, in Kafouri in Khartoum North (Bahri), and in Omdurman, which led to more deaths and injuries among civilians.
The Darfur Bar Association (DBA) said in a statement this morning that it received reports about the firing of mortar shells at the El Jereif neighbourhood near the Blue Nile in Khartoum from the direction of the nearby army base, which led to the death of three people.
The DBA appealed to humanitarian organisations “to provide urgent aid” and demanded the warring SAF and RSF commanders “to immediately stop this absurd war”. The lawyers also called on the United Nations “to intervene to stop the war and the war crimes they are committing”.
African diplomatic sources have warned for an escalation of the conflict. They told Al Jazeera Net earlier this week that “influential international powers” fear that Sudan may fully collapse into a failed state. Considering “the country’s geopolitical location” this may lead to “chaos and the spread of more weapons, stir terrorism and irregular migration from the countries of the Horn of Africa to the Sahel and the Sahara towards Europe”.
By Monday, the Sudanese army was able to control RSF military sites in 17 of the country’s 18 states, either through military confrontations or surrender, and took control of all RSF bases in the country’s capital, Al Jazeera correspondent El Nour Ahmed El Nour wrote.
RSF paramilitaries are deployed in several neighbourhoods and on the main roads in Khartoum, Omdurman, and Khartoum North. They are in control of several government buildings in Khartoum and most of the police stations, and still maintain a partial presence at the Khartoum International Airport.
On April 18, the third day of the fighting, Hemedti outlined his aims: Taking control of the army, handing over power to a civilian authority, and detaining El Burhan to bring him to justice.
Military experts believe that the estimates of El Burhan and Hemedti were not accurate, as the former did not seem ready for war or deemed it unlikely to happen, El Nour stated.
The RSF joined the guards of the Republican Palace and the airport. They were deployed, with heavy weapon, near the Army Command and other strategical locations a few days before the outbreak of the fighting, and the army did not take any action.
Experts believe that Hemedti thought he could resolve the battle within hours, “by killing or detaining El Burhan and his military comrades in the Sovereignty Council and taking control of the Army Command, and thus become the head of the state”.
Regional parties also fear the flow of arms and fighters from Libya, the Central African Republic (CAR), and Chad through the Darfur region, where Hemedti has tribal allies. The infiltration of fighters from Niger and Mali may extend as well.
El Burhan has set one condition for sitting down with the RSF Command, preferably not Hemedti, which is the withdrawal of their forces from Khartoum and return to their positions as they were in December last year.
The RSF soldiers are to be placed in military camps until their integration into the army. Hemedti is to be removed and held accountable for his “rebellion”, the loss of lives and the destruction of many buildings.
Hemedti conditions the removal of El Burhan and the return of RSF bases destroyed by the army. He has expressed his willingness to integrate his forces into the SAF within a period of time to be agreed upon.
Yet, a number of RSF commanders reportedly hold Hemedti responsible for the great losses they suffered in their ranks and the dwindling of their social support likely that this might push them to step down later.
Strategic Expert Mohamed Hammad told Al Jazeera Net that he believes that the negotiating table will force El Burhan and Hemedti to make concessions that may be acceptable to the military establishment.
El Burhan said last week that Hemedti refused his proposal to step down together.
The divisions and polarisation among the various political parties and groups, and the Framework Agreement signed between the military junta and more than 40 political bodies under the umbrella of the mainstream Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC-Central Council), were among the reasons that precipitated the military clash between El Burhan and Hemedti, El Nour stated.
“The agreement granted the RSF a status parallel to the army, which provoked the military establishment, while the FFC-CC tried to monopolise power and sought to profit from Hemedti’s military strength, his influence in the state, and his financial weight.”
Sources close to the Sudanese military establishment told Al Jazeera Net that “the general mood in the army calls for not returning to the political process in its previous form, as it was a recipe for division and political conflict but proposes the formation of a caretaker government to manage the affairs of country and hold elections a year later”.
The African Union and other regional and international powers, however, prefer to return to the agreed-on political process with a new approach. The base of the political groups should be expanded (loyalists to the dissolved National Congress Party of Omar Al Bashir are excluded), in order to achieve the largest degree of national consensus, after which a civilian government can be formed.