The Sudan military has cautioned of conflict with the country’s powerful paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), as it has allegedly stationed soldiers in Khartoum and other cities without the approval or coordination of the military leadership.
The military and RSF have experienced rising tensions in recent months, which has resulted in a delay in the signing of an internationally-supported agreement with political parties to revive the country’s democratic transition.
Here's what you need to know about the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group currently engaged in fierce fighting with Sudan’s military ⤵️
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) April 16, 2023
Videos circulating on social media showed RSF-armed vehicles being transported into Khartoum. The paramilitary has also deployed soldiers in northern Sudan along the border with Egypt, with reports that they attempted to build a military base there.
The source of the conflict between the Sudan military and the paramilitary is related to the integration of the RSF into the military, which is a crucial aspect of a transition deal that remains unsigned in Sudan. This rivalry between the army and the RSF has a history that can be traced back to the rule of former President Omar al-Bashir, who was removed from power in 2019. During al-Bashir’s rule, the paramilitary group, led by General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, emerged from the Janjaweed militias that brutally suppressed the conflict in Darfur over many decades.
Although both the army and the RSF together carried out a coup in October 2021 that upended Sudan’s transition to democracy, friction between them became increasingly visible in recent months, with conflicting public statements, heavy Sudan military presence in Khartoum, and parallel foreign trips by military and RSF leaders.
The RSF said that its presence in northern Sudan and elsewhere is aimed at achieving security and stability and fighting human trafficking and illegal migration. The wealthy paramilitary force is estimated to have tens of thousands of fighters.
Kholood Khair, the founder, and director of Confluence Advisory, stated that tension between the army and the RSF has reached an unprecedented level. The National Umma Party has requested restraint from all political groups and called for an emergency meeting with military and RSF representatives. In 2021, a coup took place and the Western-supported, power-sharing government was ousted, shattering the hopes of the Sudanese people for democratic governance. In April 2019, the military overthrew al-Bashir, who is accused of war crimes and genocide.