Nine Months of War in Sudan

YOUSSEFBASHIRR

Since April 15, 2023, Sudanese people have been living in fear of the ongoing conflict between the army and the Rapid Support Forces evolving into a protracted dispute, with insufficient international pressure to compel the conflicting parties to end it peacefully.

Violent clashes between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese army have forced 7.6 million Sudanese to flee their homes, including 6.1 million internally displaced persons living in dire humanitarian conditions. Long-term displacement has led to the loss of livelihoods and the depletion of savings, exacerbated by the depreciation of the local currency.

Among the displaced, 3.5 million children have been compelled to leave their homes, according to UNICEF representative Mandip O’Brien. O’Brien emphasizes that Sudanese children are living a harsh reality, with 14 million out of 24 million Sudanese children needing assistance in health, nutrition, and protection. Additionally, 19 million school-age children are not attending school, resulting in an estimated loss of $26 billion for Sudan.

The catastrophe of war affects all aspects of life, particularly the escalating violence against women and girls facing threats of abduction, forced disappearance, and gender-based violence associated with the conflict. The United Nations anticipates that over 6.9 million women and girls are at risk of gender-based violence.

The Impending Civil Strife

Panic spread among the Sudanese as the RSF assumed control of the state of Jazeera in central Sudan. This led to intensified public mobilization campaigns for arming civilians under the banner of “The People’s Resistance.” The armed forces, under the leadership of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, pledged to supply them with weapons, intensifying concerns about the war transforming into a civil conflict.

The sight of civilians bearing arms in cities and villages in central and northern Sudan has become commonplace, with increasing societal polarization by the conflicting parties, raising fears of a potentially more bloody communitarian conflict than the one witnessed in the capital of West Darfur. In that incident, 12,000 people from the Masalit ethnic group fell victim to the RSF and other Arab militias .

Residents of West Darfur experienced horrors, including the arbitrary detention of some by the RSF, their exploitation for forced labor in agricultural activities, and the sexual violence against dozens of women. Prior to these atrocities, the governor of the state, Khamis Abdullah Abakar, was brutally murdered on June 14, 2023, hours after being arrested by members of the RSF.

Observers of the situation in Sudan throughout the ongoing war, which has been going on for over nine months, do not rule out the occurrence of ethnic fighting similar to what happened in West Darfur. This is especially likely as the Rapid Support Forces deliberately expand into new regions, subjecting residents to further heinous violations, and the widespread proliferation of weapons among civilian populations, particularly in the states of Kassala in eastern Sudan and River Nile in the north of the country.

“The conflicting parties also suffered losses without gaining anything in return, whether we speak of human losses among soldiers and officers or in terms of equipment.”

The Situation Worsens

The expansion and prolongation of the war have led to increased violations, including unlawful arrests and forced disappearances, according to lawyer Ibrahim Al Taher, who spoke to Daraj. He notes that the army and the RSF are arresting civilians under the pretext of collaborating with the opposing party, tightening the grip on civilian life in favor of militarizing society.

Al Tahir commented on the decisions of state governments regarding the dissolution of the Change and Services Committees (voluntary youth groups providing services to citizens free of charge), saying: “This is not separate from the attempts of the army and Rapid Support Forces to eliminate any voice that opposes them or criticizes their violations. Both sides want a homogenized society.”

Most Sudanese are facing severe economic hardship due to job loss and the depreciation of the local currency, with the exchange rate now at 1200 Sudanese pounds to one US dollar, compared to 550 pounds before the war, representing a more than 100% decrease and leading to significantly higher prices for goods and services.

Ismail Bakr, a Sudanese citizen, tells Daraj that, through his work as a roaming vendor, he cannot provide two meals for his family of four, and he had no choice but to forego purchasing some necessities for his child, such as milk.

Poverty and food shortages are common among most Sudanese, while news reports suggest that the army-affiliated government is raising the customs dollar value, a criterion used by authorities to collect customs duties from importers, and its increase means higher prices for goods and fuel.

Journalist Ahmed Hamdan says that Sudanese civilians have lost everything during the nine months of fighting: their homes, belongings, and livelihoods. Millions are displaced internally or seeking refuge in neighboring countries in extremely complex humanitarian conditions.

He tells Daraj that the conflicting parties also suffered losses without gaining anything in return, whether in terms of human losses among soldiers and officers or in equipment.

Diminished Hopes

Despite Sudan’s situation spiraling out of control, ending the fighting between the army and Rapid Support Forces through negotiation remains a distant dream due to social and political polarization, and each party’s attempts to achieve military victories to force the other to submit to their terms.

The army insists on the withdrawal of the RSF from civilian homes and facilities and from the states they control, as well as removing their forces from cities before resuming negotiations. Meanwhile, the Rapid Support Forces, while expressing readiness for negotiations, continue to commit further violations against civilians.

The army’s stance relies on defending its military bases and conducting airstrikes, while the Rapid Support Forces expand and control new areas. They currently control large parts of Khartoum, Jazeera, and four out of five states in Darfur, and areas of South Kordofan.

Ahmed Hamdan does not anticipate an end to the war in the near future, saying: “I expect the war to continue for perhaps more than three years if it persists in this manner, which places the Rapid Support Forces in a dominant position in military operations.The Rapid Support Forces will not be able to decisively win the battle militarily, and the army will not negotiate while it is militarily defeated. Therefore, I expect the fighting to continue for the longest period possible, allowing both parties to maintain their field positions. But if the army manages to change the balance of power in the field, it will then negotiate, imposing its conditions, which do not include democratic civilian transition.”

“If the army does not achieve military superiority in the field, I expect it to delay going to negotiations, betting on the collapse of the Rapid Support Forces after its financial resources are depleted and its failure to spend on arms, supplies, and soldiers, as it will not be able to finance this war indefinitely, and it has no permanent source of income,” he adds.

“In contrast, the army has income resources from oil, gold, airspace, taxes, and customs, and even the states controlled by the Rapid Support Forces still send their revenues to the army’s treasury.”

Hamdan emphasizes that the army insists on keeping its soldiers inside its bases to avoid losing ammunition and weapons, relying solely on low-cost barrel bomb aerial raids.

With the army and the RSF determined to end civilian life, exacerbating economic and health conditions, and international neglect, Sudan’s situation is becoming increasingly complex in a way that makes any future solutions feel like flies digging into a festering wound, meaning it will only worsen.

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