Sudan: As New Ceasefire Starts, Stalemates Rule Out Decisive Victories

Battling forces in Sudan are locked in a military deadlock and lack the political backing to rule alone, researchers say. Meanwhile, the paramilitary RSF militia announced a new cease-fire starting Wednesday evening.

The deadly clashes in Sudan have continued on the fifth day after a 24-hour truce deal collapsed Tuesday evening. A new cease-fire was announced by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, for Wednesday evening.

News agencies reported Wednesday morning that bombardments on the capital Khartoum and the international airport were ongoing.

Thick smoke was billowing into the sky over Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman across the Nile and fighters from the RSF militia were seen in armoured vehicles and pick-up trucks with heavy weapons and ammunition in the streets of Khartoum – while gunmen were reported to have been looting buildings and raping women.

Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) helicopters and aircraft could be heard throughout the day.

According to the latest UN numbers, at least 2,600 people have been injured so far, and the death toll has risen to 270. However, the actual number is likely much higher, as bomb blasts have prevented the collection of the injured, who “litter the streets,” according to news reports.

Meanwhile, researchers point out that the two belligerants – the country’s leader and head of the SAF, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan; and the leader of the paramilitary RSF, General Mohammed Dagalo, also known as Hemeti – are locked in a military and political stalemate.

Mounting tensions between Burhan and his deputy Hemeti had escalated over the integration of the RSF into the country’s army.

For Burhan, the integration of the RSF into the army “means eliminating the threat of a potential coup against him,” Hager Ali, a researcher at the German think tank GIGA Institute for Global and Area Studies, told DW.

For Hemeti, however, the integration of his forces into the army would “clip his wings,” Sami Hamdi, managing director of the London-based consultant International Interest, told DW.

“Burhan had been trying to rein in the RSF, and in turn, Hemeti believed that before this could happen, he had to act in order to take power,” Hamdi said.

Military stalemate

Militarily, however, the warring factions are almost on a par with each other. “It is the relativeness and not the sheer size between the two forces that matters,” Ali said.

“The range of the RSF forces is estimated between 70,000 and 150,000 fighters, whereas the regular army has between 110,000 to 120,000 active-duty personnel,” she added.

However, when it comes to arms and equipment, Yasir Zeidan, a researcher and lecturer at the the National University in Sudan, pointed out that the Sudanese army has access to a broader range of weapons.

“The army’s regular war equipment is better, it has helicopters and different battalions,” he told DW.

On Tuesday, he said, the army has further called on the country’s intelligence forces and the police for support.

Yet, the RSF forces “are better equipped for city wars, as they have fast pick-ups with mounted machine guns,” Zeidan added.

However, even in the unlikely case of a near military victory, “neither of them could rule the country on his own as they both lack the political base,” Ali told DW.

Lack of democratic institutions

In the aftermath of the April 2019 uprising that ousted long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir, a Military Council under Burhan’s lead was installed to oversee Sudan’s transition to democratic rule.

But in October 2021, Burhan staged a coup against civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and replaced him with a Sovereign Council under military rule, despite ongoing calls from civil society demanding a return to the country’s democratic transition.

Hundreds of protesters were killed and thousands injured in a brutal crackdown led by the RSF.

“Even though Burhan had undertaken constitutional changes and facilitated electoral victory by getting unfettered access to the Electoral Commission that can tweak electoral rules, he is still missing a political vehicle to actually succeed in upcoming elections,” Ali said.

This lack of a party to wield political power in the way Omar Al-Bashir’s former National Congress Party did is very likely to become a problem once the two warring factions start negotiations, too, she added.

“It has become very evident that Burhan cannot govern on his own with the army. He needs to enter into an alliance or some power-sharing agreement with any party on the political spectrum. But he cannot do that because he lacks the political basis,” Ali told DW.

Fight against “radical Islamists”

While there have been no official statements from Burhan since the outbreak of clashes Saturday, Hemeti on Tuesday used Twitter to call on the international community to support his fight against “radical Islamists.”

“Hemeti’s tweet suggests perhaps that it is not going as well as he had expected and that he is calling for international support,” Hamdi said.

Meanwhile, Hager Ali doesn’t see any political or military victor in the near future. “In this situation, there are no winners, as these [clashes] are a battle, not the [entire] war.”

This article first appeared on DW. Read the original here.