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It’s as if the army were at war with the marines

Sudanese soldiers loyal to Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. AFP/Getty

Sudan is on the brink of a “deadly civil war”, says Declan Walsh on The Daily. What started as a power struggle between two generals has spiralled into a battle between “two branches of Sudan’s military”. The official forces are behind Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the country’s military leader; the “smaller but very powerful paramilitary group” called the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) backs his former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemedti). It’s like the “army going to war with the marines in Washington DC”. These men were allies in the 2019 coup which removed Sudan’s dictator of three decades – a “euphoric moment” for the country. They promised a period of dramatic change, disbanding the “hated morality police”, giving women more rights, and pledging to shepherd Sudan towards “free and fair elections”.

The pair were an unlikely choice to entrust with the transition to democracy. Both were close henchmen of the former dictator, and Hemedti was known for his “scorched-earth tactics” during the Darfur genocide. Sure enough, within two years the generals had arrested the country’s civilian PM and seized complete power for themselves. The conflict between the two is largely down to the role of the RSF: al-Burhan wants to subsume the force into the main army; Hemedti, the RSF’s longtime leader, knows this would leave him as a “nobody”. The result: days of deadly street battles and bomb attacks in Khartoum, with no end in sight. Four years ago, the Sudanese hoped for a new era of freedom. Now they are just trying to stay alive.