100 days of war in Sudan with no end in sight
The war raging in Sudan between the army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) passed the 100-day mark on 24 July.
The battle began on 15 April in the capital Khartoum with initial attacks in the vicinity of the RSF's military bases in south Khartoum, and the fighting quickly engulfed the three cities of the capital – Khartoum, Khartoum Bahri, and Omdurman.
Within days, the war had reached five states in the Darfur and Kordofan regions and had spilled over the border of Gezira state, southeast of Khartoum.
"While exact statistics are absent, preliminary data suggests at least 3,000 civilians have been killed in Khartoum, and over 5,000 in Geneina in West Darfur"
100 days of war - summarising key events so far
In Khartoum, the RSF took control of strategic locations, such as the Presidential Palace in Khartoum and the Sudan Broadcasting Corporation in Omdurman. They tried to seize control of the Army Command HQ early on and attacked General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan's residence there. Over 30 of the presidential guard were killed defending him during the attack.
Later, the RSF took control of important positions, such as the Al Jaili refinery, the Yarmouk munitions factory, the Air Defence Force Command, and the Central Reserve Police (CRP) HQ. They deployed checkpoints and set up installations in over 80 percent of the capital and seized control of most entrances to it.
On the other side, the army defended strategic positions elsewhere and played to its strengths: air supremacy and public support, which it says it received after calling on civilians to fight by its side.
Outside Khartoum, fierce battles have taken place over the last 100 days in El Fasher, El Obeid, El Geneina, Nyala, Zalingei, and Kutum cities, with tribal leaders intervening more than once to conclude sporadic truces which have briefly held at times before collapsing.
Impact on civilians
The main impact of the conflict has been on civilians and services - especially healthcare, as well as water and electricity networks - with most hospitals in Khartoum having gone out of service.
While exact statistics are absent, preliminary data suggests at least 3,000 civilians have been killed in Khartoum, and over 5,000 in Geneina in West Darfur. International organisations say Geneina city has witnessed genocidal massacres perpetrated by the RSF against the Masalit tribe, which has been settled for hundreds of years in the state bordering Chad.
Millions have fled their homes in Khartoum and other cities, heading to safer states, or have sought refuge in neighbouring countries like Egypt, Chad, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.
The RSF are accused of expelling civilians from their homes to house their fighters or to use as military bases, especially after many of their camps were destroyed by the Sudanese air force.
"Millions have fled their homes in Khartoum and other cities, heading to safer states, or have sought refuge in neighbouring countries like Egypt, Chad, Ethiopia, and South Sudan"
Nada Abusin, from Khartoum, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister edition, that the experience suffered by the majority of Sudanese is the loss of homes, belongings, jobs, businesses, and income, and they are grappling with the difficulties of displacement.
Abusin initially fled to Gezira state in central Sudan. "I stayed in my sister’s house, trying to acclimatise to the new situation and absorb the shock."
Then, when her health deteriorated, she decided to seek refuge in Egypt. This was complicated – international airlines had been suspended, and the airport had been shifted to Port Sudan.
"I managed to leave after over 20 days, leaving my children and husband behind me due to visa issues […] but they hoped to catch up with me later."
However, on 26 June Abusin lost contact with her husband only to find out later that he'd been arrested by the RSF.
She believes the solution to the war must provide redress for all civilians harmed, and that the Framework Agreement must be returned to, which she opposed before "but I accept now on condition that an independent, technocratic government that engages with the youth is formed".
Both sides still claim they can win
Despite heavy losses on both sides, both the RSF and the army have extolled their victories and still claim they can win. Retired Major General Salah al-Issawi, a military expert close to the RSF, said the RSF's first goal was to "crush the army's wings" which it did.
He listed some of its other achievements: defeating the army in Khartoum and the western states; seizing the Army Command HQ; attacking the Wadi Seidna military airbase where it disrupted operations and seized equipment; commandeering a munitions factory, capturing 5,000 people, and shooting down many warplanes.
He says the army's request for Jeddah negotiations is an admission of defeat, and if they don't result in an agreement to implement the terms of the Framework Agreement - to end the political crisis and hand power to civilians - the fighting will continue.
However, strategic expert Issam Dakin believes the army has achieved a "spectacular victory" after 100 days of war. He says everyone expected the war to end much sooner, but the RSF managing to seize and hold onto a number of positions has prolonged the fighting.
"I don't think it'll end anytime soon," he says, adding that the army has destroyed or disabled over 80 percent of the RSF's divisions, including their bases, equipment and weaponry, and only pockets of RSF fighters are left, roaming around residential neighbourhoods.
This is terrifying for citizens, he says, and makes people feel the army can't resolve the battle, but he believes the conflict's outcome is already decided - what remains is a disparate force outside the organisational structure of the RSF.
The safest outcome for all Sudanese is for the two sides to enter into a negotiated process which guarantees the RSF's safe exit from homes and other sites, and their integration into the army, Dakin says.
They must not keep their weapons after being defeated – this will mean another war in the future, he warns, stressing that any solution must also include reparations for all those harmed.
"Despite heavy losses on both sides, both the RSF and the army have extolled their victories and still claim they can win"
Recovering the political process and the need for accountability
After 100 days of war, civil political forces, headed by the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), are still banking on solutions proposed in the past as a possible exit from the war and a way back to the political track. They emphasise that the war and its tragic impact show how vital returning to a political solution is.
"There is consensus among most Sudanese - except the Muslim brotherhood remnants of the former regime - on the need to end this war, and fast," former member of Sudan's Sovereignty Council and FFC leader Mohamed al-Faki Suleiman says, despite the political polarisation created by the fighting.
"We are relying on the Jeddah negotiations, and the US and Saudi Arabia playing a major role, as well as […] the African Union (DU) and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), to work on a ceasefire as the first step, to open up humanitarian corridors, and then for the political process to follow," he says.
Sudan's 'Missing' public Facebook group, which has thousands of members, has been flooded for weeks now with similar posts: short texts, a photo, and a phone numberhttps://t.co/wRTNlZJWtn— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) July 13, 2023
However, lawyer Moez Hazrat, believes returning to the political track isn't sufficient and accountability for those who have violated human rights is paramount.
He says civilians alone are paying the price of this war "because the warlords removed their families from Khartoum early, while the Sudanese have lost their lives, money and property. All those from both sides who have caused harm must be prosecuted or Sudan will cease to exist, because impunity and the failure to punish criminals is what kept fuelling war before in Darfur - and now this is happening in Khartoum".
Hazrat adds: "Justice won't be implemented unless there's a strong civil state with a strong army and the Sudanese state is re-established as it was […] pre 30 June 1989, the date Omar Bashir's regime seized power via military coup".
In Sudan, the term 'Islamists' is commonly used to indicate the former regime and the Islamic movements that supported it, which have shown unparalleled support for the army throughout the war. Many have fought alongside the army, which has seen accusations levelled against them that they want to use the war to return to power and wreak vengeance on their opponents.
However, Muhammad Abu Zaid Korom, who leads the Just Peace Platform, thinks that references made to 'Islamists' by the RSF are a paper tiger aimed at swaying the supporters of the 2018 December revolution against the army – a tactic which has failed, and is equally being brandished at the international community to provoke fears of 'Islamists' and terrorism.
"The Islamists, like the Sudanese people, have been harmed by the militia's actions and criminality, and will play their full role in defending their land and offering support to the army, like the rest of the Sudanese people," he stated.
This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.
Translated by Rose Chacko
This article is taken from our Arabic sister publication, Al-Araby Al Jadeed and mirrors the source's original editorial guidelines and reporting policies. Any requests for correction or comment will be forwarded to the original authors and editors.
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