Roundup of the Best Pieces I’ve Read on Sudan’s Crisis

Since April 15, armed conflict has pitted two factions in Sudan – the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces – against one another, with devastating consequences for the people of Sudan. Here are the best pieces I’ve read so far, with some excerpts:

International Crisis Group’s April 20 statement is a good place to start if you need an overview.

Raga Makawi, “My desperate search for safety in Sudan,” The Economist (22 April):

The streets were deserted. After ten minutes we came to a checkpoint. I slowed down and arched my back trying to see which side the soldiers were on. The man lolling next to the checkpoint wore a dark-green uniform and carried an old ak-47, which suggested he belonged to the forces commanded by Burhan, the de-facto head of the junta. I smiled and said in a gentle, pleading voice: “good day, officer, may we pass here?” He didn’t bother to get up, but asked us brusquely where we were going. Other soldiers who had been standing nearby drifted towards us.

Azza Ahmed Abdel Aziz, “Sudan is at risk of unravelling from decades of injustice,” Middle East Eye (25 April):

At present, violence is no longer an abstraction for many Sudanese, since it has penetrated the heart of the nation, embodied in its capital city. This war is telling a resounding truth, which is just now finally being heard: Sudan is a nation that is unravelling under the weight of accumulated injustices, inequalities and unaddressed grievances of parts of its population, which have informed its history as a post-colonial nation state. The civil war raging in Khartoum lies on a continuum of violence to which the Sudanese state (in diverse forms) has subjected its citizens over the long term. 

Nesrine Malik, “The seeds of Sudan’s collapse were sown decades ago,” The Guardian (23 April):

Last week’s events started 20 years ago, in the marginalised western region of Darfur. A rebellion against the government was brutally suppressed by a group of fighters and raiders called the Janjaweed. [Former President Omar al-]Bashir, a military man who came to power through an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989, was unwilling to send his precious army into the fray, and instead stoked tribal and ethnic differences and supported the Janjaweed to act as his proxy. Hundreds of thousands died, women were systematically raped and millions were displaced…The Janjaweed formalised into the RSF and became more powerful under the warlord Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemedti), whose ambitions grew as Bashir gave him free rein to accumulate influence and assets, as long as he protected him. Hemedti did not keep his side of the bargain and piggybacked on the demands for democracy in 2019 – and along with the army, pushed Bashir aside.

Roman Deckert has an interesting thread on how to allocate blame, historically:

Joshua Craze, “Gunshots in Khartoum,” New Left Review (17 April):

What is clear is why this confrontation erupted. Tensions between the two sides had been mounting since the signing of an accord in December 2022, the so-called Framework Agreement, which was supposed to pave the way for a transition to a civilian-led government and the departure of the military junta that had ruled Sudan since October 2021. The agreement kicked all the difficult issues into the long grass. Crucially, it did not address the integration of the RSF into the army – a development that Burhan wishes to take two years, and Hemedti, ten. The political process it initiated had the rare distinction of being both extremely vague and entirely unrealistic. Delicate compromises that would have taken months to achieve were expected within weeks, according to a timetable largely created for international consumption. These demands heightened latent tensions between the two sides, prompting the RSF to believe that Egypt – a longstanding backer of the Sudanese military – would intervene. Hemedti deployed his forces next to the Merowe airforce base at the beginning of Ramadan, providing the catalyst for the current clashes.

Eliza Mackintosh and Jennifer Hansler, “How the West enabled Sudan’s warring generals,” CNN (26 April):

“It is a fight between two partners in one crime, [the] 25 October 2021 coup, over the spoils of their crime. This is a war between two evils who both don’t have the interest of this country in their hearts,” Amgad Fareid, a former adviser to the ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, said in a recent blog post. He added that the international community helped to create the current situation unfolding in Sudan, by continuing to push for the formation of a government at any cost — lending legitimacy to Hemedti and Burhani as political actors even as they sought to thwart the process and avoid genuine reforms.

Zeinab Mohammed Salih, Jason Burke, and Patrick Wintour, “‘The worst of worst case scenarios’: western diplomats blindsided over Sudan crisis,” The Guardian (25 April):

In western capitals, there will now be difficult conversations about what could have been done more effectively to guide a transition from military to civilian rule after the fall of the veteran authoritarian ruler Omar al-Bashir in 2019 following months of popular protests.

One criticism is that sanctions should have been imposed on Hemedti and the RSF to send a strong signal after they massacred about 200 pro-democracy demonstrators in June 2019 as they moved to sideline civilians and consolidate their grip on power.

This short but blunt thread from a Swedish diplomat is worth reading:

Nisrin Elamin with a brief but potent thread on how to assess external versus domestic causes of the war:

Mat Nashed, “Sudanese left behind as foreign states evacuate citizens,” Al Jazeera (26 April):

Hamid Murtada, a Sudanese analyst and member of the grassroots pro-democracy movement, told Al Jazeera he believes the West is ignoring an opportunity to prioritise humanitarian needs while evacuating their own diplomats.

With a 72-hour ceasefire already shaky, Murtada said international actors should arrange safe passages to and from hospitals, or get some banks to operate so that people can access their money.

“Evidently, foreign governments managed to get both the army and RSF to stop fighting to a good extent in order to evacuate diplomats, which proves that they have leverage over them and can capitalise on the [ceasefire]. But it seems they are focused on safe passages for diplomats,” Hamid said.

I’ll close on that grim note. Most of the authors listed here are also on Twitter, where they provide frequent updates on the situation.

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