A ceasefire was set to begin in Sudan over the weekend to mark the end of Ramadan, after days of civil conflict. However, it was unclear if the country would actually experience the promised several days of peace for the ceasefire.
The country is experiencing a struggle for power between the army and a paramilitary group, both of which were involved in a coup two years ago, and both of which appear to be trying to prevent the country from transitioning to civil war.
According to The National in the UAE, “witnesses in several areas of Khartoum reported a rare lull in fighting on Friday evening after explosions had earlier battered the city. Soldiers and paramilitary forces fought fierce street battles in densely populated districts of Khartoum, with witnesses reporting blasts near the army headquarters.”
Many countries have an interest in a ceasefire in Sudan. The Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia and UAE both want a ceasefire, and Egypt, Israel and other countries also would welcome an end to the fighting. In addition, larger countries such as Russia and the US appear to prefer a ceasefire.
However, that doesn’t mean that the army or the Rapid Support Forces, the two groups vying for control, will not leap at an opportunity to prevent a positive outcome. Both of them may think they have the momentum to win and thus defeat the other group and secure a firm grip on power.
The situation has somewhat calmed down in Khartoum on Friday after the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) agreed to observe a ceasefire, Russian state media Tass reported, citing the Al-Hadath television channel. The channel showed live reports from the capital city, with no sounds of shooting or explosions heard. "Tensions have reportedly decreased in provinces as well," they added.
The report noted that the RSF had agreed to the ceasefire in a deal brokered by Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, who have all stressed the importance of keeping the peace in Sudan.
Saudi Arabia has been leading new diplomatic efforts in the region, holding meetings with the regime in the Syrian capital of Damascus, as well as with Iranian and Palestinian delegations.
Turkish news outlet TRT also noted the effect of the apparent ceasefire.
“Street fighting between the forces of two rival generals appeared to be easing in parts of Sudan's capital after repeated calls for an end-of-Ramadan ceasefire to the nearly week-long conflict,” the TRT report said. "More than 400 people have been killed and thousands wounded since the fighting erupted Saturday between forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al Burhan and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and is commonly known as Hemeti."
Will anyone help Sudan out of its current crisis?
It's not clear how the country will extricate itself from this crisis. The US and other states do not appear ready to invest in a peace process in Sudan that will result in civilian rule.
This is partially because the West is concentrated on efforts in Ukraine but also because countries like the US are not interested in civilian intervention, “nation building” or “international policemen” activities these days.
The US still recalls the disaster of the intervention in Somalia in the 1990s, Libya in 2011, and Iraq in 2003. What this means is that Sudan will likely be left to their military generals or paramilitary leaders, and most of the countries involved in discussions with Sudan do not benefit from civilian rule.
Meanwhile, it appears that the generals in Sudan have been successful in some Western media as painting the RSF as linked to Russia and claiming that Russia uses gold from Sudan, somehow to fund its conflict in Ukraine. It’s not entirely clear how many of these reports are accurate, or merely based on claims being pushed by the army.
At the end of the day, both the army and the various paramilitaries were involved in preventing Sudan from transitioning to civilian rule after 2019. One source told Al-Ain in the UAE that “the generals did not face any accountability. The kidnappings, disappearances, sham trials, illegal arrests, the internationals turned a blind eye to all of this for the sake of a political process that has now gone horribly wrong."
Considering how far Russia is from Sudan and the fact that Moscow is focused on the Ukraine war, it’s not clear what role Russia could play, despite the reports claiming that Russia is in the background. It’s also not clear if the US or the West will play a role.
So far that means the conflict remains in the hands of locals and regional powers. While they have pushed for the ceasefire, it’s unclear if the ceasefire will last. If it does, then the two sides might move back from the brink of civil war. Already the suffering has rapidly increased with attacks on diplomats and failure of hospitals and basic services in the country.