A tank on the streets of Khartoum (Social media)

Clashes between elements of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF)  and a government paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Force (RSF) have erupted in Khartoum this past weekend, and spread across the Sudan with 97 reported dead after three days of fighting.

The fighting between the SAF, led by Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, and the RSF headed by Lt Gen Mohamed ‘Hemeti’ Dagalo, has been characterized by the military governement as an attempted coup by the RSF. On Saturday fierce fighting between the factions took place at the presidential palace, the Khartoum airport, and the city television broadcasting center. On Sunday the fighting spread to the Merowe airbase in the north, and has been reported in Omduraman and Port Sudan. Unconfirmed reports from Radio Dabanga state three employees of the UN World Food Programme were killed in a crossfire between the SAF and RSF at a military base in North Darfur.

Long standing tensions between Sudan’s two top generals escalated into Saturday’s pitched battles. Reports on social media state that as of 17 April 2023 gunfire can be heard in several Khartoum neighborhoods, while each side claims to control prominent government buildings.

In 2021 the Sudanese Army seized power from the civilian government in a coup. The generals have promised a return to civilian control in recent months. The current round of fighting is believed to be between rival factions within the government seeking to set the terms of transition to civilian rule. The amalgamation of the RSF into the ranks of the SAF to form unified army has been among the priorities of the regime. However, negotiations over the return to civilian rule have stalled in recent months with the generals unable to come to a consensus on security and military reforms..

The Anglican Archbishop of Sudan, the Most Rev. Ezekiel Kondo, was unable to leave the city after the airports were closed on Saturday by the fighting, and will be absent from this week’s GAFCON IV Conference in Kigali, a conference spokesman told Anglican.Ink.

The chairman of GAFCON, the Most Rev. Foley Beach on Sunday released a statement urging prayer for the beleaguered nation. “I am deeply concerned by the news coming out of Sudan that a civil war has broken out between the Military leadership and the Rapid Defense Force. Please join me in praying for the nation of Sudan, for its leaders and people. Please also join me in praying for the protection of the Church of Sudan. We pray that peace will soon be restored and that the Lord will comfort those who have lost loved ones in the current conflict.”

East African leaders have pledged their support to broker a ceasefire between the battling factions, however, statements made by both parties indicates there is little room for compromise. The official Sudan News Agency reports the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the SAF announced that “there can be no negotiation or dialogue” until what it described as “Hemeti’s rebel militia” is dissolved.

The US Secretary of State and UK Foreign Minister on 17 April 2023 released a joint statement urging a ceasefire. 

“People in Sudan want the military back in the barracks,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said. “They want democracy. They want a civilian led government. Sudan needs to return to that path.”

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly added: “the immediate future lies in the hands of the generals who are engaged in this fight. And we call upon them to put peace first, to bring an end to the fighting, to get back to negotiations. That’s what the people of Sudan want. That’s what the people of Sudan deserve, and we will continue to seek ways to support that road back to peace.”