Sudan, a country in Northeast Africa, was rocked by heavy gunfire on Saturday, as clashes erupted between the Sudanese army and its paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the capital city of Khartoum. The situation escalated quickly, with the RSF claiming to have taken control of the presidential palace, the residence of the army chief, and the Khartoum international airport.
The conflict followed several days of tension between the two forces, raising concerns of a possible confrontation. The United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who was in Hanoi at the time, commented on the situation, describing it as “fragile.” He acknowledged that some actors may be pushing against progress and called for the completion of the transition to a civilian-led government.
According to a Reuters witness, the sound of heavy weaponry and armoured vehicles were seen deployed in the streets near the headquarters of the army and the RSF. While the source of the gunfire could not be immediately confirmed, people could be seen running in panic through the capital city.
The rift between the Sudanese army and the RSF became apparent on Thursday when the army accused the RSF of making illegal movements without coordination. The RSF, in response, called the army’s actions a “brute assault” and demanded condemnation while informing local and international mediators.
A confrontation between the two forces could potentially lead to prolonged strife across Sudan, a vast country already grappling with economic breakdown and flare-ups of tribal violence. The instability could also affect the fragile democratic transition that Sudan has been undergoing since the ousting of long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
The RSF, a paramilitary force formerly known as the Janjaweed, was accused of committing atrocities in the Darfur region during the conflict that began in 2003. Despite international condemnation, the group has retained significant power and influence in Sudan, making the current situation all the more concerning.
The international community, including the United Nations, has called for an immediate ceasefire and a return to dialogue to resolve the current crisis. The situation in Sudan remains volatile, and the world watches with bated breath as events unfold.