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Sudan: India lines up evacuation

  • Published
    22nd Apr, 2023

India began preparations for the evacuation of an estimated 3,000 Indian nationals presently situated in different parts of Sudan which have seen intense fighting between the army and a paramilitary force for a week now.

Where is Sudan?

  • Sudan is in north-east Africa and is one of the largest countries on the continent, covering 1.9 million square kilometers.
  • It is also one the poorest countries in the world, with its 46 million people living on an average annual income of $750 (£606) ahead.
  • The population of Sudan is predominantly Muslim and the country's official languages are Arabic and English.
  • Sudan borders the Red Sea, the Sahel region, and the Horn of Africa.
  • It's strategic location and agricultural wealth has attracted regional power plays, complicating the chances of a successful transition.

Who is fighting who in Sudan?

  • What’s happening? In Sudan, powerful rival military factions are battling for control.
  • Who is fighting? The fight is between the army and the powerful paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
    • Both groups were allies. Together, they seized power in a 2021 coup.
    • But tensions increased over the proposed integration of the RSF into the military.
    • The key question is who is in control and who would be the military’s commander-in-chief during an integration period.
  • Main players on the ground: Since the 2021 coup, Sudan has been run by a council of generals, led by the two military men at the center of this dispute:
    • Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the armed forces and in effect the country's president
    • And his deputy and leader of the RSF, Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti.
  • They have disagreed on the direction the country is going in and the proposed move towards the civilian rule.
  • The main sticking points are plans to include the 100,000-strong RSF in the army, and who would then lead the new force.

Rapid Support Forces

  • The RSF was formed in 2013 and has its origins in the notorious Janjaweed militia that brutally fought rebels in Darfur, where they were accused of ethnic cleansing.
  • Since then, Gen Dagalo has built a powerful force that has intervened in conflicts in Yemen and Libya. He has also developed economic interests including controlling some of Sudan's gold mines.
  • The RSF has been accused of human rights abuses, including the massacre of more than 120 protesters in June 2019.
  • Such a strong force outside the army has been seen as a source of instability in the country.

What is at stake?

  • No end to the conflict: The popular uprising had raised hopes that Sudan and its population of 46 million could emerge from decades of autocracy, internal conflict, and economic isolation under Bashir. The current fighting could not only destroy those hopes.
  • Destabilization of the region: It could destabilize a volatile region bordering the Sahel, the Red Sea, and the Horn of Africa.
  • Increasing competition among strong powers: It could also play into competition for influence in the region between Russia and the United States, and between regional powers who have courted different actors in Sudan.
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