Sudan is on the brink of a full-blown civil war, with two rival armies driving the conflict. The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary force led by Mohamed “Hemedti” Hamdan Dagalo, are fighting in cities and towns across the country, especially in the capital Khartoum. The battles have killed hundreds of civilians and left millions more facing shortages of basic necessities. The tensions between the army and the RSF have been escalating since Sudan’s 2019 ousting of longtime leader Omar Al Bashir and particularly since the 2021 coup when Burhan and Hemedti took full control of the state from civilians. The dispute over how to integrate the RSF into regular army ranks has been the most proximate trigger of the fighting, but a range of economic, historical, and ideological disputes underlie this conflict. What are these broader economic and political factors (e.g. energy)? How has Hemedti emerged as an influential power broker? How does this conflict play out regionally with Egypt, Libya, Chad, Ethiopia, and Gulf countries having clear interests? What political questions need to be resolved for peace to be feasible? And where does the deterioration in security leave the broader question of a civilian transition and political legitimacy in post-Bashir Sudan?
Mai Hassan is an Associate Professor of Political Science at MIT. She is broadly interested in authoritarian regimes, bureaucracy and public administration, and contentious politics.
Sharath Srinivasan is the David and Elaine Potter Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies and a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. He is an interdisciplinary and applied researcher currently working on issues at the intersection of digital technology and politics in Africa.
Harry Verhoeven is a Senior Research Scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy, focusing on the political economy of climate change, international relations and the linkages between water, energy and food security. His regional focus is on Africa, the Middle East and the Western Indian Ocean.