Geneva – The outbreak of an armed conflict in Sudan between army forces and Rapid Support Forces is extremely concerning, said Euro-Med Monitor. The statement warns that civilians are the ones paying the price for the conflict, which has escalated to dangerous levels and is failing to meet international humanitarian law standards.
The conflict that occurred privately between Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s President of the Sovereignty Council and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, his deputy and Commander of the Armed Forces, has recently been exposed with field military action by the Rapid Support Forces on Thursday13 April, particularly in the city of Merowe, which the army considered illegal.
As many parties attempted to defuse the situation, it escalated into fierce military clashes in Khartoum and several other cities and states, with various weapons and ammunition, including warplanes and tanks, being used. Armed fights began early on the morning of Saturday 15 April, with large-scale military field action between Sudanese army forces and Rapid Support Forces, with both sides blaming each other for the escalation.
According to the Euro-Med Monitor’s follow-up, both parties used excessive firepower with no regard for civilians, who were advised to remain indoors while armed forces recklessly exchanged fire and shells in residential gatherings and streets.
Euro-Med Monitor documented that at least one civilian vehicle was run over by a tank in a Khartoum’s street. Additionally, hundreds of civilians, travelling or returning, were terrorised for several hours inside Khartoum International Airport after fights erupted inside. Air traffic was halted, and several planes, including civilian planes, were burned.
At least 120 people were killed, the majority of whom were civilians. However, there is unconfirmed information that the number of those killed is significantly higher, as medical teams are having difficulty reaching victims due to clashes and street closures. Hundreds of injuries were also reported, with dozens being transferred to hospitals amid difficulties in providing adequate health care.
The escalation is the unfortunate result of a situation that has existed in Sudan for years, but took a dangerous turn after the military coup in October 2021. The military coup occurred when the armed forces, led by al-Burhan, monopolised rule in the country after they had shared it with civil forces since the previous regime of Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in July 2019.
The Sudanese military signed a framework agreement on 5 December 2022 with prominent civil forces of the Forces of Freedom and Change (the former ruling coalition) to resolve the country’s political crisis. The agreement provided for the establishment of a new transitional civil authority for two years, led by a prime minister chosen by the civilian leaders. However, new disagreements arose regarding the mechanisms for integrating the Rapid Support Forces into the army, as well as the right to command and control during and after the merger.
Euro-Med Monitor called on the parties to the Sudan conflict to immediately cease fire and emphasised the importance of parties committing to protecting civilians from acts of war and adhering to international humanitarian law standards until this is achieved.
Parties to the conflict must engage in immediate dialogue to restore order, return to the transitional path, and address the consequences of the previous and current phases in a way that ensures respect for the rights of individuals and entities In addition, adherence to human rights principles in all procedures aimed at restoring the civil path and laying the groundwork for justice and democracy.
Euro-Med Monitor called for the work of medical personnel, humanitarian aid teams, and civil defence to be facilitated, especially with dozens of fires breaking out and several injured victims still needing to be transported to hospitals. It also emphasised the importance of following the World Health Organisation, Red Cross, and other institutions’ protocols in protecting medical personnel, civilians, and the injured, as well as avoiding targeting civilian facilities and protecting the country’s various resources.
Euro-Med Monitor warned that humanitarian and economic conditions in Sudan have deteriorated and declined since 2019, noting that a new conflict involving more than 300,000 fighters on both sides (more than 200,000 in army forces and 100,000 in Rapid Support Forces) would plunge the country into a spiral of bloody conflict that would victimise thousands and exacerbate Sudan’s difficult humanitarian situation.