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Fighting erupted between army and paramilitary force, killing hundreds and triggering humanitarian crisis; conflict could slide into all-out war, drawing in new actors and spilling into neighbouring countries.
Deadly fighting broke out between rival security forces. Longstanding power struggle between Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who leads Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), and Mohamed “Hemedti” Hamdan Dagalo, who controls paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), 15 April descended into violent clashes in capital Khartoum, derailing transition toward restored civilian rule. Hostilities came amid rising tensions over negotiations to merge RSF into army, notably regarding timeline and leadership structure of integrated force. Fighting spread across country, notably to North, Central, West and South Darfur, North Kordofan, Kassala, Gedarif, Red Sea states. Army seized control of number of cities, including Kassala and Port Sudan in east, while RSF had upper hand in Darfur. In most other places, particularly Khartoum, momentum swung back and forth.
Fighting precipitated humanitarian crisis. Hostilities killed hundreds of civilians while millions in Khartoum remained trapped amid food, water and electricity shortages. Dozens of hospitals across Sudan shuttered due to fighting and dwindling supplies, while looting and vandalism were widespread. World Food Programme 16 April suspended operations after three employees were killed in North Darfur. As of 28 April, UN refugee agency estimated over 50,000 people had fled to neighbouring countries.
Mediation efforts failed to halt fighting. International actors called for end to hostilities, while Intergovernmental Authority on Development 16 April appointed Kenyan, South Sudanese and Djibouti presidents to broker ceasefire. Successive attempts to enforce humanitarian truces 18, 19, 21 April failed as foreign govts scrambled to evacuate citizens. U.S. and Saudi Arabia brokered 72-hour ceasefire starting 25 April, extended several times. With sides fighting on despite ceasefires, however, conflict risks descending into protracted civil war that draws in other armed groups and communal militias; in West Darfur state, there were indications tribal militias were already being drawn in. Risk of spillover into neighbouring countries or involvement of regional players also high, particularly due to presence of cross-border militias.
Civilians announced ambitious timeline for transition to civilian rule, “Phase II” negotiations continued at slow pace, and tensions between military leaders reached worrying heights.
Civilian leaders announced ambitious timeline for transition. Civilian groups that signed Dec 2022 Framework Agreement, as well as military and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), 19 March convened in capital Khartoum, along with Trilateral Mechanism led by UN Mission in Sudan, African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development. Civilian leaders announced ambitious timeline to sign final agreement on political transition by 1 April, adopt transitional constitution 6 April and form civilian transitional govt 11 April; they also formed 11-member committee composed of nine pro-democracy leaders, one army representative and one RSF representative to draft final agreement on political transition by 27 March, but committee missed deadline, indicating (along with other signs, such as stalled “Phase II” negotiations, see below) that political impasse could drag on.
“Phase II” negotiations dragged on. “Phase II” consultations among civilian groups on outstanding issues, including transitional justice and security sector reform, continued. Notably, Trilateral Mechanism 11-18 March organised workshops on transitional justice in South Kordofan state, Darfur region and Khartoum. Key stakeholders who reject Framework Agreement, including FFC-Democratic Bloc, Democratic Unionist Party and traditional leaders such as Beja chief Sayed Tirik, continued to boycott process, hampering progress.
Tensions between Burhan and Hemedti spiked. Longstanding tensions between army chief and de facto head of state Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Sovereign Council deputy and RSF leader Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” escalated, fanning fears of civil war as leaders early March mobilised respective forces in and around Khartoum. Hemedti 7 March criticised military leaders for clinging to power, deepening crisis. Burhan and Hemedti 11 March met in Khartoum, agreeing to de-escalate tensions and establish joint committee to oversee security throughout country.
In other important developments. Sudan 9 March opened border with Central African Republic after two-month closure. According to UN humanitarian agency, tribal clashes 23 March erupted in West Darfur state, killing six and forcing 30,000 to flee to neighbouring Chad.
“Phase II” negotiations to restore civilian rule struggled to make headway as manoeuvring by Egypt and South Sudan risked further complicating transition; Israel sought to advance normalisation.
Phase II negotiations to resolve outstanding issues and restore civilian rule stalled. Trilateral mechanism led by African Union (AU), UN mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) 31 Jan-3 Feb organised workshop on controversial Juba Peace Agreement (JPA); JPA signatories, who reject December Framework Agreement, boycotted meeting; Quad – U.S., UK, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) – mid-month offered to facilitate talks amid standoff between JPA signatories and main opposition group Forces for Freedom and Change-Central Council (FCC-CC). Meanwhile, number of tribal representatives 12-15 Feb attended conference on crisis in eastern Sudan, but some Beja chieftains boycotted meeting. FFC-CC throughout month held closed meetings on transitional justice and security sector reform to address internal divisions before negotiating with military.
Egypt hosted parallel conference rejecting Framework Agreement. In move widely viewed as attempt to increase Egypt’s role in negotiations and secure its interests in Sudan, Cairo 2-7 Feb organised parallel conference on transitional period. Egypt claimed meeting would complement trilateral mechanism, but did not invite UN, AU or IGAD. FFC-CC rejected invitation, accusing Egypt of derailing transition to civilian govt. Over 80 representatives participated, mostly from FFC-Democratic Block, National Movement Forces and Alliance of the Revolution Committees, as well as UAE, South Sudan, U.S., and Arab League. Participants rejected Framework Agreement and 7 Feb outlined new proposals for sovereign council and announced new alliance, National Democratic Forces Coordination.
South Sudan hosted parallel meeting on implementation of JPA. South Sudan 13-19 Feb hosted conference in its capital Juba to discuss JPA implementation. Sudanese military and 13 rebel groups that signed JPA attended but Juba did not invite FFC-CC, which demands amendments to JPA. Participants 19 Feb signed implementation matrix for original JPA, ignoring civilian demands for revision.
In other important developments. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Israeli FM Eli Cohen 2 Feb agreed to move toward normalising relations; scores 6 Feb protested agreement in capital Khartoum. Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 8-9 Feb visited Sudan to garner support against Western sanctions levied against Russia over war in Ukraine.
Efforts to install civilian govt continued with launch of “Phase II” negotiations, armed groups formed joint military force in Darfur, and security issues emerged at border with Central African Republic.
Phase II negotiations on political transition produced mixed results, notably with eastern leaders. Following Dec Framework Agreement between military and dozens of civilian leaders on transition to civilian rule, “Phase II” negotiations 9 Jan began, focusing on transitional justice, security sector reform, Juba Peace Agreement, status of ex-regime dismantling committee and crisis in eastern Sudan. Parties 12 Jan concluded talks on dismantling ousted Bashir regime, agreeing to reinstate disbanded Empowerment Removal Committee with new members. However, significant obstacles on other outstanding issues persisted. Notably, eastern Sudan tribal leader Mohamed al-Amin Terik 1 Jan rejected framework agreement along with other Beja Tribal leaders who 15 Jan announced parallel platform to address eastern Sudan governance; Terik warned region may seek self-determination if final agreement for transition period fails to address their priorities. Forces for Freedom and Change-Central Council (FFC-CC) 19 Jan agreed that Trilateral Mechanism including UN mission in Sudan, African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development would organise negotiations on east Sudan governance as well as review of Juba Peace Agreement, which Beja chieftains rejected.
Military announced creation of joint security force in Darfur. Amid reports of renewed attacks on civilians and proliferation of armed militias in Darfur, Sudan Liberation Army 16 Jan announced formation of joint force with Rapid Support Forces and Sudan Liberation Forces “to end insecurity and restore order”; joint force excluded national army and other armed groups, including coalition of western Darfuri armed groups Sudanese Alliance.
Authorities shut land border with CAR, citing security concerns. Vice-Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” 5 Jan formally announced closure of border with Central African Republic (CAR), warning Sudan-based rebels could seek to overthrow CAR President Touadéra (see Central African Republic). Authorities in following days deployed troops to border areas but, despite measures, over 1,000 Coalition of Patriots for Change rebels 24 Jan reportedly crossed border into CAR.
Military and civilian groups signed framework agreement, paving way for all-civilian govt to end political impasse; deal received mixed reactions.
Sudan’s military and key civilian actors signed deal to restore civilian rule. Following months of negotiations, major civilian political parties and other civil forces, mostly under main civilian opposition bloc Forces for Freedom and Change-Central Council (FFC-CC), 5 Dec signed “political framework” deal with military to install all-civilian govt, end political stalemate and initiate two-year transition period ending in elections. Transition period is to begin with appointment of PM, nominated by civilian signatories, after second phase of negotiations concludes. These negotiations will focus on five particularly sensitive issues, namely transitional justice, security sector reform, Juba Peace Agreement, status of ex-regime dismantling committee and crisis in eastern Sudan. They were set to conclude by end of Dec but have been postponed until 5 Feb.
Public opinion on agreement remained divided. Although agreement aims to end political role of military in Sudan, implementation faces significant challenges as military expects their power to remain unchecked and deal is not yet supported by wider public or number of key stakeholders. Most notably, grassroots network Resistance Committees continues to reject deal and has vowed to sustain protests in capital Khartoum; three 2020 Juba Peace Agreement signatories also opposed deal. Still, over 50 political and civil groups week after deal was signed submitted request to sign agreement, which FFC-CC is reviewing to ensure none are affiliates of Bashir-era ruling National Congress Party.
Violence persisted in West Kordofan and South Darfur. Clashes between Humer and Misseriya groups over cattle rustlers 10-11 Dec killed at least 30 in Abu Koa area, West Kordofan state. Clashes between Arab herders, Daju farmers and other groups 21-23 Dec left at least 11 dead and around 16,000 people displaced in villages outside Nyala state capital, South Darfur.
In other important developments. UN humanitarian agency 14 Dec released 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan noting that 15.8mn people, almost one third of country’s population, will need humanitarian assistance next year. Meanwhile, relations with Ethiopia continued to improve, with both sides 24 Dec signing cooperation agreement on peace and security issues.
Military-civilian negotiations made progress amid tensions between international mediators, authorities cracked down on Islamist groups, and violence flared in Central Darfur.
Military-civilian forces advanced toward transition deal. Main civilian opposition bloc Forces for Freedom and Change-Central Council (FFC-CC) 16 Nov announced they had reached “framework agreement” with military on most critical issues to restore democratic transition; dialogue officially mediated by Trilateral Mechanism led by UN mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), African Union (AU), and Intergovernmental Authority on Development also quietly facilitated by Quad countries (U.S., UK, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia). Parties consented to second phase of negotiations to resolve outstanding issues and produce final deal.
AU bristled at “external interference” in negotiations. AU Special Envoy for Sudan Mohamed Belaiche 2 Nov denounced “external interference” in Trilateral Mechanism by Quad countries, whom he accused of publicly supporting trilateral process while undermining it through parallel negotiation process. Remarks point to breakdown between Quad and Trilateral process in coordination on Sudan. Quad countries say their initiative supports Trilateral Mechanism since FFC-military disagreement was primary obstacle when trilateral negotiations stalled in June.
Concerns grew over resurgence of Bashir-era Islamist groups. Following late Oct alleged coup attempt that fractured alliance between military and Islamist groups, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 6 Nov warned that Islamist groups should refrain from interfering in military affairs. Authorities subsequently conducted several high-profile arrests; notably, authorities 9 Nov re-arrested former President Omar al-Bashir; 14 Nov arrested leaders of newly formed Patriotic Entity Forces, allegedly affiliated with Islamist groups, 19 Nov released them. Al-Burhan 28 Nov suspended activities of trade unions, reportedly to curb Islamists’ influence.
Violence killed dozens in Central Darfur, clashes persisted in West Kordofan. In Central Darfur, clashes 11-13 Nov between Misseriya and Awlad Rashid clans of Rezeigat tribe near Juguma village reportedly killed 48 and displaced thousands; clashes 19 Nov between rival factions of Sudan Liberation Army–Abdel Wahid (SLA/AW) left 13 dead in Shamal Jabal Marrah locality. Renewed fighting in En Nehoud locality in West Kordofan 19-20 Nov left six dead.
Intercommunal clashes killed hundreds in Blue Nile state and forced thousands to flee; transition remained fragile as news of “imminent” civilian-military deal prompted mixed reactions and violent street protests continued.
Intercommunal violence killed hundreds in Blue Nile state. UN humanitarian office 17 Oct reported that killing of two Hamaji people over land dispute 13 Oct “led to clashes between the Hausa community and other tribes” 13-16 Oct, killing at least 13 in Wad al-Mahi and Al-Rusyaris areas of Blue Nile State. Fighting 19-20 Oct escalated once more, reportedly killing over 250 in Wad al-Mahi, injuring over 500 and forcing around 7,000 to flee. State governor 21 Oct declared state of emergency for 30 days while military 24 Oct named new commander for Blue Nile state. Hundreds 23 Oct protested violence and lack of strong security response in state capital Damazin. In West Kordofan state, clashes between Misseriya and Nuba groups over land dispute 13-15 Oct killed at least 19 in Lagawa town.
Military-civilian forces made progress toward transition deal, but some groups decried process. Military and main civilian opposition bloc Forces for Freedom and Change-Central Council (FFC-CC) engaged in talks mediated by “Quad” (U.S., UK, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates) over Sudanese Bar Association’s proposal for draft constitution to restore democratic transition, 12 Oct confirming reaching agreement on several issues. Other opposition groups criticised process. Notably, talks did not include Resistance Committees, driving force behind ongoing street protests, who have rejected negotiations with military; deal could thus weaken what remains of revolution that toppled Omar al-Bashir in 2019. Meanwhile, at least 54 resistance committees 5 Oct approved unified political charter calling for resignation of military leaders from power and implementation of new transitional constitution and legislative council.
Resistance Committees escalated anti-military protests. Coordination of Resistance Committees in Khartoum state escalated protests to mark one-year anniversary of military coup, with demonstrations 21-23, 25, 30 Oct held across major cities. Some protests turned violent as security forces cracked down on protestors, leaving two dead in Omdurman and Khartoum cities on 23 and 25 Oct respectively.
Tensions over return to civilian transition persisted amid signs of growing rivalry between military leaders; intercommunal clashes erupted in Blue Nile and West Kordofan states.Sudan Bar Association delivered proposal to restore democratic transition. Sudan Bar Association 7 Sept presented final draft of transitional constitution, designed to help restore country’s democratic transition. Proposal calls for civilian cabinet and civilian-led national security council that includes military officers. Trilateral African Union (AU)-UN mission in Sudan (UNITAMS)-Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mechanism 10 Sept welcomed proposal, as did European Union, U.S. and European embassies on 12 Sept, though fractures remain between pro-democracy groups over readiness to negotiate with military. Public prosecutor 25 Sept called in head of Sudanese Bar Association steering committee for questioning and ordered seizure of headquarters.Tensions grew between military leaders over return to civilian transition. VP of Transitional Sovereign Council and Commander of paramilitary Rapid Support Forces Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” 16 Sept reiterated military’s commitment to withdraw from politics and hand over power to civilian govt. In sign of growing rivalry between Hemedti and army chief and de facto head of state Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Burhan’s media adviser next day appeared to push back on Hemedti’s comments by stating army would not hand over power except to govt “agreed upon by all Sudanese”, indicating reluctance to cede power. Meanwhile, thousands 13 Sept protested against military rule in capital Khartoum and again on 29 Sept in Khartoum, Wad Madani, Nyala, Dongola and Atbara cities.Intercommunal violence flared in Blue Nile and West Kordofan states. In Blue Nile state, clashes involving Hausa and Blue Nile communities 1-4 Sept reportedly killed 23 and injured 44 around East Ganis village and Roseires town. State media 8 Sept reported over 21,000 people had fled violence. In West Kordofan, clashes over border demarcation in Abu Zabad town between Hamar tribe and Misseriya tribe 10-12 Sept killed at least six; tribal leaders 19 Sept signed agreement to end fighting. Meanwhile, authorities 15 Sept announced floods killed at least 20 in previous week, bringing total death toll since beginning of rainy season to 134.
Amid ongoing anti-coup protests, impasse between military and civilian actors persisted; violence persisted in Darfur, and tensions with Addis Ababa ran high amid renewed Tigray conflict in Ethiopia. Civilian actors in Aug failed to agree on path forward after de facto head of state, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in July said army will step aside to make way for civilian govt. Meanwhile, al-Burhan-backed Sudan People’s Call initiative, led by religious Sufi leader Al-Tayeb Al-Jid, 13-14 Aug held roundtable conference gathering political figures affiliated with former ruling National Congress Party, as well as Egyptian, Saudi and African Union diplomats; political coalition Forces for Freedom and Change and grassroots network Resistance Committees boycotted event. Participants recommended would-be established Supreme Military Council (announced by al-Burhan in July) be given supreme authority, including sovereign powers, with technocratic cabinet assuming executive duties. Al-Burhan 25 Aug announced major reshuffling of military leadership. Anti-coup protests continued throughout month. Notably, security forces 6-7 Aug injured 23 protesters in capital Khartoum and twin city Omdurman; 25 Aug reportedly injured 18 and arrested at least 38 in Khartoum; 31 Aug killed one during protest march headed for Khartoum. Meanwhile, govt said Chadian gunmen 3-4 Aug killed 18 Sudanese herders in Beir Saliba and Ardeiba border towns, West Darfur state; Chadian military 6 Aug expressed regret, claimed nine Chadians also killed (see Chad). In North Darfur state, gunmen 15 Aug reportedly killed at least eight, kidnapped nine near Kutum town, allegedly in retaliation for killing of two in same area. Tensions increased with Addis Ababa amid renewed Tigray conflict in Ethiopia (see Ethiopia). Ethiopia’s forces 24 Aug claimed to have downed plane from Sudan carrying weapons for Tigray’s forces; Ethiopian ambassador to Sudan 29 Aug said Khartoum had “violated Ethiopian airspace”, prompting foreign ministry 31 Aug to summon ambassador. Addis Ababa 31 Aug accused Tigray forces of expanding fighting to new areas, notably border with Sudan, raising fears of conflict spilling into country.
Military withdrew from post-coup negotiations, calling on civilian groups to form govt and announcing new military council; intercommunal clashes in Blue Nile state killed over 100. In move likely aimed at shifting pressure onto civilian opponents, Transitional Sovereign Council Chair Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 4 July announced military’s withdrawal from negotiations with civilian parties – mediated by UN, African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development –, called on civilian groups to form transitional govt. Burhan same day declared plans to establish “Supreme Council of the Armed Forces”, consisting of army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, to succeed Sovereign Council. RSF Head Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” lent his support to Burhan’s announcements while civilian opposition groups denounced attempt to entrench military power. Notably, political coalition Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) 5 July dismissed al-Burhan’s speech as “tactical retreat” and urged continued resistance to coup. Divisions persisted within coalition, however: FFC leader Mohamed al-Faki 30 July told media outlet Sudan Tribune that FFC and other “revolutionary forces” were discussing new constitutional arrangements and would announce civilian PM within two weeks. Near-daily protests against military continued throughout month. Notably, thousands 2, 4 and 31 July demonstrated in capital Khartoum. In Omdurman city, security forces 21, 26 July reportedly killed two protesters. In Blue Nile state, intercommunal violence sparked by land dispute between Berti and Hausa communities 11 July erupted; at least 105 killed and 30,000 displaced over several days of clashes. Authorities 15-16 July declared state of emergency, deployed additional troops and imposed curfew. Tensions spread to other states, with Hausa protesters 18 July setting fire to govt buildings in Kassala. In capital Khartoum, security forces 19 July fired teargas at thousands of Hausa protesters calling for end to oppression of Hausa people. In South Darfur state, sporadic fighting 15-21 July between factions of Sudan Liberation Army in East Jebel Marra killed three and displaced thousands. After renewed violence in disputed al-Fashaga borderlands late June, al-Burhan 5 July met Ethiopian PM Abiy in Kenya; counterparts agreed to establish joint committee to resolve dispute. Khartoum 17 July reopened Gallabat border crossing, key trading route with Ethiopia.
Trilateral mechanism suspended direct talks between military and civilians, intercommunal violence killed over 120 people in West Darfur and military clashed with Ethiopian forces in disputed al-Fashaga area. Trilateral mechanism including UN mission in Sudan, AU and Intergovernmental Authority on Development 8 June facilitated direct talks between ruling military and civilian opposition groups, but main pro-democracy alliance Forces for Freedom and Change-Central Command (FFC-CC) boycotted meeting. U.S. and Saudi diplomats 9 June organised first informal meeting between FFC-CC and military since Oct 2021 coup; FFC-CC next day conditioned formal dialogue on military staying out of politics; amid impasse, trilateral mechanism 11 June indefinitely postponed second round of talks. Near-daily protests against military continued. Notably, thousands 3 June demonstrated across country on anniversary of 2019 crackdown on sit-in in capital Khartoum; mass protests also held 30 June in several cities. Security forces throughout month killed at least ten protesters, bringing death toll since coup to at least 110. In West Darfur state, fighting over land dispute between non-Arab Gimir and Arab Rizeigat communities 6-11 June killed at least 126 mostly Gimir people in Kulbus district, and left around 50,000 displaced; violence spread to North Darfur, with 13 ethnic Gimir villages allegedly attacked 7-10 June. Rizeigat and Misseriya tribes 18 June, and Arab and Massalit tribes 25 June signed reconciliation agreements in state capital El Geneina. In South Kordofan state, clashes between Kenana and Hawazma tribes 5-8 June reportedly killed at least 19 in Abu Jubayhah locality; clashes between Nuba and Baggara tribes 16 June killed five in state capital Kadugli. In Kassala state, intercommunal clashes between Bani Amer and Nuba communities 14-15 June reportedly killed at least five. Meanwhile, fighting erupted in disputed al-Fashaga zone bordering Ethiopia. Military 26 June said Ethiopian army 22 June executed seven Sudanese soldiers and one civilian, which Addis Ababa denied. Govt 27 June said it was recalling ambassador from Ethiopia and summoned Ethiopian ambassador to Sudan. Sudanese forces 27-28 June fired heavy artillery into al-Fashaga and claimed control of Jabal Kala al-Laban town.
As tripartite initiative aimed at fostering intra-Sudanese talks on restoring civilian-led transition began slowly, authorities lifted state of emergency and released some prisoners; repression of protests continued and insecurity persisted in several areas. UN mission in Sudan, African Union (AU) and Intergovernmental Authority on Development 12 May launched indirect intra-Sudanese talks with view to establishing common grounds between parties. Tripartite mechanism officials in following days held informal meetings with parties to 2020 Juba Peace Agreement, civil society organisations and political groups, including factions of political coalition Forces for Freedom and Change. AU Special Envoy Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt 13 May said military-civilian talks would follow at later stage. Meanwhile, Coordinating Committee of Khartoum state’s Resistance Committees 11 May adopted charter calling for peaceful overthrow of military, rejecting 2019 Constitutional Declaration and any talks with military, including within tripartite mechanism framework; 15 May however held informal talks with mechanism officials. Anti-coup protesters throughout month continued to face security forces crackdown, reportedly leaving at least five killed and over 200 wounded in capital Khartoum and other cities. Sovereign Council 29 May lifted state of emergency imposed after Oct 2021 coup, citing need to create atmosphere conducive to “fruitful and meaningful dialogue”; authorities next day released dozens of political prisoners. Violence early May subsided in West Darfur after deadly clashes late April in Kreinik and El Geneina areas reportedly displaced tens of thousands. In South Darfur state, unidentified gunmen 7 May reportedly killed three in Kalma camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs); 12 May reportedly killed one in Otash IDP camp in state capital Nyala. Following increased violence over past months in Abyei area disputed between Sudan and South Sudan, UN Security Council 12 May renewed mandate of UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) for six months; during UNISFA-facilitated peace conference in Uganda between Dinka Ngok and Misseriya communities involved in Abyei conflict, community leaders 19 May signed peace accord. Meanwhile, alleged Ethiopian gunmen 16, 18 May reportedly killed three Sudanese farmers in cross-border attacks near Qalabat village in Gedaref state. Tribal clashes 23 May reportedly killed three in Kassala state, next day allegedly killed at least six in West Kordofan state.
Violence in West Darfur reportedly left over 200 dead, anti-coup protesters marked third anniversary of former President Bashir’s fall, and military leaders’ relations with UN deteriorated. Deadly violence continued to ravage Darfur. Fighting between Arab pastoralists and non-Arab Massalit tribesmen 21 April erupted in Kreinik area of West Darfur state, 25 April reportedly spread to state capital El Geneina. NGO General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur 24 April said at least 168 people killed in violence, accused paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF)-backed Janjaweed militia of orchestrating attacks, while West Darfur Governor Khamis Abdalla Abkar 26 April said death toll was over 200. RSF Head Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” 1 April ordered use of military force and implementation of emergency law in South Darfur state after deadly tribal violence in late March. Meanwhile, on anniversary of 2019 sit-in in front of military headquarters in capital Khartoum, thousands 6 April marched in Khartoum and across country, demanding civilian rule; security forces shot one protester dead. Thousands of anti-coup protesters 11 April rallied across country on third anniversary of Bashir’s removal. Coup leader and Sovereign Council Chairman Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 1 April threatened to expel head of UN mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), Volker Perthes, who late March warned political paralysis could lead country to “economic and security collapse”. Alliance of rebel groups signatory to 2020 peace agreement, Sudan Revolutionary Front, 9 April presented national dialogue initiative to resolve political crisis. Political coalition Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) 14 April conditioned participation on release of political detainees and abolition of state of emergency; authorities 22-27 April released at least 27 political prisoners, including former Minister Khalid Omer Yousif and former Sovereign Council member Mohammed al-Faki Suliman, but dozens of opponents remained in prison. Military leaders took several steps toward rehabiliting Bashir-era ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and allies. Authorities around 7 April dropped charges of crimes against state pressed against NCP head Ibrahim Ghandour and released him from prison; court 26 April reversed order dissolving Islamic Call Organization, which served as financing arm for Bashir’s regime.
Amid worsening economic crisis, authorities continued crackdown on anti-coup voices and opposition; intercommunal violence killed dozens in Darfur and deadly clashes peaked in disputed Abyei area. Security forces 10 March shot dead two people including 11-year-old boy during anti-coup protests in capital Khartoum and neighbouring Omdurman city. Thousands 17 March protested soaring prices and poor living conditions in Khartoum and across country, prompting clashes with police which left 187 reportedly injured; U.S. Treasury 21 March imposed sanctions on Central Reserve Police unit for using excessive force on protesters. Commission investigating June 2019 killing of over 100 protesters by security forces forced to suspend operations after security forces 7 March raided and seized its offices. Amid series of arrests since Feb of Empowerment Removal Committee (ERC) officials tasked with dismantling remnants of former President al-Bashir’s regime, authorities 8 March arrested prominent politician and ERC member Babiker Faisal, reportedly on breach of trust charges. Amid deteriorating economic situation, Central Bank 7 March floated country’s currency in effort to stabilise Sudanese pound’s exchange rate; currency next day devalued by 19%. UN mission to Sudan (UNITAMS) and African Union 10 March announced joint initiative with regional trade bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to help safeguard democratic transition. In briefing to UN Security Council, UN Envoy Volker Perthes 28 March warned Sudan is heading for “economic and security collapse” unless political deadlock is addressed; UN agencies 23 March said number of Sudanese facing acute hunger likely to double to 18mn by Sept due to economic crisis, conflict and poor harvests. Violence in Darfur and along border with South Sudan killed dozens. Notably, in Jebel Moon mountains, West Darfur state, clashes between Arab nomads and farmers from Misseriya Jebel tribe 5-7 March killed at least 16; renewed tribal violence 10 March killed at least 19 people in same region. Local authorities 31 March said fresh fighting between Fallata and Rizeigat tribes 29-30 March killed 45 people in villages outside South Darfur state capital Nyala. Violence 5-6 March flared in disputed Abyei area between Sudan and South Sudan, leaving at least 47 people dead (see South Sudan).
First stage of UN-led mediation to salvage political transition inconclusive, while violent crackdown on protests continued; situation remained tense in Darfur. In first interview on national TV since Oct, coup leader and head of Sovereign Council Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 12 Feb said “military will quit politics” after elections, denied need for security sector reform and dismissed Western threats of sanctions. UN mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) next day concluded first stage of mediation between army and civilian actors with no clear outcome; consultations failed to bring all actors to negotiation table, with powerful civil society group Sudanese Professional Association 4 Feb accusing UNITAMS of implicitly recognising coup leaders and violating its mandate. Grassroots networks Khartoum Resistance Committees 27 Feb published political charter laying out key demands, including two-year transition under PM appointed by document’s signatories. Mass protests against military rule continued. Notably, tens of thousands 14 Feb took to streets across country and inhabitants of Northern state early to mid-Feb blocked road to Egypt in protest against increase in electricity prices; security forces’ crackdown throughout month killed five and injured hundreds, bringing number of protesters killed since Oct coup to at least 84. Amid wave of detentions, authorities 9 Feb arrested former minister and two members of Empowerment Removal Committee, which aims to dismantle remnants of former President Bashir’s regime; 13 Feb detained former civilian member of Sovereign Council Mohamed al-Faki. UN official 24 Feb said authorities had released 115 anti-coup protesters from weeks-long detention. Amid deadly clashes involving tribal militias in Darfur, Burhan and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces head Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” 2 Feb presided over meeting on implementation of security arrangements in North Darfur’s capital El Fasher; Burhan reportedly ordered armed groups to leave major towns in Darfur to make way for implementation of 2020 Juba Peace Agreement; security forces reportedly injured five demonstrators protesting visit. Clashes between military forces and armed groups around former AU-UN peacekeeping mission UNAMID headquarters in El Fasher 5 Feb killed at least four.
Abdalla Hamdok resigned as PM, leaving military in full control of transition and provoking unprecedented political blockage amid ongoing mass protests. PM Hamdok 2 Jan resigned after failing to name civilian govt six weeks after his reinstatement by military. EU and Troika group (U.S., UK and Norway) 4 Jan called for appointment of new PM in accordance with 2019 Constitutional Declaration, which gives political coalition Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) prerogative to select PM; head of Sovereign Council and leader of Oct coup Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan next day rejected call. UN Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) 8 Jan announced dialogue process between stakeholders to try to salvage country’s transition to democracy and in following days met with 2020 Juba Peace Agreement signatories. FFC 16 Jan vowed to support UN-brokered dialogue, but Sudanese Professionals Association 9 Jan and Local Resistance Committees, grassroots networks, around same day rejected any negotiations with military. Thousands of pro-military demonstrators 26 Jan rallied outside UNITAMS office in capital Khartoum to protest against UN talks. Mass anti-military protests continued on near-daily basis with heavy crackdown by security forces bringing number of protesters killed since Oct coup to at least 79; notably, in one of deadliest days since coup, security forces 17 Jan killed seven protesters in Khartoum. In rare public statement, head of judiciary 20 Jan condemned violence against protesters. U.S. 20 Jan said it would not resume economic assistance unless violence ceases and civilian-led govt is restored. In Darfur, joint forces including paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and former rebel soldiers – recently created as per 2020 Juba Agreement – 10 Jan looted former headquarters of UN-AU mission (UNAMID) in North Darfur’s capital El-Fasher, stealing vehicles and equipment; incident comes after gunmen late Dec looted World Food Programme warehouses in El Fasher, prompting agency to suspend operations across North Darfur. In West Darfur state, renewed tribal violence starting 20 Jan killed nine and displaced over 15,000 near El Geneina city. Sovereign Council Deputy Chairman Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” 22 Jan met Ethiopian defence minister in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to discuss bilateral relations in first official visit since border dispute flared up in Dec 2020.
Formation of new transitional govt stalled amid power struggle between military and PM Hamdok; latter’s resignation would leave military in full control of transition; intercommunal violence killed scores in Darfur. In search of independence and genuine executive authority, reinstated PM Hamdok 1 Dec replaced most caretaker deputy ministers and around 12 Dec replaced all acting state governors appointed by military since Oct coup; discussions on new govt still ongoing by month’s end as Hamdok battled to form technocratic govt as stipulated in Nov agreement with military. Media reports 21 and 27 Dec alleged Hamdok intending to resign “soon”. Several mass protests against military rule and Nov agreement between Hamdok and military leaders held throughout month in capital Khartoum and other cities met with govt crackdown. Notably, on third anniversary of popular uprising against then-President al-Bashir, hundreds of thousands 19 Dec protested in Khartoum and elsewhere to demand full civilian rule; security forces opened fire to disperse demonstrators, killing at least two and injuring over 300 while UN 21 Dec reported 13 allegations of rape and gang rape by security forces during protest. Renewed crackdown on protests 30 Dec left five killed including four in Omdurman city. U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee 9 Dec adopted Sudan Democracy Act enabling targeted sanctions against individuals undermining democratic transition. Growing instability recorded in West Darfur state. West Darfur Doctors Committee 8-9 Dec said tribal violence had in recent days killed 88 in Krink area, 25 in Jebel Moon area and eight in Sarba locality. UN Refugee Agency 7 Dec said violence in Jebel Moon alone had displaced over 10,000 since 17 Nov, with 2,000 fleeing across border into Chad; 29 Jebel Moon leaders 9 Dec signed non-aggression pact. Gunmen 28-30 Dec looted three World Food Programme (WFP) warehouses in North Darfur state capital El Fasher, killing two people and prompting authorities to impose curfew and WFP to suspend operations. In South Kordofan state, tribal clashes between Hawazma and Kenana herders 1-2 Dec killed at least two in Abu Jubeiha area. On Ethiopian border, troops 1 Dec said they had taken control of Ethiopian settlement in disputed al-Fashaga area after days of clashes.
Political agreement reinstated ousted civilian PM Hamdok but consolidated military control over transition; anti-coup protesters faced deadly crackdown. Hamdok and Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of Sovereign Council and leader of Oct coup, 21 Nov signed deal reinstating former as PM to head hybrid military-civilian govt until next elections. Agreement provides for liberation of political figures detained since coup and investigations into violence that marred anti-coup demonstrations; also codifies sidelining of key civilian actors including Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), thus tilting balance of power toward military and their supporters. International community largely welcomed move, albeit with reservations. Notably, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 22 Nov said Hamdok’s reinstatement “important first step”. Several Sudanese political parties and civil society including FFC however condemned “attempt to legitimise the coup”, and 12 FFC ministers 22 Nov resigned in protest. Tens of thousands 25 Nov demonstrated against deal in capital Khartoum and other cities, called for justice for “martyrs” killed in demonstrations; security forces 30 Nov fired tear gas to disperse new protest in Khartoum. Earlier in month, near daily anti-coup protests held despite intensifying repression. Hundreds 7 Nov rallied across country as part of two-day civil disobedience campaign; security forces reportedly fired tear gas and arrested dozens. Thousands 13 Nov took to streets in Khartoum; medical authorities said at least eight protesters killed and over 200 injured. In deadliest crackdown since coup, security forces 17 Nov killed at least 15 demonstrators in and around Khartoum; hundreds more reportedly wounded; renewed clashes reported next day in Khartoum. Meanwhile, fighting between Arab herders and farmers from Misseriya Jebel tribe 17 Nov broke out in Jebel Moon area, West Darfur state, reportedly killing at least 43 by month’s end; intercommunal violence also ran high in North Darfur state, with attacks on several localities including Tawila and Dar El Salam leaving unknown number dead mid-Nov. Attack by armed groups and militias linked to Ethiopian military 27 Nov reportedly killed several Sudanese soldiers in disputed Al-Fashaga border zone; military 30 Nov said they had fired rockets into Ethiopian territory.
Military takeover upended country’s transition to civilian rule; deadly crackdown on anti-coup protesters could presage splits in military and violent escalation. Head of Sovereign Council, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, 25 Oct declared state of emergency, dissolved Sovereign Council and transitional govt as military forces detained several civilian govt officials including PM Hamdok. Military same day shut down internet access, blocked roads and bridges in capital Khartoum, and stormed state broadcaster’s headquarters in neighbouring Omdurman city. Tens of thousands immediately took to streets in Khartoum to denounce coup; security forces cracked down using live ammunition, reportedly leaving at least seven dead and 140 injured. In following days, demonstrators blocked roads in Khartoum with makeshift barricades and burning tyres, and several sectors went on strike to reject coup, culminating in 30 Oct countrywide protests which saw tens of thousands demand restoration of civilian-led govt amid ongoing internet shutdown; troops killed at least three in Omdurman and reportedly injured at least 245 across country. Hamdok 26 Oct allowed to return home under heavy security; location of most other detained civilian officials remained unknown by month’s end. UN-led and other mediation efforts under way late Oct; possible formation of new transitional govt – likely featuring Hamdok though heavily influenced by military – could prompt backlash from street or sections of military. International actors swiftly condemned coup, with country’s AU membership and World Bank’s aid suspended 27 Oct. Earlier in month, tensions escalated between civilian and military components of transition following Sept’s failed coup attempt and as Port Sudan blockade (led by Beja tribe demanding greater representation under Oct 2020 peace deal) caused shortages. Several groups including faction of Sudan Liberation Movement/Army led by Minni Minnawi and Finance Minister Jibril Ibrahim’s Justice and Equality Movement 2 Oct split from governing political coalition Forces for Freedom and Change. Countrywide protest in support of democratic transition and civilian rule 21 Oct dwarfed pro-military demonstrations held in Khartoum 16-18 Oct. Meanwhile, security forces 4 Oct killed four suspected Islamic State members in raid in Khartoum; one military officer also killed.
Coup attempt strained relations between civilian and military components of transition; unity of transitional govt at stake in coming weeks. PM Hamdok 21 Sept said authorities had thwarted same day “coup attempt” by remnants of former President Bashir’s regime; 21 officers and unspecified number of soldiers reportedly arrested. Reported coup attempt heightened tensions between transitional authorities’ civilian and military components. PM Hamdok same day said incident confirmed “need to reform the security and military apparatus” and hundreds immediately took to streets in several cities to denounce coup and support civilian-led govt. Sovereign Council head Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” – who also heads paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) – next day accused politicians of creating conditions for coups by seeking personal gains and neglecting citizens; governing coalition Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) 23 Sept said military’s “baseless accusations” posed “direct threat” to democratic transition. Military unit tasked with protecting committee in charge of dismantling Bashir regime’s political and financial apparatus 26 Sept reportedly withdrew from committee’s headquarters; civil society group Sudanese Professionals Association same day called for end to civilian partnership with military. Earlier in month, groups within FFC 8 Sept signed pledge to better cooperate to advance transition’s agenda; rebel groups turned members of transitional govt Justice and Equity Movement and Minni Minnawi’s Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction refused to sign. Five security forces reportedly killed in raid targeting Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated cell 28 Sept in capital Khartoum. Amid continued violence in Darfur region, particularly North Darfur state, authorities 14 Sept formed long-delayed Joint Force – comprising police, army, RSF and armed groups signatories to Oct 2020 peace deal – to protect civilians; many fear move could legitimise and empower actors involved in abuses. Meanwhile, tensions persisted with Ethiopia over disputed al-Fashaga border zone. Notably, Sudan 26 Sept said it had previous day thwarted incursion in Umm Barakit district by Ethiopian troops, which latter denied; Ethiopia’s Amhara regional forces and Sudan’s military reportedly clashed in al-Fashaga starting mid-Sept. Govt 26 Sept reached deal with tribal group in east after days of protests against region’s marginalisation, which were threatening energy supplies.
Intercommunal violence persisted in west, govt made progress in implementation of Oct 2020 peace deal, and tensions with Ethiopia continued to run high. In North Darfur state, unidentified gunmen 30 July-10 Aug killed four people in separate attacks in Tawila and Kushna areas, reportedly over disputed agricultural lands; 6 Aug reportedly ambushed members of former rebel group Gathering of Sudan Liberation Forces, brought into govt forces by last Oct’s Juba Peace Agreement and allegedly sent to secure area, killing seven; Sovereign Council next day sent fact-finding committee to investigate violence. Also in North Darfur, cattle raid 25 Aug reportedly left two dead in Kutum locality. Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction leader Minni Minnawi sworn in 10 Aug as governor of Darfur region in line with Oct 2020 peace deal; Sovereign Council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan same day pledged peace deal signatories would immediately start forming joint force to protect civilians in Darfur. Families of victims of former President Bashir’s regime and 2019 uprising 4 Aug organised sit-ins in capital Khartoum, demanding authorities purge public prosecution and judiciary from Bashir’s supporters; notably, sit-inners accused interim Attorney General Mubarak Mahmoud of foot-dragging on investigations. Court in North Kordofan state 5 Aug sentenced six members of paramilitary Rapid Support Forces to death for killing six civilians during 2019 protest. Ethiopia 5 Aug rejected Sudan’s offer earlier that day to mediate conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region in its capacity as current chair of regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development, saying Khartoum was “not a credible party”; refusal reportedly prompted Sudan to recall its ambassador to Ethiopia 8 Aug. PM Hamdok and al-Burhan 16 Aug visited disputed al-Fashaga zone at border with Ethiopia; Hamdok said Sudan would not make any concessions on country’s territorial integrity. Govt 23 Aug said UN had acceded to its April request that Ethiopian soldiers part of UN peacekeeping force in disputed Abyei area at border with South Sudan be replaced.
Intercommunal violence left dozens killed in Darfur, violence persisted in al-Fashaga area along border with Ethiopia, and govt made some progress in implementation of Oct 2020 peace deal. In West Darfur state, tribal clashes left over 20 people dead in Sirba locality 1-4 July and another 12 in Kereinik and Jebel Moon localities 2-5 July. In South Darfur state, unidentified gunmen 15-16 July killed three people in two separate attacks in Gereida locality. In North Darfur state, artillery shelling 17-18 July reportedly killed at least 17 in Sortony camp for displaced people, Kabkabiya locality. Alleged tribal violence also left at least four dead in Red Sea state’s capital Port Sudan 10 July and another 13 in Qadir area of South Kordofan state next day, prompting Security and Defence Council 12 July to scale up security operations in both states. Meanwhile, authorities 5 July said long-delayed Transitional Legislative Council would hold its first session in August; Sovereign Council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan same day issued decree to form long-awaited body in charge of supervising disarmament, demobilisation and integration into armed forces of rebel group signatories of Oct 2020 peace agreement, as well as ceasefire monitoring committees in Darfur. Hundreds of combatants affiliated with Minni Minnawi’s Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction 17 July deployed to North Darfur state to take part in joint forces aimed at protecting civilians following Dec 2020 pull-out of AU-UN peacekeeping mission UNAMID. Amid continued economic turmoil, international creditors 16 July cancelled $14.1bn of Sudan’s international debts and rescheduled another $9.4bn. Meanwhile, tensions persisted with Ethiopia over disputed al-Fashaga border zone; army 11 July reportedly repelled cross-border attack by Ethiopian militia, number of casualties unknown; govt 20 July vowed to keep troops in border zone until area “regains its full security and stability”; Ethiopian militia 23 July reportedly abducted three Sudanese children, next day killed one Sudanese soldier. Tensions ran high between Sudan and Egypt on one side and Ethiopia on the other as Addis Ababa completed second filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (see Nile Waters).
Tensions rose markedly over paramilitary Rapid Support Forces’ refusal to integrate into regular forces, with PM warning of “chaos” should security sector reform not proceed; protests erupted over end of fuel subsidies. Army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) early June fortified their respective positions in capital Khartoum, and Deputy Head of Sovereign Council and RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” 4 June said he would not merge RSF with regular forces into single army as called for in Oct 2020 peace agreement. PM Hamdok 15 June warned failure to reform security sector may lead to “chaos” and “civil war” and 22 June called for comprehensive political settlement to “unify civil and military fronts” and address “national crisis”. Armed group signatories to Oct 2020 peace agreement throughout month expressed frustration at lack of progress in bringing their forces into military. UN Security Council 3 June extended transition assistance mission in Sudan’s mandate for one year. Amid spiralling inflation, govt 8 June scrapped fuel subsidies in line with International Monetary Fund (IMF) roadmap, prompting sharp price hike and setting off protests in Khartoum 9-10 June; authorities 26 June said they would cut govt spending and increase social spending; police 30 June fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters in Khartoum demanding govt’s resignation over IMF-backed reforms. IMF 29 June approved debt relief package of $1.4bn to Sudan; IMF and World Bank same day said Khartoum was eligible for further debt relief under Heavily Indebted Poor Countries, paving way for clearing 90% of Sudan’s $56bn external debt within next three years. Intercommunal violence in south reportedly killed at least 36 in South Darfur state 6 June, 12 in South Kordofan state 10-18 June, and at least another five in West Kordofan state 13-14 June. Govt 26 June pledged to hand over former officials indicted for war crimes in Darfur to International Criminal Court. Meanwhile, Ethiopian militia 5 June reportedly killed two Sudanese farmers in disputed al-Fashaga border zone; army 8 June said Ethiopia had deployed additional troops near border, and govt 10 June sent reinforcements to area. Tensions with Addis Ababa over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam remained high (see Nile Waters).
Govt made strides toward clearing its debt arrears, security forces cracked down on peaceful protesters, and tensions with Ethiopia remained high. International Monetary Fund 10 May announced it had approved financing plan that would allow Sudan to clear its debt arrears with international financing body. At investment and financing conference in France, govt 17-18 May secured several assurances of debt cancellation and new loans including from France, Germany and Norway. PM Hamdok 19 May said Sudan had fulfilled all conditions for debt forgiveness, which would pave way for Khartoum to regain access to international financing.Security forces 11 May opened fire and killed two protesters gathered outside army headquarters in capital Khartoum to commemorate 2019 massacre of over a hundred anti-Transitional Military Council sit-inners. Hamdok immediately condemned killings and army 16 May handed over seven soldiers suspected of involvement to Public Prosecutor. Sovereign Council member Aisha Musa 22 May announced resignation, accused transitional authorities of leading Sudan to “more killing, injustice, poverty and suffering”. Amid delays in implementation of Oct 2020 peace deal with rebel coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Front, UN assistance mission in Sudan 20 May voiced “great concern” over slow pace of unification of armed forces. Govt and rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North faction led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu – who demurred on signing Oct 2020 agreement – 26 May returned to talks in South Sudan’s capital Juba with view to bringing rebel group into transitional govt. Meanwhile, army 19 May reportedly clashed with Ethiopian militia in Eastern Gallabat area of disputed Al-Fashqa border zone, seizing five settlements controlled by Ethiopia since 1995. In apparent warning to Addis Ababa and preparation for possible escalation amid stalled negotiations on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Blue Nile river, Sudan 26-31 May held third joint military exercise with Egypt since Nov 2020 (see Nile Waters). UN Security Council 11 May extended mandate of UN peacekeeping force in disputed Abyei area at border with South Sudan until Nov, requesting UN Sec-Gen Guterres establish viable exit strategy by Oct; ethnic Misseriya gunmen 16 May reportedly killed at least 11 people in Abyei’s Dungoup village.
Intercommunal violence flared up in West Darfur, leaving over 100 dead and tens of thousands displaced; tensions persisted with Ethiopia. Arab and Masalit tribes 3-8 April clashed in and around West Darfur state capital el-Geneina, leaving at least 125 dead and reportedly displacing tens of thousands; fighting reportedly drawing in militia fighters from both sides arriving from other parts of Darfur and neighbouring Chad. High-level delegation led by Sovereign Council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 12 April arrived in el-Geneina for two-day visit in attempt to mediate between two sides; Masalit tribe representatives 15 April rejected mediation outcome, accused members of paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of supporting recurrent attacks on Masalit tribespeople by Chadian gunmen. West Darfur governor 20 April declared el-Geneina disaster zone, requested humanitarian support from govt. In South Kordofan state, intercommunal clashes late April reportedly left “large number” dead in el-Hamid district. Meanwhile, tensions persisted with Ethiopia over disputed Al-Fashqa border zone. Authorities 3 April temporarily closed Gallabat-Metema border crossing after Ethiopian militia 1 April reportedly attacked Sudanese customs officers, and army 9 April said it had taken control of 95% of Al-Fashqa. Authorities 12 April reportedly handed over to Addis Ababa 61 Ethiopian troops taken prisoner in disputed area since conflict started in Dec 2020; Addis Ababa 21 April denied released prisoners were soldiers. After latest round of talks on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Blue Nile river faltered 6 April, govt 23 April said it may sue Ethiopia before international courts if Addis Ababa fills GERD unilaterally in coming months (see Nile Waters). In apparent warning to Addis Ababa and preparation for possible escalation, Sudan 31 March-5 April had held second joint military exercise with Egypt since Nov 2020. UN Security Council 26 April discussed Sudan’s request to replace Ethiopian peacekeepers deployed as part of UN peacekeeping mission in disputed Abyei area at border with South Sudan; Khartoum cited security concerns in light of growing bilateral tensions. Authorities 19 April officially repealed Israel boycott law, paving way for normalisation of relations, which Sudan agreed to in Jan as part of U.S.-brokered deal.
Clashes persisted in disputed border area with Ethiopia, intercommunal violence continued in North and South Darfur states, and govt signed agreement with holdout rebel group. Army 1-2 March reportedly launched offensive against Ethiopian forces near Barkhat settlement, last area still under Ethiopia’s control in disputed Al-Fashqa border zone, leaving unknown number dead. Sovereign Council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 17 March accused Ethiopia of deploying additional forces to area in past two weeks, demanded withdrawal of all troops from “Sudanese territory”, and negotiations to resolve land dispute tied to Ethiopia’s recognition of Sudan’s sovereignty over area. UN humanitarian office 22 March said Eritrean forces had been deployed alongside Ethiopian troops and ethnic Amhara militias near Barkhat. At border between Ethiopia and Sudanese states of Gadaref and Sennar, south of Al-Fashqa, army 24 March reportedly repelled attack by Ethiopian militia backed by Ethiopian army in Basinda area; 29 March allegedly clashed with Ethiopian militia after latter attempted to alter border markers in Sudan’s al-Dinder National Park, one combatant killed on each side. In North Darfur state, intercommunal clashes between Fur and Tama communities 3 March left 11 dead in Saraf Omra locality. In South Darfur state, fighting between ethnic Fellata and Masalit 1-2 March killed 11 in Gireida locality. Holdout rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North of Abdel Aziz al-Hilu 28 March signed Declaration of Principles with govt in South Sudan’s capital Juba; document commits govt to unification of armed forces, and further edges al-Hilu toward agreement bringing his faction into govt. Sovereign Council 11 March pardoned former Janjaweed militia leader and current head of armed militia Sudan Revolutionary Awakening Council Musa Hilal, detained since 2017 for allegedly resisting govt-led disarmament campaign, prompting local uproar; deputy head of Sovereign Council and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces leader Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” reportedly instrumental in Hilal’s release. Meanwhile, Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt remained at loggerheads over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Blue Nile river (see Nile Waters).
Deadly clashes in disputed border areas with Ethiopia continued, rebel coalition joined govt following Oct 2020 peace agreement, and protests over deteriorating economic situation held nationwide. Amid troop build-up on both sides, Sudanese army and Ethiopian regular and irregular forces clashed throughout month in Al-Fashqa and nearby Al-Qureisha border regions, killing several Sudanese security personnel and civilians and leaving unknown number of Ethiopian forces dead. Khartoum 14 Feb accused Ethiopian forces of entering Sudan, condemned “aggression” and “unacceptable escalation”, 20 Feb threatened to expel Ethiopian UN peacekeepers stationed in disputed Abyei area between Sudan and South Sudan. Mauritanian media 17 Feb reported AU had tasked Special Envoy to Sudan Mohamed el Hacen Lebatt with mediating border dispute. Following Oct 2020 peace deal with rebel coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), Sovereign Council 4 Feb integrated three SRF members; PM Hamdok 8 Feb appointed seven SRF and 18 members of political coalition Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) to cabinet; new cabinet sworn in 10 Feb. In Central Darfur state, holdout rebel group Sudan Liberation Movement/Army led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur 4 Feb said it had repelled attack by “govt militias” in Rukona area, killing 24 and capturing one. Demonstrations over deteriorating economic situation, including rising price of basic commodities, held countrywide; police early Feb reportedly arrested some 100 protesters including in North Kordofan state’s capital Obeid, and seven states had declared state of emergency by 11 Feb. Authorities 11-12 Feb detained four senior figures of dissolved National Congress Party, ruling party under former President Bashir, for allegedly fomenting unrest. Central Bank 21 Feb sharply devalued Sudanese pound in move to address vast gap between official and black-market rates, and to secure debt relief. Amid stalled AU-led negotiations with Egypt and Ethiopia over filling and operation of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Blue Nile River, govt 18 Feb proposed quadripartite mediation by AU, EU, U.S. and UN, drawing support from Egypt.
Intercommunal violence left hundreds dead in West and South Darfur states; skirmishes in disputed border region with Ethiopia persisted. In West and South Darfur states (west), intercommunal fighting between Arab and non-Arab tribes 15-18 Jan left 250 dead and reportedly displaced more than 100,000. Unidentified gunmen 19 Jan attempted to assassinate West Darfur state governor in state capital el-Geneina. Unidentified gunmen 24-25 Jan attacked villages in border area between South and North Darfur states, reportedly killing 11. Holdout rebel group Sudan Liberation Movement/Army led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur late Jan said it had repulsed attack by govt forces in North Darfur state, claimed killing 17. In el-Mogeines border area between Sudan’s White Nile state and South Sudan’s Upper Nile state, clashes between Sudanese communities and South Sudanese gunmen early Jan reportedly left at least 17 dead. After Sudan’s military in Dec reclaimed large swathes of territory in disputed Al-Fashqa area, Sudanese and Ethiopian forces 4 and 10 Jan clashed in Al-Fashqa and Al-Qureisha border regions. Ethiopian militia mid-Jan reportedly killed around a dozen Sudanese farmers in Al-Qureisha and Al-Fashqa. Khartoum 13 Jan said Ethiopian military aircraft had entered its airspace, calling it “a dangerous escalation”; next day closed airspace over Al-Qadarif state until April. Ethiopia 17 Jan released eight Sudanese soldiers it captured during Dec border clashes. Sudan’s Sovereign Council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 20 Jan said “Sudan does not want to go to war with Ethiopia”, but warned that it “will not abandon an inch of its territory”. Sudan and U.S. 6 Jan signed memorandum of understanding to provide Khartoum with loan to clear its arrears to World Bank, which would allow it to access more than $1bn in annual funding; authorities same day signed U.S.-brokered agreement normalising relations with Israel. Talks between Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam early Jan resumed but failed to make progress.
Military clashed with Ethiopian forces in disputed border region and reclaimed large swathes of territory. Sudan’s military early Dec reclaimed territory in disputed Al-Fashqa area on border between Sudan’s Al-Qadarif state and Ethiopia’s Amhara region. Ethiopian gunmen 15 Dec killed at least four Sudanese troops and wounded 20 in Al-Fashqa. Sudan subsequently deployed reinforcements and seized more land in area. Following unsuccessful talks 22-23 Dec between Sudan and Ethiopia to demarcate border, Sudan made further territorial gains in Al-Fashqa and Al-Qureisha border regions. Addis Ababa 29 Dec warned Sudan of counter-offensive if it “does not stop expanding into Ethiopian territories”. Khartoum 31 Dec said its forces had taken control over all border territory it accuses Ethiopia of encroaching upon. In Central and South Darfur states, clashes over gold mining territory between rival factions of holdout rebel group Sudan Liberation Movement/Army led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur (SLM-AW) and fighting with govt troops early Dec displaced over 27,000 and left two children dead. In South Darfur state, intercommunal clashes late Dec killed at least 25 in several areas. UN Security Council 22 Dec voted to end mandate of UN-AU mission in Darfur (UNAMID) on 31 Dec. On second anniversary of uprising that led to ouster of former President Bashir, thousands 19 Dec demonstrated in capital Khartoum and across country, demanding acceleration of democratic reforms. Also in Khartoum, thousands 29 Dec attended funeral of individual reportedly tortured to death mid-Dec while in paramilitary Rapid Support Forces custody. U.S. 14 Dec formally removed Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation. Ethiopia and Sudan 13 Dec agreed to resume negotiations on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Russia 1 Dec signed agreement with Sudan to establish naval base on Sudan’s Red Sea coast.
Former rebel leaders returned to country to start implementation of Oct peace agreement; meanwhile, tens of thousands of refugees arrived in east after conflict broke out in Ethiopia’s Tigray. As part of Oct peace agreement, Sovereign Council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 12 Nov signed decree granting general amnesty to leaders of rebel coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction leader Minni Minnawi and military and paramilitary forces involved in fighting rebels. Amid peace celebrations, SRF leaders and Minnawi 15 Nov arrived in capital Khartoum from South Sudan to begin implementation of peace deal, which provides for integration of former rebel leaders into Sovereign Council, cabinet and Transitional Legislative Council. Govt and holdout rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North faction led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu late Oct-early Nov failed to make progress in talks aimed at clinching distinct peace deal. Sudanese Communist Party 7 Nov announced its withdrawal from governing Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC). FFC 19 Nov announced postponement of formation of Transitional Legislative Council to 31 Dec due to spike in COVID-19 cases and to enable further consultations with returned former rebel leaders on allocation of seats. In Central Darfur state, rival factions of holdout rebel group Sudan Liberation Movement/Army led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur 7-8 Nov clashed in Sabi area, reportedly displacing hundreds. In North Darfur state, attacks by unidentified gunmen 7-30 Nov left at least five civilians dead. UN Security Council 12 Nov extended mandate of peacekeeping force in disputed Abyei region until May 2021. After fighting erupted early Nov between Ethiopia’s federal govt and Tigray regional state (see Ethiopia), more than 43,000 refugees fled from Ethiopia into eastern Sudan’s Al-Qadarif, Kassala and Blue Nile states throughout month. Sudan 21 Nov withdrew from new round of tripartite talks on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, called for new method of negotiation (see Nile Waters).
U.S. removed country from State Sponsor of Terrorism (SST) list, govt and rebel groups formalised Aug peace deal, and violence erupted in east. U.S. President Trump 23 Oct signed order to remove Sudan’s SST designation after Sudan transferred $335mn to escrow account for victims of al-Qaida’s 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; Trump same day announced Sudan and Israel had agreed to normalise relations. In South Sudanese capital Juba, govt, rebel coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Front and Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction led by Minni Minnawi 3 Oct formalised Aug peace deal; Sovereign Council and cabinet approved deal 12 Oct and its incorporation into constitutional declaration 18 Oct. Faction of rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu 29 Oct began talks with govt aimed at bringing group into deal. In east, ethnic Beja 3-6 Oct demonstrated in Port Sudan, Suakin and several other towns in Red Sea state against peace agreement’s “eastern track” and called for self-determination for eastern Sudan; protesters 5 Oct killed police officer in Haiya town. PM Hamdok 13 Oct dismissed ethnic Beni Amer governor of Kassala state after months of Beja protests opposing his Aug appointment; in following days violence erupted in Red Sea and Kassala states leaving at least 30 dead by 20 Oct; notably, clashes between Beni Amer and Beja 14 Oct killed six in Suakin; security forces 15 Oct confronted Beni Amer protesters in Kassala city, leaving seven protesters and one soldier dead. In South Darfur state, fighting between factions of holdout rebel group Sudan Liberation Movement/Army led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur displaced more than 4,500 in Sharg al-Jabal area throughout month; clashes between ethnic Fellata and Masalit 20-22 Oct left at least 14 dead in Gireida locality. In capital Khartoum and other cities across country, thousands 21 Oct demonstrated against dire economic situation and poor living conditions; security forces opened fire on demonstrators in Khartoum, reportedly killing two.
Govt and rebel group agreed to resume peace talks and violence persisted in rural areas. After faction of rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu withdrew from peace talks in Aug days before govt and other rebel groups struck landmark peace agreement, PM Hamdok and al-Hilu 2-5 Sept met in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, agreed to hold informal negotiations to discuss contentious issues including “separation of religion and state” and “right to self-determination” with view to resuming formal peace talks. Govt’s Higher Peace Council headed by Sovereign Council Chairman and leader of armed forces Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 14 Sept endorsed agreement. Violence persisted in rural areas amid ongoing protests and sit-ins urging govt to advance transitional agenda. In Red Sea state’s capital Port Sudan, clashes between govt forces and local residents 1 Sept left one dead and 25 wounded. In South Kordofan state, unidentified gunmen 4 Sept killed two civilians. In Central Darfur state, unidentified gunmen 10 Sept killed two civilians near Nierteti town prompting demonstrators to take to streets in Nierteti same day; police fired live ammunition leaving two dead. Suspected herders 24 Sept shot and killed two farmers near Nierteti. Army and holdout armed opposition Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur 28 Sept clashed in Jebel Marra area; death toll unknown. In West Darfur state, unidentified gunmen 13-18 Sept killed two civilians and one policeman. In Northern state, suspected smugglers 20 Sept shot and killed five police officers near Ed Debba town. In capital Khartoum, authorities 16 Sept said they arrested at least 41 members of suspected “terrorist cell” and seized large amounts of explosives. Hundreds 30 Sept demonstrated in Khartoum against deteriorating economic conditions and called for removal of Hamdok’s govt; police reportedly fired tear gas to disperse protesters. Govt 4 Sept declared three-month state of emergency over catastrophic floods and 10 Sept announced three-month economic state of emergency amid soaring inflation and sharply deteriorating currency. U.S. Sec State Pompeo 16 Sept called on U.S. lawmakers to pass legislation paving way for Sudan’s removal from U.S. State Sponsor of Terrorism (SST) list.
Govt and some rebel groups struck landmark peace agreement; intercommunal violence in urban and rural areas continued. Following year-long negotiations in South Sudanese capital Juba, rebel coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Front and Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction led by Minni Minnawi 31 Aug signed peace agreement with govt. Agreement provides for redistribution of economic and political powers in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states and integration of rebel fighters into military. Faction of rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu withdrew from peace talks 20 Aug, and holdout armed opposition Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur refused to take part. Intercommunal clashes persisted in south, west and east. In South Darfur state, unidentified gunmen 1-2 Aug attacked several villages in Kass locality and clashed with Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Boronga village, killing unknown number and displacing some 3,000. In Kassala state, clashes between Zaghawas and Halfawis 1 Aug left two dead in New Halfa area. In Red Sea state’s capital Port Sudan, clashes between Nuba and Beni Amer tribes 9-12 Aug left at least 34 dead; authorities imposed curfew 9-17 Aug and govt 13 Aug deployed over 100 RSF paramilitary to stamp out violence, at least 85 arrested. On first anniversary of constitutional declaration establishing three-year transitional period, hundreds of thousands 17 Aug took to streets in capital Khartoum and other urban areas to protest delayed implementation of transitional agenda; police fired tear gas to disperse protesters and detained dozens. Sudan continued start-stop negotiations with Egypt and Ethiopia over filling and operation of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (see Nile Waters). Sovereign Council Chair Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Chadian President Déby 20 Aug met in Chad to discuss reinforcement of security cooperation along mutual border. U.S. Sec State Mike Pompeo 25 Aug visited Sudan, met with PM Hamdok and Sovereign Council chair to discuss normalisation of Sudan’s ties with Israel and support to Sudan’s transition, including removal of country from U.S. State Sponsor of Terrorism list. Govt and South Sudan 26 Aug vowed to settle dispute over Abyei region in south.
Govt faced increasing pressure to advance transitional agenda amid continuing delays in finalising peace accord with rebel groups and escalating deadly violence in Darfur. Following 30 June protests demanding greater civilian rule in transition, PM Hamdok 5 July dismissed police chief and his deputy; 9 July accepted resignation of six ministers and dismissed one. Security forces 14 July detained hard-line Islamist preacher and Law and Development Party leader Mohamed Ali al-Gizouli who called on military to remove transitional govt. Thousands of former President Bashir supporters and Islamist group members 17 July protested against govt in capital Khartoum. Khartoum court 21 July opened trial of Bashir over his role in 1989 coup but adjourned it until 11 Aug amid protests and COVID-19 concerns. Govt and rebel coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Front as well as Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction led by Minni Minnawi mid-July reached tentative agreement on power-sharing; signature of comprehensive peace deal remains elusive with security arrangements an ongoing sticking point; govt 27 July swore in 18 civilian state governors. Holdout armed opposition Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur (SLM-AW) early July reportedly clashed with security forces in Kamaraya area, West Darfur state, three SLM-AW combatants killed. In Darfur, intercommunal violence flared up and militias killed dozens in a series of violent attacks as they seek to halt returns of internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees to land taken forcibly under Bashir. In North Darfur state, unidentified gunmen 13 July attacked Fata Borno IDP camp, killing at least nine civilians. In West Darfur state, intercommunal clashes 19 July left at least three dead in state capital el-Geneina; some 500 unidentified gunmen 25 July raided Masteri village, killing over 60, mostly ethnic Masalit. In South Darfur state, unidentified gunmen 23 July raided Abdos village, killing at least 15. In neighbouring South Kordofan state, intercommunal clashes 21-22 July left dozens dead in state capital Kadugli. Ethiopia reportedly achieved its first-year target for filling reservoir of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Blue Nile River as tripartite talks remained stalled (see Nile Waters).
Peace talks between transitional govt and rebel groups suffered new delays and security forces reportedly repelled cross-border attack by Ethiopian troops. After govt and rebel coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) failed to meet self-imposed 20 June deadline to reach comprehensive peace deal despite “significant progress”, representatives of SRF groups and South Sudanese mediation team 25 June arrived in capital Khartoum to hold face-to-face talks with govt in bid to narrow differences on outstanding issues. Faction of rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu 17 June resumed talks with govt following months-long absence from peace negotiations. Following spate of cross-border clashes in recent months and with negotiations over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) at an advanced stage, Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti”, head of paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and deputy head of Sovereign Council 17 June met Ethiopian PM Abiy in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Security forces 22 June said they had repelled cross-border attack by Ethiopian troops on Anfal military base in Al-Qadarif state previous day, inflicting “heavy casualties”; following incident, Khartoum and Addis Ababa reportedly agreed to continue dialogue and exercise restraint. Tens of thousands 30 June took to streets across country to demand greater civilian rule in transition, one protester reportedly killed. New round of talks with Egypt and Ethiopia over filling and operation of GERD on Blue Nile river started 9 June but faltered 17 June; negotiations resumed 26 June (see Nile Waters). International Criminal Court 9 June said former Popular Defence Forces and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb, sought for alleged war crimes in Darfur in 2003-2004, had surrendered in Central African Republic 7 June; Kushayb transferred to The Hague next day. UN Security Council 3 June created UN assistance mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) to support country’s transition; next day extended mandate of UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) until end of year. At Berlin Sudan Partnership Conference 25 June, foreign donors pledged $1.8bn to support transition.