Sudan woke up in chaos. The political rivalry between the two generals at the head of the sovereign council that currently leads the country, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the pro-Russian Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, exploded into clashes and violence in Khartoum. Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces are trying to seize power and dislodge the army in a confrontation of raids, shootings, airstrikes, armored personnel carriers and conflicting declarations. In the evening the position, which encircled no less than 150 Italians, seemed to hang in the balance. Only the provisional death toll would be at least three civilians and nine wounded, including an officer.
The armed forces led by Major General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the Sovereignty Council, claimed that they had “reoccupied all vital areas”, and that the situation resulting from the paramilitary attacks was “about to end”. The army admitted that it lost control partially and momentarily, and confirmed that it had restored the airports of Khartoum and Marwa, two cities north of the capital, and expelled the Revolutionary Front, led by Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo, known as “Hamidti”, with close fame. For Russia and ranked second in the Council. In the raid on the airport, the RSF set fire to civilian aircraft, including a Saudi Arabian Airlines plane. The first gunshots were heard in Khartoum around seven, members of the Italian NGO Music for Designs of the Night reported, while the emergency forced the closure of a pediatric center on the outskirts of the capital and the evacuation of staff.
The Sudanese Air Force announced the bombing of two paramilitary bases in Khartoum, and pictures of moving tanks were seen on social media. A UN official reported clashes “literally everywhere” in the capital, including in the “Khartoum 2” area where the Italian embassy is located. Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, as part of an “appeal for dialogue and an end to the violence”, called on about 150 Italians residing in the country (almost half of them in Khartoum) not to “leave their homes”.
Calls for an end to the fighting were also issued by the United Nations, the United States of America, the European Union, the African Union, the Arab League and Russia. The rift between the army and paramilitaries has been worsening for months, blocking a transition based on the framework agreement signed on December 5th. In fact, at the heart of the dispute lies military reform, with the Sudanese army wishing to integrate the RSF into its ranks already within two years while Dagalo wishing to place itself at the disposal of a civilian authority in a slower process that could last for up to ten years. The army, which shows pictures of Al-Burhan busy in the operations room, says he has always controlled his headquarters and denied announcing the seizure of the presidential palace. A colonel admitted that there had been “losses” in the army but was unable to specify them.
Dagalo warned that “the battle will be decided in the coming days.” The Rapid Support Forces, which participated in the April 2019 military coup that ended the reign of tyrant Omar al-Bashir, will have about 100,000 men. They are an evolution of the notorious “Janjaweed” militias, the “devils on horseback” who fought for Bashir to put down the rebellion in Darfur in the early 2000s, a conflict with at least 2.5 million refugees and nearly 300,000 dead. Daglo shares a gold mine with the Wagner militia, went to Russia on the eve of the Ukraine invasion and said he supported building a Russian Red Sea base in Sudan.
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