While diplomats attempted to facilitate a humanitarian truce in Khartoum, fighting on 16 April between tribal factions — some of whom were given or stole weapons from a police arsenal — destroyed the centre of El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur.
The fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and their comrades in the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) is entering its third week. So far, the struggle has not turned out as both factions had expected.
The RSF accomplished some important objectives on the first day of the fighting but did not expand beyond that. The army has advanced, but despite statements by field commanders that the war would be over in a few days, this has not happened yet.
At some point, however, one of side will prevail. It seems that the army is slowly winning while its opponent is still resisting.
However, both factions have their weaknesses. The RSF today are part of the ambitious project of the Dagalo family, led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. Leadership in this group mostly comprises family-related individuals.
On its part, the Sudanese Armed Forces also has its internal factions based on individual, regional and political loyalties. SAF has never been fully cleansed from its ties with the Islamist regime of deposed president Omar al-Bashir.
Kenyan students in Sudan get caught near clashes pic.twitter.com/oYhL6sNOQX— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) April 24, 2023
It was no surprise that leaders of the former regime who were imprisoned in Kober Prison and the leading Islamist television channel, Tayba satellite channel, are enthusiastic supporters of the army and see it as their best hope to return to power.
Fears over tribalistic war
The worst thing that can happen now in Sudan is that it descends into chaotic, tribalistic war as we saw in Somalia or in the “African World War” in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We have seen some of what this could become in the fighting in El Geneina.
The policy of the regime in Khartoum for decades was to pit one tribe or ethnic group against another in the country’s marginalised regions. That policy has now born bitter fruit in the country’s centre.
As the Arabic proverb says, “the magic has turned on the magician.”