April 23 update: Best current assessment comes from African Center for Justice and Peace Studies
April 19 update on fighting and violence in Sudan
Eric Reeves, 10:30am EDT, April 19, 2023 (based on a wide range of sources; more confirmation needed. Revisions, additions, and corrections will be offered as needed)
The Meroe air base has now been fully secured by SAF troops. The RSF fled, taking their wounded commander. Notably, they also took the Egyptian military personnel they were holding (confirmed by al-Jazeera). But the loss of the Meroe air base is significant since it appears Hemeti expected the air base to be used for re-supply.
Egyptian MIGs are taking out RSF bases and supplies within their range of operation.
El Obeid (North Kordofan) air base is also now fully under control of the SAF.
A highly informed source indicates that at the beginning of fighting, Hemeti’s forces took a number of SAF officers and their family members as hostages, clearly to be used as a bargaining chip if Hemeti finds himself in a position where he needs to flee Sudan.
There is reportedly a growing opposition to a ceasefire among the resistance committees in Khartoum, who want Hemeti and the RSF defeated decisively; a ceasefire would allow the RSF to re-group and perhaps re-constitute command and control, and permit resupply efforts that will prolong the violence. Re-supply is a critical problem for the RSF, and SAF aircraft are attempting to interdict any supply convoys.
One convoy reportedly includes a major shipment of ammunition coming into Sudan via Libya, with the assistance of the UAE. Notably, the UAE is Sudan’s major gold market, and Hemeti’s RSF largely controls gold exports from Sudan, typically with the assistance of Russia’s paramilitary mercenaries, the Wagner Group. This is perhaps the best context for understanding the UAE joining in calls for a ceasefire. (See also map below)
In Darfur, all the state capitals are now fully under control of the SAF, although some fighting continues in an area north of Nyala, capital of South Darfur. Even El Geneina, capital of West Darfur, is now under control of the SAF. SAF troops fought with unexpected ferocity in defeating RSF militiamen in both El Fasher and Nyala. The RSF misread the situation on the ground and had expected little resistance.
The failure of a ceasefire to materialize at this point reflects determination to eliminate Hemeti and the RSF once and for all in the country. International calls for a ceasefire at this point, with the RSF rapidly collapsing outside Khartoum, will almost certainly fall on deaf ears. That al-Burhan and Hemeti are equated in such calls will only intensify SAF efforts to push for full victory
Fighting in Khartoum remains intense, with violence both massive and indiscriminate on the part of both military forces. It remains concentrated in the area near army headquarters and Khartoum airport. (Details provided by a number of news outlets.)
A Broad Assessment of the Geography of Fighting and Control in Sudan
Eric Reeves, 10:30am EDT, April 18, 2023 (based on a wide range of sources; more confirmation needed. Revisions, additions, and corrections will be offered as needed)
The general situation in Darfur seems quite favorable to the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF). In particular, El Fasher is now almost completely under the control of the SAF; the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) commander in the area has been badly wounded, and most RSF militiamen have fled north, toward Kutum with the goal of reaching Tine. El Fasher is the site of the major SAF military installation in Darfur, with an important military air strip from which attacks on RSF can now be launched.
Child killed in the violence that wracked El Fasher
Central Darfur is completely under the control of the SAF, with no significant RSF presence.
In South Darfur, the battle for Nyala continues, but the SAF is making steady gains and will prevail in the relatively near future. The main military command center has been almost completely controlled.
Damage to al-Shatta market in Nyala; RSF responsible
In West Darfur the situation is more unclear, and El Geneina is the site of continued fighting and intel is hard to come by. Notably, once fighting began on Saturday, Chadian forces deployed to the Darfur-Chad border to interdict RSF forces attempting to flee into Chad. The Chadian government does not want an RSF presence in the country, threating to regroup.
Elsewhere in Sudan
The situation in the Kordofans and Blue Nile appears to be stable, with the SAF in control of all major towns, including Kadugli.
Port Sudan is now fully under the control of the SAF.
In Khartoum, the situation remains chaotic, with indiscriminate violence—amounting to war crimes—continuing unabated. Any cease-fire is unlikely to hold, as al-Burhan and the SAF are by all accounts prevailing, if only gradually, in Khartoum itself. RSF re-supply routes have been severed and a great many RSF combatants have either surrendered or fled. Al-Burhan intends to end the threat he sees posed by the RSF once and for all.
There were, however, perhaps 20,000 RSF militiamen who were in, or recently deployed to, Khartoum. They have the capacity, at least until they exhaust supplies, to continue to create havoc. SAF aircraft—both fixed-wing and helicopter gunships—are attacking RSF strongholds and any remaining re-supply routes.
RSF thugs beating a defenseless woman in Khartoum
Most people believe that RSF commander Hemeti and his brother remain in Khartoum; they are the focus of an intense manhunt. The assassination of General al-Burhan was to have been the inauguration of this campaign for power by Hemeti and the RSF; this failing, the conflict turned immediately into a war of uncontrolled violence and desperate actions, with civilians the primary victims of the violence.
The SAF has been guilty of indiscriminate use of artillery, military aircraft—and its ground forces have been equally indiscriminate. Many of the actions as reported amount to war crimes.
Both the RSF and SAF have been guilty of atrocities in Khartoum, which in many cases rise to the level of war crimes, per the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court
A victory by the SAF does nothing to ensure that this flagrant disregard of international law will end. Sudan may have rid itself of one brutal tyrant, but this may only consolidate al-Burhan’s power and give him more control of negotiations with civilian parties. Military rule seems almost certain to continue.
The ascendency of SAF General al-Burhan will return military rule in Sudan along with the brutality of the al-Bashir regime
Those who supported Hemeti will no longer have a say or pose a threat, although al-Bashir loyalists and Islamists do continue to pose a threat to stability. Indeed, al-Burhan may find it expedient to recruit the support of both elements of Khartoum’s complex political landscape.
An SAF victory, clearly supported by Egypt, will compel the other regional powers to abandon any support for Hemeti. Russia’s Wagner mercenary force, which has clearly colluded with and supported Hemeti, will find themselves in an extremely difficult position, with their primary goal—continued highly profitable export of gold—put clearly at risk. For all their military prowess, Wagner’s forces in Sudan are no match for a fully committed SAF. The relation of Wagner to Hemeti has proved a grave mistake by the ruthless head of the mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin. It is not at all clear what options remain for Wagner.
Who are the Rapid Support Forces? By far our best account comes from Human Rights Watch: