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Intel Brief: Conflict in Sudan Update


Date: 12/02/2024

Sudan map in region

Who’s involved:

  • Sudanese Army, Rapid Support Forces, Wagner groups, United Nations, regional actors: South Sudan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Chad

What happened?

  • From mid-April 2023 fighting started between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) marking the start of the war in Sudan. At the moment, it is the fastest unfolding crisis in the world with more than a million people having fled to the Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Sudan.

  • In November 2023, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that both the SAF and RSF violated international humanitarian law, amongst others by attacking hospitals, schools, and other essential civilian infrastructure.

  • In December 2023, the United States officially concluded that the conflicting factions in Sudan perpetrate war crimes, with the RSF and its allied militias being responsible for crimes against humanity and acts of ethnic cleansing

  • On 01/12/2023, the United Nations Security Council and the Sudan government decided to terminate the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), which was initiated on 3 June 2020 to assist Sudan in its political transition to democratic rule. They agreed on a withdrawal period of 3 months, slated to end on 29 February 2024.

  • On 20/01/2024, a United Arab Emirates (UAE) official reiterated denials that the country was involved in providing military assistance to any of Sudan's government rival parties. The UAE emphasized that it does not supply weapons and ammunition, and maintains a neutral stance in the ongoing conflict. This has been in response to both the accusation by a top Sudanese general in November stating that the UAE backed RSF’s military operations, and similar accusations earlier on by independent U.N. sanctions monitors mentioning the UAE provided the support via Amdjarass in northern Chad.

  • On 22/01/2024, the European Council adopted sanctions against six entities involved in the war in Sudan, stating that they were responsible for "supporting activities undermining the stability and political transition of Sudan". Among those listed are two companies involved in the manufacture of weapons and vehicles for the SAF.

  • On 30/01/2024, the Kyiv Post reported on the deployment of three Ukrainian drone strikes in recent weeks, likely by the Ukrainian special forces, against the Wagner Group and other Russian forces, and their so-called ‘local terrorist partners’ in Sudan. 

  • On 01/02/2024, in the state of North Darfur, tensions flared up as confrontations resumed between the SAF and the RSF within Al Fasher town, the state’s capital. A handful of people have been killed and approximately 20 civilians were injured. 

  • On 06/02/2024, clashes between local factions in western South Sudan resulted in the death of at least 26 people. In the past week, over 150 casualties have been reported in distinct conflicts involving armed youths from Warrap State confronting rivals from the neighboring Lakes and Western Bar El Ghazal states, and Abyei, an administrative oil-rich area jointly run by South Sudan and Sudan, both of whom have made claims to it. The clashes deriving from disputes over control of land and natural resources between groups in South Sudan and Sudan have resulted in several killings, often including peacekeepers, thereby endangering peace efforts and humanitarian assistance.

  • On 08/02/2024, United Nations chief António Guterres called upon the global community to mobilize and take all necessary measures to halt the conflict in Sudan. The day before, the United Nations appealed for $4.1 billion in international support to provide humanitarian aid. At the same time, Sudan’s main telecom networks got deactivated, most likely by the RSF, limiting civilians to purchase food and essential items, as many of them rely on electronic wallets for transactions.

  • On 11/02/2024, the military leader of the SAF, al-Burhan, declined to authorize the delivery of humanitarian aid to territories under RSF’s control. On the same day, RSF leader Hemetti allegedly announced that his troops are set to resolve the conflict through military means in the upcoming days.


  • The conflict between the SAF and the RSF in Sudan has now entered its tenth month, sparking a humanitarian collapse and leaving millions of people in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. The fighting involves heavy weaponry, causing numerous civilian deaths and the destruction of civilian properties and critical infrastructure. Both parties in the conflict have a history of violating international humanitarian and human rights law, and have been accused by the ICC of committing war crimes, including targeting the non-Arab ethnic community of the Maselit by the RSF party. 

  • Humanitarian assistance has been provided by some humanitarian organizations, but it has been difficult to deliver it, due to various challenges such as poor network and phone connectivity, insecurity, bureaucratic impediments, fuel shortages, looting of humanitarian supplies, and under-funded humanitarian efforts. Humanitarian need is now at a record high, with millions of people lacking access to food, water, electricity, shelter, education and healthcare. Moreover, the breakout of the Israel and Hamas war in the Gaza Strip has caused a drastic drop-off in donors and non-governmental organizations. Among the Western countries, the U.S. has been taking the lead in trying to mediate between the warring parties, but negotiations have reportedly been deadlocked.

  • The UAE and Saudi Arabia have sought to bolster their influence in the Red Sea region in Africa. The two states initially supported President Al Bashir, but they are now backing the RSF by providing material. 

  • Egypt has backed Sudan’s military SAF to maintain stability in Khartoum and blamed the fight on the RSF in the Arab League. Despite this, Cairo could emerge as a possible mediator, as the country shares an extensive border with northern Sudan. 

  • Russia plays an important role in the dispute too, due to its interest in Port Sudan as a naval base for its strategic waterway in the Red Sea connecting Europe to Asia and East Asia. Moreover, Port Sudan is important because it is a terminal for a regional oil pipeline and a hub that can serve landlocked neighbors. Russia has been negotiating a deal with Sudan’s ruling military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to provide Sudan with weapons in exchange for a Red Sea Navy base. 

  • The Wagner group, a Russian mercenary force founded by Yevgeny Prighozin, plays an important role too. There is evidence that the group exploited Sudan’s natural resources, and smuggled gold via a network of military airports. Numerous reports said the RSF is supported by the Wagner group, reconstituted from Moscow after the death of its leader Prigozhin. 

  • Meanwhile, Ukrainian special forces have been reportedly operating in Sudan in support of the country’s army against Russian Wagner mercenaries aligned with the RSF. The Ukrainian forces seem to be operating in Sudan as part of an emerging campaign to strike at Russian interests, but far from the Ukrainian war’s frontlines.  Indeed, a video recently released seems to confirm Ukraine and Russia have taken their way to Africa. 

  • On 05/02/2024 the Iranian and Sudanese officials met and expressed the mutual will to engage in stronger political, economic and cultural cooperation, and revive relations between the two countries, opening a new chapter after a 7-year hiatus. Iran will supply the SAF with drones, while Iran will have access to Sudan Port, gaining an important commercial corridor in the Red Sea, with proximity to Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Israel. 

  • The African Union has recently named a team to work on a peaceful end to Sudan’s civil war, with the mandate to ensure an all-inclusive process towards the restoration of peace, constitutional order and stability. Prolonged instability in Sudan could create problems for the management of the Nile’s resources, since Khartoum is where the White and Blue Nile merge. Port Sudan is the main international trade gateway for a regional oil pipeline and a hub for landlocked neighbors. So, continued political and economic instability could negatively affect trade flows through the Suez canal, affecting most African countries, and forcing them to search for alternative routes which may be more expensive. In addition, many air carriers transit through Sudanese airspace to Mecca, which is now closed due to the Israeli-Palestinian war, forcing carriers from other parts of Africa to search for other routes.


The conflict is likely to protract and the Sudanese humanitarian crisis will worsen. Given the already high rates of poverty, this conflict has an impact on an array of social and economic rights, including access to basic health care and price hikes. Millions are homeless, and half the country is facing famine. If the atrocities continue, the situation may amount to genocide. Moreover, prolonged instability in Sudan could create problems for the management of the Nile’s resources and negatively affect trade flows through the Suez canal. Peace in Sudan is critical for the economic and social developments in South Sudan and the region but the conflict involves multiple international actors which support opposite factions, making it hard to find a common ground between the warring parties.


20240212 Sudan
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