top of page

Intel Brief: Escalating Conflict in Sudan raises Risk of Genocide and Regional Instability

Date: 13/06/2024

Where: Sudan

Who’s involved: Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF), regional and international actors

What happened?

  • More than a year after fighting broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on April 15, 2023, the brutal civil war in Sudan is escalating. The conflict is exacerbating one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. According to the UN, the conflict already resulted in more than 15,000 confirmed casualties and 10 million people displaced, both internally and in neighboring countries. The intensity of the war and the seizure of crucial aid hubs by both warring factions are hampering the distribution of aid to civilians. The UN estimates that at least 25 million people are currently in urgent need of aid in Sudan.

  • At first, fighting erupted in the capital Khartoum and its outskirts and then spread across the country, mainly to the provinces of North and West Kordofan and Western Darfur region. In recent weeks, SAF and RSF fighting has escalated in the area of the city of Al-Fashir (or El Fasher), the capital of North Darfur State. In early May 2024, Al-Fashir city, controlled by the SAF and a refuge for more than 1 million displaced people, was besieged and repeatedly attacked by RSF. On June 10, South Hospital, the main hospital of Al-Fashir and the only medical facility capable of handling mass casualty events, was attacked by RSF and taken out of service. Between May 25 and June 3, the hospital had been attacked three times.

  • Since mid-April 2024, several attacks targeting non-Arab villages and communities by RSF and its allied Arab militias have been reported in North Darfur. The rise of ethnically motivated violence and intercommunal conflict in the region is reminiscent of the ethnic cleansing campaign of the Darfur War (2003-2020), which claimed nearly 400.000 victims. On May 21, the UN  warned that the deteriorating situation in North Darfur and in Sudan, exhibits all the signs of genocide and call for immediate international action to prevent further atrocities. Concerning levels of sexual and gender-based violence are also reported. 

  • Beyond Darfur, hostilities between the warring parties are escalating in other regions. On June 5, 2024, a massacre by the RSF was reported in the village of Wad Al-Noura in Gezira State, central Sudan. Over 150 people were killed in the attacks. 

  • Sudanese political and civil groups are mobilizing to promote dialogue. On May 8, the SAF-aligned political coalition “Coordination of National Forces,” which includes 48 political parties and civil society organizations, signed a political charter in Cairo proposing a three-year transitional government. Yet, Sudan's de facto governor, Gen. al-Burhan, repeatedly rejected any process that did not secure the RSF's surrender. 

  • International efforts to facilitate an end to the conflict in Sudan have not been successful. In late May 2024, the Sudanese government rejected the US request to resume negotiations with the RSF. 

  • Moreover, concerns about violence spillover, growing regional instability, and increasing foreign interference in the conflict are rising. In recent weeks, it was reported that Sudan and Russia are close to signing a 25-years military cooperation and port deal. Allegedly, the Sudanese army will grant Moscow a naval base in the Red Sea in exchange for military support and the cessation of the Wagner group's supply of the RSF. It has been reported that the Wagner group recently supplied missiles to the paramilitary group. 


  • The two warring parties of the conflict, the SAF and the RSF militia, were previously allies, having joined forces in 2019 to overthrow three-decade dictator Omar al-Bashir. SAF leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan replaced him as the de facto head of state. In 2021, the RSF, led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, backed al-Burhan in the coup to topple Sudan's interim government. However, tensions started to escalate in February 2023 over the integration of the RSF into the Sudanese army and culminated on April 15, 2023, initiating the conflict. 

  • The ongoing conflict has deep roots. Sudan has experienced prolonged instability and violence in the past decades. In 2011, following two civil wars between the central government and southern regions, South Sudan gained independence, while from 2003 to 2020 a protracted conflict, marked by ethnic-motivated violence, war crimes and state-sponsored violence, plagued the state of Darfur. The Darfur conflict began as a result of uprisings by non-Arab tribes, suppressed by al-Bashir with the support of the Janjaweed, a collection of Arab militias. In 2013, the Janjaweed were reorganized as Rapid Support Forces (RSF), under the command of Hemedti. Throughout the conflict, the RSF perpetrated atrocities against civilians and were accused of ethnic cleansing against the Masalit, Fur, and Zaghawa communities. 

  • The displacement crisis is also fuelling the risk of regional instability. Approximately 2 million displaced Sudanese have been seeking refuge in neighboring countries, including Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan, which are struggling to handle the influx of refugees on top of their already volatile political and economic situations. According to the UN, Sudan's neighboring countries need assistance to cope with the flow of refugees. Chad, currently hosting some 900,000 Sudanese refugees, closed its border in April 2023. Although Sudan's border with Egypt remains open, Egypt is facing difficulties due to domestic and regional tensions. Moreover, concerns are growing over the regional security implications of the conflict in Sudan and neighboring countries fear the risk of conflict spillover and militia infiltration. 

  • The interference of external actors and foreign support for both sides is another critical issue. Since July 2023, there has been evidence of a closer alignment and military support between SAF leader al-Burhan's and Iran. Despite al-Burhan's denial of granting Iranian warships access to Port Sudan, this alliance could have implications for Iran's power over the Red Sea. Iranian support for al-Burhan could also be a response to the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) alleged military support for the RSF. In early May, tensions flared between the Sudanese government and Saudi Arabia over alleged Saudi support and military training to the RSF. Also, the Wagner Groups military support to RSF has been confirmed in recent months. Yet, the latest negotiations between the Sudanese government and Moscow regarding the concession of a naval base suggest Russia’s switch of sides in favor of the SAF.

  • Despite efforts by the international community, including at least sixteen US-Saudi-led failed ceasefires and peace process attempts by regional actors such as the African Union, the mitigation and resolution of the conflict is far from being achieved. 


Despite several peace efforts and attempts of ceasefire by Sudanese political and civil groups and the international community, the conflict between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary RSF militia is not easing. More than a year into the fighting, Sudan is experiencing the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with alarming levels of food insecurity and indicators of ethnic cleansing and genocide. The escalation of violence in recent weeks is worsening an already highly volatile situation, and the risk of regional destabilization is escalating. Currently, the two warring factions are not open to any negotiation, and the interference and interests of foreign actors make finding common ground for dialogue even more unlikely. Moreover, despite the dramatic toll of the conflict, the crisis in Sudan is going somewhat unnoticed by the international community, which is committed to easing the ongoing Israeli-Hamas and Russian-Ukrainian conflicts. Without intervention from the international community and more humanitarian aid, the situation in Sudan is expected to worsen rapidly. The escalation of violence in North Darfur and Al-Fashir city is likely to worsen in the coming weeks. Should the town fall to the RSF paramilitaries, the army will lose the sole town left under its control in the region.

13062024 Sudan Conflict Update
Download PDF • 484KB

41 views0 comments


bottom of page