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Who are the RSF paramilitary group fighting Sudan’s armed forces?

The ongoing conflict in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, can be traced back to a brutal government crackdown in Darfur, west of the capital, 20 years ago. At the time, the Sudanese government resorted to extreme violence in order to suppress a rebellion. However, instead of relying solely on their own military, they outsourced much of the fighting to Arab tribesmen known as Janjaweed, who later became the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The RSF, initially created by the Sudanese army, has played a significant role in various conflicts throughout Sudan. Former President Omar al-Bashir, indicted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, many of which were committed by the Janjaweed RSF, has consistently denied these allegations. Nonetheless, the RSF has been implicated in the killing of protesters in Khartoum in 2019.

The situation in Sudan has further deteriorated as the RSF, now led by General Hemeti, acts against the very military that created it. RSF forces are responsible for the roadblocks and violence that Sudanese citizens and foreigners alike are trying to flee. Analysts point out that the RSF’s tactics have not changed over the years; they have merely become formalised and expanded under Hemeti’s leadership.

The RSF has also been involved in providing mercenary fighters for factions in Libya and Yemen, thereby gaining the support of powerful foreign backers such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia. These countries also have vested economic interests in Sudan. Meanwhile, General al-Burhan, who leads the Sudanese military, is backed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

The West is attempting to reconcile the two generals, as a ceasefire is desperately needed to bring an end to the conflict. However, any prospects of democracy in Sudan remain distant. Two decades ago, the conflict in Darfur displaced countless people who were already poor and marginalized. Today, the violence has spread to the capital, forcing the middle class and foreigners to flee.

The crux of the issue lies in the power struggle between Generals Hemeti and al-Burhan, neither of whom have the support of the Sudanese people. As the conflict continues to escalate, it becomes increasingly important for the international community to take action in order to prevent further bloodshed and to foster a lasting peace that can pave the way for a democratic Sudan.

This summary is based on Linsey Hilsum’s Channel 4 News report. See it here.