On Saturday, residents of central Khartoum in Sudan were shaken by the sound of gunfire as clashes erupted between army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group.

On Thursday, the RSF – commanded by Sudan’s deputy leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo – deployed forces near a military base in the northern town of Merowe. Sudan’s leader, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has said he’s willing to talk to his second-in-command and resolve the dispute over who will lead a unified army in a proposed civilian government.

Western powers and regional leaders have urged the two sides to de-escalate and return to talks aimed at returning the country to civilian rule.

Sudan, once the largest and one of the most geographically diverse states in Africa, split into two countries in July 2011 after the people of the south voted for independence.

The government of Sudan gave its blessing to an independent South Sudan, where the mainly Christian and Animist people had for decades been struggling against rule by the Arab Muslim north.

However, various outstanding issues – especially the question of shared oil revenues and border demarcation – have continued to create tensions between the two successor states.

Sudan has long been beset by conflict. Two rounds of north-south civil war cost the lives of 1.5 million people, and a continuing conflict in the western region of Darfur has driven two million people from their homes and killed more than 200,000.

Generals have been running the north-east African country of Sudan through what is called the Sovereign Council since a coup in October 2021.

The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) is under the command of the council’s vice-president, Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. The army, meanwhile, is led by Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who is the head of the Sovereign Council.

A proposed move to a civilian-led government has floundered on a timetable to integrate the RSF into the national army.

The RSF wanted to delay the move for 10 years, but the army said it should happen in two.

The dispute centres around a proposed transition to civilian rule.

Reuters is reporting that gunfire has been heard close to the headquarters of the army in the centre of the city while the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) says it has taken control of the airport.

Earlier, the RSF said that one of its camps in the south of Khartoum had been attacked.

For its part, the army has said that RSF fighters are trying to seize the military headquarters.

Fighting has also been reported in the northern city of Merowe.


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