Sudan's Capital Rocked by Violence: US Officials and Travelers Urged to Shelter in Place

Amidst the recent clashes between Sudan's army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), gunfire and explosions have been reported in Khartoum, the nation's capital. The RSF claimed on Saturday that it had seized control of the presidential palace and the city's airport, leading US Embassy staff and American citizens to be advised to shelter in place.

The disagreement between the army and RSF groups began over how the RSF should be integrated into the military, which is a key condition of an unsigned transition deal for Sudan. However, the rivalry between the two dates back to the rule of former president Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted in 2019. During al-Bashir's time in office, the paramilitary force, led by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, grew out of former militias known as the Janjaweed, which were responsible for a brutal crackdown in Sudan's Darfur region during decades of conflict there.

Although the army and RSF together carried out a coup in October 2021, which disrupted Sudan's transition to democracy, friction between the two groups became increasingly visible in recent months, with conflicting public statements and heavy military presence in Khartoum, as well as parallel foreign trips by military and RSF leaders.

RSF leaders claimed on Saturday that they had taken control of both the airport and the presidential palace. The violent confrontation between the army and RSF groups has escalated threats of a civil war for control of Sudan. US Ambassador to Sudan, John Godfrey, who recently arrived in Khartoum, reported that he and his team are sheltering in place with other Sudanese citizens throughout the capital.

The 2021 coup removed a Western-backed, power-sharing administration and dashed Sudanese aspirations for democratic rule after three decades of autocracy and repression under al-Bashir. However, the recent violence between the army and RSF has jeopardized Sudan's transition to democracy and led to the displacement and suffering of its citizens.

As tensions within the military component escalate to direct fighting, there is an urgent call for senior military leaders to stop the violence. It is imperative that Sudan's leadership engages in dialogue and finds a peaceful resolution to the conflict, so that the nation can begin the long and arduous journey towards democracy and stability.

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