Sudan’s Junta Chief Survived the Coup, But Can He Win the War?
In analysis for Political Violence At A Glance, an IGCC-supported blog dedicated to political violence and its alternatives, Austin S. Matthews, assistant professor at East Carolina University, analyzes the Sudan crisis, where a failed coup resulted in a power struggle between the head of the military junta and the head of the Rapid Support Forces, and a deadly civil war.
Sudan continues to suffer from a crisis created by its own military elite. A failed coup in April has culminated in a war between the Sudanese army and a violent paramilitary force with roots in the Darfur Genocide. How did Sudan’s military dictator, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan survive the coup by his former deputy? Why did the failed coup transform into a civil war? How does the conflict bode for the survival of al-Burhan? And what should the international community prepare for as the conflict worsens?
On 15 April 2023, the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of Sudan led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo initiated an effort to unseat General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of Sudan’s military junta, who himself had led coups in 2019 and 2021. Dagalo and al-Burhan had been in a power struggle for some time over security sector reform, eventually coming this a violent point. The RSF was not unchallenged, as Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) troops loyal to al-Burhan held off the RSF advance, denying the paramilitaries a swift victory.
A lot of things went right for General Dagalo on 15 April. The state broadcast center was captured, a key objective for helping coup plotters to coordinate their actions. Bridges were closed, roads blockaded, the airport was shut down, and the presidential palace assaulted. However, RSF forces failed to capture Gen. al-Burhan himself, creating a significant hurdle in forcing the regime’s swift surrender. With al-Burhan able to coordinate army forces, the coup resulted in an unusual stand-still.