Why do Sudan’s ceasefires continue to fail?

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By Webdesk

The warring generals have shown little interest in a prolonged ceasefire, but have failed to secure a quick victory.

The latest ceasefire agreed by Sudan’s warring factions, brokered by South Sudan, appears to have deteriorated almost immediately, as have all previous ceasefires to date since fighting in the country began last month.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the country’s army chief and de facto leader, and Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo, who heads the paramilitary Rapid Response Forces (RSF), continue fighting as the conflict nears the end of its third week.

On Wednesday night, al-Burhan’s envoy Dafallah Alhaj told Al Jazeera that the agreement was only a ceasefire, “not mediation regarding the resolution of the conflict”. progress.

Will the ceasefire that was due to take effect on Thursday have any success? And why have previous ceasefires failed?

What happened during previous ceasefires?

  • Ceasefires have been declared, lasting hours to days, but the reality is that the fighting has continued at varying levels of intensity. Some Sudanese even joke that the explosions they hear are the “sound of the ceasefire”.
  • Fighting has been particularly fierce around major government and military centers in the capital as the two sides try to take control of areas and institutions that will give them legitimacy. But even hospitals have been affected.
  • The death toll is now over 500 – although it could be higher as most hospitals are unable to function fully.
A man walks as smoke rises over buildings after aerial bombings in Khartoum North, Sudan, May 1, 2023.
Smoke rises after aerial bombing, during clashes between the RSF and the army in Khartoum North, May 1, 2023 [Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]

Can one side beat the other?

  • Both sides have advantages and so far neither general has shown signs of retreat, but neither has been able to weaken the other side enough to secure victory.
  • The military has mainly tried to exploit its apparently superior firepower – and in particular its ability to hit the RSF from the air.
  • The RSF has entrenched itself in residential areas to make airstrikes less effective. It has also been accused of taking homes and markets to use as a base.
  • These tactics force the army to choose between destroying large parts of Khartoum in an attempt to hit the RSF or a slower approach.
  • Al-Burhan enjoys the status of representative of the military, a full-fledged state institution.
  • But the RSF seems more battle-hardened, having fought for the government in the western region of Darfur.
In this image, taken from handout video footage released by the RSF on April 23, 2023, fighters ride in the back of an engineering vehicle in the East Nile district of Khartoum [Rapid Support Forces/AFP]

Can the generals control their troops?

  • Both al-Burhan and Hemedti were long-time allies of former president Omar al-Bashir before joining forces to depose him in 2019, and they may fear a similar fate awaits them if they fail to strengthen their alliances manage.
  • There has been speculation that al-Burhan could be overthrown by his own generals, some of whom have close ties to al-Bashir and Sudan’s political Islamist movement, who may pressure al-Burhan not to back down and negotiate a deal with Hemedti.
  • Hemedti is trying to portray himself as a bulwark against the return of al-Bashir’s supporters to power.
  • The RSF leader also has to keep his own huge force happy, particularly in Darfur, where he made a name for himself fighting separatist groups and local tribes.
Musa Hilal, Sudanese tribal leader
Musa Hilal, Sudanese tribal leader
  • But even there, Hemedti faces a rival: Musa Hilal, a chief of the same tribe. Hilal was replaced by Hemedti as head of the RSF after disagreements with the government. Now Hilal may want to regain his old position, and the military may be open to him doing so.

Can regional or international powers fail to stop the fighting?

  • They have tried, but so far have only succeeded in getting their own citizens out and assisting in evacuations, although some have failed to do even that.

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