(This paper was produced in partnership with Asbab.)
The ongoing conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sudan continues to escalate, with peace talks faltering and a growing risk of foreign involvement. This position paper explores four possible outcomes:
- Scenario 1: Protracted Civil War
- Scenario 2: Emergence of General Burhan as a Strongman
- Scenario 3: Victory of Hemedti and his Rapid Support Forces (RSF)
- Scenario 4: Fragmentation of Sudan
Each scenario is analyzed in detail, considering the driving factors, uncertainties, and implications associated with the respective outcomes. These scenarios highlight the complex dynamics and challenges of the conflict.
The ongoing conflict in Sudan between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has escalated, spreading beyond Khartoum into the western and eastern regions of the country. Despite multiple ceasefire attempts, the hostilities continue unabated, with both sides using these periods to regroup, rearm, and launch subsequent offensives. The conflict now presents a significant risk of attracting foreign fighters and both state- and non-state actors who may seek to exploit the situation and the resulting security and political vacuum.
As the conflict enters its third month, the situation in Sudan remains dire, with no signs of de-escalation or a peaceful resolution in sight. The epicenter of the conflict is Khartoum, where the RSF, backed by militias, has gained control over strategic locations. But violence has spread to other regions, particularly in Darfur and South Kordofan. The conflict has resulted in extensive infrastructure damage and civilian casualties, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.
The intervention of external actors is another critical aspect of the Sudan conflict. These actors, driven by their own interests, may directly or indirectly support one of the warring factions. Their involvement exacerbates the violence, prolongs the conflict, and complicates efforts for a peaceful resolution. Regional rivalries, resource competition, and geopolitical considerations play a significant role in shaping external intervention. The presence of valuable resources in Sudan, such as oil and minerals, adds to the appeal for external actors seeking to exploit these resources.
Amidst the conflict, attempts at ceasefire and mediation have proven ineffective. Contradictory initiatives and the power struggle between SAF and RSF leaders create challenges for achieving a negotiated solution. Both factions have a strong belief in military triumph as a pathway to power, making a sustainable resolution unlikely in the immediate future. The conflict is transitioning into a protracted war of attrition, with SAF relying on air power and the RSF demonstrating proficiency in guerrilla and counterinsurgency operations.
Given this context, a comprehensive scenario analysis is necessary to assess the potential trajectories and implications of the Sudan conflict. This scenario analysis focuses on the conflict in Sudan within the timeframe of 2023-2025. Each scenario presents its own set of driving factors, uncertainties, and implications for Sudan and the region. By examining these scenarios in detail, we can gain insights into the potential outcomes and challenges facing Sudan as it grapples with the ongoing conflict and the involvement of external actors.
Scenario 1: Protracted Civil War
In this scenario, Sudan becomes embroiled in a protracted civil war characterized by prolonged and intense fighting between General Abdul Fattah Al Burhan’s Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Mohamed Hamdan Daglo’s (“Hemedti”) Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution through ceasefires and negotiations prove ineffective, leading to a relentless escalation of hostilities.
The conflict expands beyond the borders of Khartoum, engulfing regions such as Darfur, South Kordofan, and Eastern Sudan. Both the SAF and RSF utilize periods of ceasefire to regroup, rearm, and plan subsequent offensives. Urban combat within Khartoum wreaks havoc on infrastructure and results in a devastating toll on civilian lives. In their quest for dominance, RSF-backed militias strategically seize control of key locations, disrupting SAF supply lines and isolating SAF-controlled areas. The conflict spills over into other regions, igniting fierce clashes between the SAF and rebel factions in Darfur and South Kordofan. As the violence escalates, the humanitarian crisis worsens, with a surge in forced displacements, widespread food insecurity, and limited access to vital services.
The complexity of the conflict draws the attention of external actors who become directly or indirectly involved by providing support or resources to the warring factions. This external intervention intensifies the fighting and prolongs the suffering of the Sudanese people. The protracted civil war has profound implications for Sudan’s stability and regional security. Ethnic tensions are heightened, exacerbating social divisions and fracturing the fabric of Sudanese society. The ongoing violence and displacement strain the country’s resources and infrastructure, hindering economic development and perpetuating a cycle of poverty. Regionally, the conflict poses a significant threat to stability, as it has the potential to spill over into neighboring countries, fuel regional rivalries, and create safe havens for militant groups. The international community faces the challenge of addressing the humanitarian crisis and preventing further escalation while also considering the long-term political and economic implications of Sudan’s protracted civil war.