Understanding the Armed Conflict in Sudan
Birches Group examines labor market developments garnering significant attention, keeping you well-informed and abreast of the latest news.
The scenario many have long feared in Sudan is unfolding. In cities and towns across the northeast African country, including the capital Khartoum, intense fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has entered its third month.
On 15 April 2023, armed clashes erupted in Khartoum between two main factions of the ruling military regime: the SAF aligned with de facto leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary RSF led by al-Burhan’s former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. Heavy fighting had been concentrated in urban centers but has now spread throughout what was once Africa’s largest country.
A fierce power struggle
The hostilities between al-Burhan and Dagalo, Sudan’s most powerful generals, broke out after weeks of rising tensions. The delicate power arrangement between the former allies since the 2019 ouster of long-term President Omar al-Bashir had broken down. “Now, their battle for supremacy is tearing Sudan apart,” says the BBC.
The conflict has its roots in disagreements over a proposed transition to civilian rule. It comes less than five months after a framework agreement to relaunch the political process to move to a civilian government. The SAF and RSF showed little willingness to adhere to the agreement, disagreeing on power sharing, setting up a civilian government, and integrating the RSF into the military.
Formal talks brokered by the United States and Saudi Arabia in Jeddah remain suspended. And with a succession of failed ceasefires, observers are deeply concerned that the conflict may continue and the situation will deteriorate further.
Devastating consequences for civilians
An African proverb goes, “When the elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled.”
“The scale and speed of what is unfolding in Sudan is unprecedented,” says the United States Agency for International Development. According to reports from United Nations agencies, nearly 1.9 million people have been displaced since mid-April and have fled to safer locations inside and outside Sudan. But the most vulnerable remain stranded due to ongoing fighting, lack of financial means, or trying to keep their property, assets, and livelihoods.
Sudanese lack basic supplies like food, water, and medicine. The physical danger makes accessing essential goods, commodities, and services difficult.
After nine weeks of escalated violence, more than half of Sudan’s population needs humanitarian aid—a 57% increase from the number at the beginning of 2023. But humanitarian organizations have been severely restricted due to high insecurity and infrastructure damage. Aid workers and facilities have also been targeted and attacked, with incidents of looting and supply chain disruptions.
A shock to the Sudanese economy
Sudan’s deepening humanitarian crisis is set against multiple challenges, including economic struggles, natural disasters, and protracted refugee situations. Before the armed conflict began, 65% of the population lived below the poverty line. Decades of war, sanctions, and political instability have also added to the troubled nation’s economic hardships.
The economic fabric of Sudan has experienced a severe shock. Critical infrastructure has been destroyed, pushing health and financial systems to near collapse. Stores, markets, and banks have halted business, fearing attacks. As a result, food prices are rising, and essentials are out of reach for many. Transportation costs to leave conflict-affected areas have likewise increased exponentially.
A fight to the end
The Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS) reports that fighting is likely to continue soon. Additionally, analysts fear that the conflict risks descending into a sustained civil war. Kholood Khair, a political analyst in Khartoum, told The Guardian, “People in Sudan want to see democracy but don’t believe that either of these actors is going to bring it. It may well be a fight to the end, and neither will come out unscathed.”
Action on Armed Violence adds that the fighting could further fragment the country and worsen political turbulence. Sudan is riddled with other armed groups and militias that could add to the violence, turning a two-sided conflict into a more complex and chaotic situation.
David Miliband, President and Chief Executive Officer of the International Rescue Committee, said, “The worst-case scenario—a complex and protracted conflict—would have catastrophic and destabilizing implications for the region.”
The power struggle in Sudan will have severe repercussions on the vast and strategic country’s transition to democracy, as well as far-reaching implications for regional stability.
How Birches Group can help
Severe social unrest or conflict causes people to be displaced, as we now see in Sudan. The outbreak of violence that has been happening over the last few months has forced thousands to move elsewhere in the country or cross over to neighboring countries for safety.
When faced with social uncertainty and unrest, organizations must apply a response different from how they would typically respond to economic volatility. Your organization must have a Special Measures Policy. This policy should include your triggers and immediate responses to cushion the effects of civil unrest on your staff as you assess the movement of the labor market.
We can help your organization develop a Special Measures Policy that aligns with your objectives and fits local conditions.
Stay informed with our June Market Monitor reports.
Birches Group also offers valuable resources like the Market Monitor report. Published in English, Spanish, and French every two weeks, each edition examines the labor market conditions of over 150 countries for signs of potential volatility.
Subscribe now to access the 1 and 15 June editions of the Market Monitor, where we focus on the conflict in Sudan and the strategies you can consider as you begin developing your Special Measures Policy.
- 1 July Market Monitor