Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

How Sudan became a Saudi-UAE proxy war

By Talal Mohammad

12 Jul 2023 · 7 min read

informed Summary

  1. The ongoing conflict in Sudan has taken on a regional dimension due to the country's strategic location and natural resources, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE backing different generals.

​​Fighting in Sudan, now in its third month, shows no signs of abating. The country’s two rival generals have flouted multiple cease-fires as they vie for control. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who first gained power after the 2019 ousting of longtime Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir and later cemented his position in a 2021 coup, is fighting Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemeti, who heads the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Under Bashir, Hemeti led the RSF (formerly known as the janjaweed) alongside Burhan’s army in Darfur. After a so-called Sovereign Council was formed following the 2021 coup, Hemeti stepped in as Burhan’s deputy. However, their relationship became turbulent as both generals squabbled over power and how to merge the RSF into the Sudanese military. The clashes—which began on April 15—have so far resulted in hefty humanitarian costs, with more than 3,000 people dead and some 2.1 million internally displaced.

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