The African Union’s Peace and Security Council strongly rejects any external interference that could complicate the unrest in Sudan following the killing of at least 56 civilians.
No fewer than 56 persons have been killed in the war between the army and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group, an independent doctors group reports.
Sudan woke up to heavy clashes between the army and a powerful paramilitary force known as the Rapid Support Forces on Saturday.
The two rivals have long competed for relevance and power, but an internationally backed political process launched last year exacerbated tensions between them, analysts and activists said.
Civilians in the capital of Khartoum reported seeing armoured vehicles from both forces roaming the streets, while hearing heavy gunfire in multiple urban quarters.
The RSF said it has taken control of the presidential palace and Khartoum International Airport, which could not be confirmed.
The group also said it has seized Merowe Airport, which houses Sudanese and Egyptian fighter planes. Sudan’s army chief General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan denied the RSF’s claims.
The Sudanese Doctors Union said dozens of soldiers have suffered casualties and at least 595 people have been wounded across the country.
The Pan-African body’s Peace and Security Council held an emergency meeting on Sunday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa to discuss the ongoing unrest in Sudan.
The AU called on “the countries of the region and other stakeholders to support ongoing efforts to return the country to the transition process towards a constitutional order.”
Meanwhile the Sudanese army said it has approved a proposal from the United Nations to open a safe passage for urgent humanitarian cases for three hours every day starting from 16:00 local time (1400 GMT) on Sunday.
In a statement, the army confirmed however that it will reserve the right to react if “the rebellious militia commits any violations”.
Earlier the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) said it had temporarily halted all operations in Sudan after three of its employees were killed in clashes between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) a day earlier.
According to a security analyst, the situation in Sudan is deteriorating rapidly and the country could be on the brink of civil war.
“I think we are very close to a situation of a full-scale civil war,” Matt Bryden, a strategic advisor at Sahan Research – a think tank focusing on politics and security in the Horn of Africa, told Al Jazeera.
“There really doesn’t seem to be any indication that there is an option of negotiation. Both sides are seeking total victory. And I don’t think that is a surprise for anyone who’s been following the tensions in the build up to this conflict,” he added.
Al-Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan – reporting from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum – said both sides in the conflict seem uninterested in holding talks to end the fighting.
“It doesn’t look like both sides are ready to sit down and talk to each other. We can see fighter jets hovering in the skies. We can hear airstrikes in various parts of the capital, Khartoum,” Morgan said.
“We can see smoke rising from various locations in the city. We can also hear anti-aircraft missiles and artillery been fired from the city of Omdurman,” she added.
“It looks like despite the calls from the international community to end the fighting no side is listening. Both sides seem determined to end the other,” Morgan said.
Source of tensions
The RSF evolved from Arab armed groups that have been accused of carrying out massacres in Darfur in the early 2000s, according to global rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
It was created in 2013 by former President Omar al-Bashir, who placed the group directly under his command and tasked it with protecting his rule from top army generals and his feared intelligence service.
The plan did not work. In April 2019, both the army and RSF turned against al-Bashir following months of pro-democracy protests. The RSF continued to operate independently from the army, while the two forces competed for state assets, foreign patrons, legitimacy and recruits.
Even after the two forces overthrew Sudan’s civilian administration in October 2021, experts and activists warned that the interests of both forces would diverge in the medium to long term.
“Both the army and RSF had a marriage of convenience, but they continued to ignore the issue of RSF integration into the army,” Hamid Murtada, a Sudanese analyst and advocate of the street pro-democracy movement, told Al Jazeera a day before clashes broke out.
“Despite my reservations of the political process and Framework Agreement, it showed us that the question [of security sector reform] had to be asked and it brought all these tensions to the surface,” he added.