Armed conflict broke out on April 15 between rival factions in the Sudanese military following disagreements between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the military junta which controls the nation.
The conflict began with attacks upon government facilities by the RSF led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo who has links to the notorious Janjaweed militias associated with the Darfur conflict.
At the same time, Abdel Fattah Burhan, Sudan’s de facto head of state and commander of its armed forces, took control of the presidential palace, the international airport and media outlets.
It is estimated that 420 people have already been killed, with almost 4,000 wounded since the beginning of the conflict.
Sudan is not new to military conflict. Since gaining independence in 1956, the Sudanese have witnessed over a dozen military coups and have rarely experienced extended periods of peace since World War II.
The First Sudanese Civil War occurred from 1955 to 1972 and was followed 11 years later by a second civil war from 1983 to 2005. It is estimated that more than 1.5 million people died as a result of these two wars.
The current conflict comes just two years after both sides partnered to orchestrate a military coup of the country, removing longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir whose government provided safe haven for Osama bin Laden and other militant terrorists in the 1990s.
The nation became further isolated from the international community due to its relationship with the Janjaweed in Darfur, resulting in The International Criminal Court charging al-Bashir with genocide.
The original intention, following the coup of Bashir, was to transition Sudan, finally, into a democratic republic, but attempts have been derailed by social discontent and significant inflation related to the country’s mounting debt.
All of this sees a conflicted nation primed for an extended civil war and impending economic collapse. The fear is that this conflict will continue to spiral, plunging the nation into something similar to what we have seen in Libya and Syria.
There is more going on here than rival factions fighting over control. The two major powers in the region have been at odds for decades.
Currently, there is great disagreement over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam hydroelectric project, which sits on the Blue Nile just 28 miles from the Sudanese border. The project potentially will impact the Nile River, which flows through Sudan to Egypt’s 100 million citizens. The impact upon Egypt and Sudan is not yet known.
Egypt has been very critical of the project, but with 90% of the dam complete, Sudan finally expressed support of the project in early April.
In addition to Egypt and Ethiopia, Sudan is bordered by Libya, Chad, The Central African Republic, Eritrea and South Sudan. These nations face their own internal conflicts and have countless militant groups which flow across borders unchecked.
The current conflict could easily cascade into a regional struggle for control over land and resources with the potential to see a regional civil war along ethnic and religious lines.
It is unknown how much support both sides have received from foreign actors. The region is filled with valuable minerals and other natural resources that more affluent countries desire to access and control.
All of this makes the conflict of international importance, as any shift in power will have a ripple effect upon international economics and politics.
While there are many nations that have offered to assist in brokering a cease fire, it is difficult to believe that all of them are unbiased as the region is strategic for northeast Africa and the Middle East.
For example, after its relationship with Ukraine turned negative in 2014, Russia began searching for additional mineral resources. Last summer, CNN exposed the ties between Moscow and the Sudanese military, which have allowed Russia access to the country’s gold mines.
In addition, Khartoum has received several offers over the years from Russia to host a naval base on the coast of the Red Sea and now the Russian mercenary group Wagner has been supplying missiles to the RSF.
Even the U.S. is not unbiased as Sudan strategically lies between Egypt and Ethiopia on the coast of the Red Sea. The outcome of this conflict goes way beyond one African nation.
Once the conflict is placed into perspective, it baffles the mind that the evening news relegates the fighting to a footnote at best, or overlooks it all together.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, newsrooms provided 24-hour coverage. What is the difference?
As much as the war in Ukraine is about oil and strategic land masses, Sudan is about water, valuable minerals and strategic land masses.
Both nations have historically been plagued with corruption and both have changed hands endlessly throughout history. Both wars are causing a humanitarian nightmare and displacing countless individuals and families.
Sudan is a story that needs to be told.
Therefore, as people of good faith and members of the international moral community, we need to raise our voices, asking about the significance of this conflict and demanding that international actors help the Sudanese decide their own future apart from undue pressure while preparing to provide support for the next chapter of this nation’s history.
Senior Staff Chaplain and Clinical Ethicist at the Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.