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How the fighting in the Sudanese capital differs from past military conflicts


In a country long plagued by rebellions, coups and genocidal violence, the scenes of combat unfolding in the Sudanese capital are remarkable because, until now, Sudanese wars have been fought on the geographical peripheries and policies of the vast African nation.

For decades, the Sudanese military has fought brutal conflicts in the south, east and west of the country. These fights led to the secession of South Sudan in 2011; an International Criminal Court ruling that pro-government forces committed genocide in the western region of Darfur; the loss of land in a territorial dispute with neighboring Ethiopia; and monumental death, displacement and suffering.

Here is an overview of some of the other conflicts the Sudanese military has fought in recent years:

A deadly struggle between secessionist fighters in the south and the Khartoum government in the north has consumed Sudan for decades, claiming more than two million lives. The two sides eventually brokered a peace deal that split the country in 2011 after southerners voted in a referendum for South Sudan to become a new nation.

In South Sudan, infighting within the government led to clashes in 2013 and eventually sparked a violent feud between the two largest ethnic groups. That conflict officially ended in 2018, but Africa’s newest country remains fragile, facing a humanitarian crisis that leaves millions struggling to feed themselves.

Ethnic-motivated violence in Darfur has killed up to 300,000 people since 2003, according to a United Nations estimate, with Arab militias destroying and terrorizing villages inhabited mainly by ethnic African communities.

The atrocities, which began after ethnic minority rebels accused longtime President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of repression, led to his indictment by the ICC on charges of genocide. Mr. al-Bashir was ousted in a popular uprising in 2019 that many Darfurians prayed for an end to violence. But attacks on the region’s ethnic minorities increased again last year, partly linked to upheavals in the central government.

One of the main figures in the current conflict in Sudan, Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan, was a former commander of the fearsome Janjawid militia which carried out some of the worst atrocities against civilians in Darfur. General Hamdan is now the head of the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces which is fighting the Sudanese army.

For more than a century, Sudan and Ethiopia have been at odds over the lush al-Fashaga border region, where farmers from both countries share land. The dispute escalated in late 2020 after fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region prompted the Ethiopian soldiers presiding over al-Fashaga to leave. Sudanese troops then moved in to capture parts of the disputed territory, evicting Ethiopian farmers in the process, aid groups say. There were exchanges of shelling across the disputed area, with some fatalities. The fighting has since died down, but the central dispute remains unresolved.

Aid groups have warned that any escalation in the dispute could drag in neighboring countries, such as Egypt and Eritrea.

Clashes between government forces and Nuba rebel fighters in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan state erupted in the aftermath of South Sudan’s secession, with Nuba fighters backing South Sudan.

Many Nuba civilians fled their villages and took refuge in mountain caves, and aid organizations reported food shortages, civilian deaths from government airstrikes, and the displacement of thousands of people. A ceasefire was announced in 2016, but Nuba in the region have since reported being targeted by paramilitary groups loyal to the government in Khartoum.

nytimes Gt

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