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The Role of International Actors in Sudan’s Ongoing Crisis

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Written by Carlotta Brunetta

Edited by Arpita Sahai

Supervised by Mariana Fagotti

Sudan has been engaged in military conflict since April 15, 2023 (Finocchiaro & Voltaggio, 2023). Following the removal of the longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir and the attempt of a transition to civilian rule in 2021, a high-intensity armed confrontation has been launched across the country (Finocchiaro & Voltaggio, 2023). The parties responsible are the Sovereignty Council’s two leaders, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, commander of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), and Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, his Deputy and head of the paramilitary group known as Rapid Support Forces (RSF) (Finocchiaro & Voltaggio, 2023).

At least 550 people have been killed since violence erupted last month between the government army and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) rebels (Al Jazeera, 2023). The ongoing violence, which is centred in Khartoum, one of Africa’s major cities, has the potential to not only ruin civilians’ hopes to end decades of autocracy, but also destabilize a volatile region bordered by the Sahel, the Red Sea, and the Horn of Africa. It might also factor into the fight for influence in the region between Russia and the US, as well as between regional powers courting various parties in Sudan (Al Jazeera, 2023).

International actors play an important role in this ongoing crisis. Western countries, especially the U.S., have been some of the main protagonists of Sudan’s democratic transition after al-Bashir’s overthrow (Al Jazeera, 2023). Following the recent events, Washington stopped its financial support and later supported the plan for a new transition and civilian governance (Al Jazeera, 2023). On the other hand, the Russian mercenary group Wagner has been supplying RSF with weapons to fight Sudan’s army (Elbagir et al., 2023).

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have been trying to gain more influence in the Red Sea region for years, as evidenced by the two Gulf States’ governments announcing a 3 billion aid package following Al-Bashir’s overthrow (Ahmadi, 2023). They see this time of change as a chance to roll black and consolidate their presence in the region (Ahmadi, 2023). Furthermore, both the UAE and Saudi Arabia have strong connections to the RSF (Ahmadi, 2023). Egypt has significant ties to al-Burhan and the national army and has recently supported a parallel route of political dialogue involving groups with closer ties to the army and al-Bashir’s old government (Al Jazeera, 2023).

Finally, Israel could emerge as an unlikely mediator between parties in the Sudan crisis since Israeli diplomats are communicating with both Burhan and Hemedti (Al Jazeera, 2023). As foreign nations withdrew all their citizens from Sudan, tens of thousands of Sudanese fled to neighbouring countries. Thousands of displaced refugees are now seeking asylum in Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah (Gandino, 2023). Fierce fighting has also been reported in two cities adjacent to Khartoum, Bahri and Omdurman, and the Western region of Darfur (Chothia & Mohammed Salih, 2023). The Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres, stated that, “All parties must put the interests of the Sudanese people first and that means peace, a return to civilian rule, allowing for the development of the country” (Guterres, 2023).


Ahmadi, A. A. (2023, April 18). Who are the major foreign actors involved in Sudan fighting?. The New Arab.

Al Jazeera. (2023, May 3). What is happening in Sudan? A simple guide. News | Al Jazeera.,the%20RSF%20into%20the%20military.

Chothia, F., & Salih, Z. M. (2023, May 9). Sudan crisis: Number of internally displaced rises to more than 700,000. BBC News.

Elbagir, N., Mezzofiore, G., Qiblawi, T., & Arvanitidis, B. (2023, April 21). Exclusive: Evidence emerges of Russia’s Wagner arming militia leader battling Sudan’s Army. CNN.

Finocchiaro, M. & Voltaggio, M. (2023) Analisi della nuova crisi sudanese e delle implicazioni geopolitiche e sicuritarie – Rivista ANALYTICA FOR INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY STUDIES.

Gandini, D. (2023, May 4). Sudan, Combattimenti Nonostante La tregua. Euronews.

Guterres, A. (2023, May 3). Secretary-general’s opening remarks at press conference in Nairobi, Kenya secretary-general. United Nations.,a%20return%20to%20democratic%20transition.