Fighting erupted in Sudan on April 15, with the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) clashing with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The longer this continues, the more likely it is that fighting will damage oil infrastructure.
Heavy weaponry has been used in Khartoum and the conflict has spread across the country. The SAF and the RSF have been at loggerheads since the October 2021 coup.
Diplomatic efforts had tried to bring about a 24-hour truce today. The two parties did not stop fighting, though, with the RSF blaming divisions within the SAF.
The conflict has killed around 180 people, according to local reports. The fighting has also disrupted water and power supplies, making the high temperatures – in Khartoum over 40 degrees Celsius – hard to bear. Furthermore, Ramadan is under way, although due to end on April 20.
Images from Maxar show fighting has targeted a number of government sites, including the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum and the Khartoum airport.
Thus far, there does not seem to be any impact to Sudanese oil flows but as fighting continues the risks heighten. Data from OilX show loadings of 80,000 barrels per day of Dar Blend and 20,000 bpd of Nile Blend in April.
“The last vessel OilX tracked to load is the Advantage Angel on 15th April, with the Serene Sea and Sea Hazel currently en route to load” at the Marsa Bashayer terminal, said OilX CEO Florian Thaler by email.
OilX had expected loadings to rise to 135,000 bpd in May, but “this is now at risk”, he said. “If the fighting continues and damages oil infrastructure then these are the volumes that would be at risk”.
Sudan produces about 60,000 bpd of oil, while South Sudan produces 125,000 bpd. South Sudan exports via two pipelines that run through Sudan.
“Both pipelines converge at Khartoum and as such we not only see Sudan’s 60 kb/d production, but also South Sudan’s 125 kb/d production at risk. The majority of South Sudan’s and Sudan’s oil production gets exported and some 70 kb/d are kept for domestic consumption (refining and crude burn),” Thaler said.
The SAF is currently claiming control of Port Sudan, around 25 km from the oil terminal.
Foreign diplomats are not immune. On the weekend, fighting killed three members of the World Food Programme (WFP) in North Darfur and injured another two.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking today, said attackers appearing to be from the RSF had shot at a convoy carrying US diplomats on April 17. Blinken said the diplomats were safe and that the attackers appeared to be from the RSF.
Blinken issued a call to General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and General “Hemedti” Dagalo to protect non-combatants. There is a “strongly held view, again, across all of our partners on the need for an immediate ceasefire and a return to talks. Talks that were very promising in putting Sudan on the path to a full transition to civilian led government.”
UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly echoed Blinken’s words. The “future lies in the hands of the generals who are engaged in this fight. And we call upon them to put peace first, to bring an end to the fighting, to get back to negotiations. That’s what the people of Sudan want. That’s what the people of Sudan deserve, and we will continue to seek ways to support that road back to peace,” Cleverly said.
The UK advises against all travel to Sudan.
RSF forces also attacked the European Union’s ambassador to Sudan, Aidan O’Hara, yesterday. Soldiers attacked O’Hara in his residence and stole cash.
The United Nations reported that unnamed forces had attacked and looted a number of humanitarian offices.
A number of governments and NGOs have called on the fighters to stand down.
The United Arab Emirates has called on the parties in Sudan to “exercise restraint, and to de-escalate and work towards ending this crisis through dialogue”. The UAE embassy called for a “national consensus towards the formation of a government”.
In a statement, the RSF said it welcomed the intervention from the US, UK, UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Two Emirati companies, Abu Dhabi Ports and Invictus Investment, signed up to the $6 billion Abu Amama port plan in Sudan in 2022. Statements today from the companies defined these as a “non-binding heads of terms” with the Sudan government “that provides them with the right to develop, manage, and operate port and economic zone assets in Sudan”.
The RSF stems from Sudan’s use of Janjaweed militias in Darfur. There had been plans to integrate the RSF into the country’s army, but these plans foundered on how to divide power. While the RSF has substantial experience in combat, it lacks materiel such as aeroplanes, although it has struck alliances with Russia’s Wagner Group.
The RSF has published videos showing a number of aircraft on fire. The group has accused SAF of bombing civilians from the air and lacks trained pilots.
يتوالى السقوط.. pic.twitter.com/i9AqzbTdWK
— Rapid Support Forces – قوات الدعم السريع (@RSFSudan) April 18, 2023
Hemedti described the current conflict as the “price of democracy.”. “We did not attack anyone. Our actions are merely a response to the siege and assault against our forces. We are fighting for the people of Sudan to ensure the democratic progress, for which they have so long yearned.”
In addition to experience in Darfur, the RSF has also fought in Yemen for Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The outbreak of fighting follows the Framework Agreement of December 2022, which aimed to shift Sudan into democracy. The deal stipulated that the army and RSF would have no formal role in politics and that a civilian government would take over. The agreement called for elections in two years.
Both Burhan and Hemedti signed up to the deal, in addition to around 40 civilian stakeholder groups. The agreement from late last year stated the aim of bringing in the civilian administration by April 11.
Amidst the political crisis, food poverty in the country is rife. Islamic Relief has reported Sudan has among the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world. Staple food prices have risen 60% from 2022, the NGO said.
“In some areas food prices have tripled since Saturday as supplies have become increasingly scarce,” it said. “Hospitals are overwhelmed and reportedly running out of oxygen, fuel and blood bags to treat the wounded, and patients have called for safe passage to leave as the fighting spreads nearby.”