5 scenarios that could make the situation in Sudan dramatically worse
Egregious lack of urgency to resolve the conflict
Six months ago, a battle erupted in Sudan’s capital city, Khartoum, igniting a war that has burned unceasingly ever since. The city’s skyscrapers have gone up in flames, its downtown is utterly desolate, its markets are pillaged, and its suburbs have become a battleground where trapped residents are shot, shelled, and bombed.
Two factions of the former military regime, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), refuse to negotiate a ceasefire and instead are fighting street to street with near total disregard for the civilian inhabitants.
Khartoum, a revolutionary city that toppled a repressive dictatorship in 2019, is now under a brutal siege and devastating bombardment.
In Darfur, the RSF and allied Arab militias—both colloquially called “Janjaweed”—have taken the conflict as license for an ethnic rampage. They burned villages and slaughtered hundreds of people, just as their predecessor militias did in the region in the early 2000s.
Sudan is now the world’s largest humanitarian disaster. Six million people are displaced from their homes, 19 million children are out of school, and most of the country is at Phase 3 (“crisis”) of the five-level IPC famine gauge. Parts of Darfur and some urban populations are at the pre-famine stage, Phase 4 (“emergency”).
The death toll, according to ACLED data, is more than 9,000, but the organization says this is a “conservative estimate due to methodological limitations of real-time reporting in a conflict of this nature.” The actual toll is probably at least double or triple that, in my opinion, in part because of unrecorded civilian deaths, and in part because the warring parties aren’t forthcoming about their combat casualties.
As terrible as the conflict is already, it could unfortunately get worse. There aren’t any signs that it is burning out. Instead, mass mobilization of fighters is continuing, the war is spreading to hitherto unaffected areas, and new weapons are flowing into the country. Civilian anti-war initiatives lack momentum, and there is no coherent international effort to end the conflict.
Here are five scenarios that could make the war in Sudan significantly worse. Although I’m not forecasting any of these scenarios per se, none of them is far-fetched.