Fighting west of Sennar after IGAD summit
East African leaders wrap up an uneventful summit on Sudan
Another week of war is ending in Sudan, characterized by low-intensity fighting in some areas and quiet in others, amid mass mobilization and fresh diplomatic efforts.
The main political development this week, the IGAD heads of state summit in Kampala, came and went without any very significant news. The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) leader, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, got a photo op with the East African leaders, but was mostly relegated to the sidelines of the summit.
The summit communiqué was low-key, reiterating an appeal for an unconditional ceasefire and for the leaders of the two warring parties to meet face-to-face within two weeks. It also welcomed the appointment of a new three-member African Union high-level panel, which will work closely with IGAD in facilitating the peace process.
The communiqué directed the IGAD Secretariat “within one month to convene a Sudanese-owned and Sudanese-led process towards a democratic Government in the Sudan.” This aligns with the previous IGAD communiqué in December, in which the East African bloc said it would “fast-track efforts in organizing an IGAD-AU facilitated all-inclusive Sudanese-owned and Sudanese-led civilian dialogue aimed at forging national consensus towards the formation of a civilian-led transition….”
Notably, however, yesterday’s communiqué omitted the phrases “civilian dialogue” and “civilian-led transition.” It also said the dialogue should take place “in Sudan,” which would give the Sudan Armed Forces substantial influence over the process and likely would deter participation by the anti-war opposition parties, which army leaders are taking steps to try to criminalize, sometimes describing them as traitors or rebels.
Despite the lack of concrete outcomes, the IGAD summit represented a significant gathering of most of the international stakeholders, including both African and Arab states with interests in Sudan. Hosted by Uganda and chaired by the president of Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh, the summit also gave opportunities for participation by envoys of the United States, Saudi Arabia, African Union, European Union, Türkiye, and the new envoy of the UN Secretary-General.
Egypt, however, sent only its ambassador to Uganda—not even a ministerial-level official. This was perhaps done in sympathy with the Sudan Armed Forces, which boycotted the talks in protest of IGAD’s overly warm treatment of the Rapid Support Forces leader, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
Sudan’s other regional ally, Eritrea, likewise did not participate, nor did Qatar or Chad. This was in spite of the presence of Chad’s foreign minister in Kampala yesterday. He instead met separately with Sudan’s foreign minister, a sign that the two sides could be trying to repair relations after Sudan accused Chad of supporting the RSF. Mahamat Déby, Chad’s military ruler, notably did not receive the RSF commander-in-chief Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo during the latter’s recent foreign tour.
Thursday’s summit also focused on a growing row between Ethiopia and Somalia over a port deal between Ethiopia and the autonomous Somaliland region. The dispute is distracting IGAD leaders from dealing with the Sudan crisis. The East African regional bloc is now the principal mediator of Sudan’s conflict, after the United States and Saudi Arabia ceased direct mediation efforts last November.
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Fighting in Al-Managil
The two warring parties clashed Wednesday evening east of Al-Managal, the only large town in Al-Jazirah State that the RSF have not yet seized. As we reported earlier that same day, the army has been delivering weapons to the city by helicopter for more than a week, while army officers and security personnel are distributing them among civilians in the town, attempting to bolster its defenses.
The fighting took place east of the city, between Wad Rabia and Beika, after the army approached eastward for unclear reasons. According to the Wad Madani Resistance committees, the army afterwards withdrew toward Wad Rabia, while the RSF remain in control of Beika. We were not able to reach sources in Managil for further details
Videos filmed after the battle show that RSF captured several vehicles and soldiers during the battle. The death toll is unknown.
The video below RSF troops whipping men in civilian clothing, alleged to be army recruits, after “the battle of Beika,” according to the RSF soldier filming:
Mobilization in Shendi
Sudan’s military government has recently distributed weapons in Shendi in River Nile State, after RSF scouts were seen near the city. This parade of recently mobilized “popular resistance” fighters took place Thursday in the city.
The regime portrays the “popular resistance” as an organic, grassroots response of citizens taking up arms to defend themselves, but in fact it is largely orchestrated by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), with weapons distributed selectively and conditionally, depending on perceptions of loyalty.
The army’s weakness and its recent defeats have triggered waves of public criticism and strengthened the hand of the security service, whose paramilitaries are fighting on the frontline in Omdurman and other areas. These civilians, wearing all black clothing and black hoods, are dressed similarly to the NISS Operations Authority.
RSF maneuvering west of Sennar City
Fighting took place today, January 19, in the Jebel Muya area of northwest Sennar State, according to both pro-SAF and pro-RSF sources. Maradees News, which supports the RSF, reported that the RSF won the battle and killed nine dead and wounded dozens, while capturing four combat vehicles.
Jebel Muya is southwest of Sennar along the road to the White Nile Capital, Rabak, a major center of army logistics and recruitment. As the RSF maneuver deeper into Sennar State, army troops in Sennar City risk being cut off from Rabak and the other major military centre, Sinja. For now, however, the fighting in Sennar State appears not to be heavy, principally involving RSF reconnaissance forces or raiding parties.
Army propagandists continue to claim significant gains in Omdurman, the twin city of the capital Khartoum. As we noted in our previous newsletter, these claims significantly exaggerate the extent of the army’s advances. Below is a video of SAF troops making an incursions into the Mawrada neighborhood (15.6341982, 32.4878165). This represents an advance of about 700-1000 meters compared to where the frontline used to be.
In Omdurman, the RSF are defending two fronts, north and south, while the army are trying to relieve a besieged part of the city. This advance comes from the southern direction, from the besieged SAF bastion around the Nimeiri military college, military hospital, and Corps of Engineers.
The army force in that area, depleted by months of fighting, lacks the manpower to sustain gains form this direction; the main offensive pressure is from the north. However, we have not seen evidence of substantial gains from the north eithe.
Many clips that recently circulated showing the “liberation” of certain neighborhoods were in fact filmed in areas controlled by the army for months. For example, this video was filmed in Al-Gamair (15.665523, 32.500982), which our previous geolocations and maps showed as being army-controlled, albeit on the frontline. It is near where alleged Ukrainian special operators carried out a raid several months ago.
Both sides use mortars extensively, which cause many civilian casualties. The army are also using tear gas to harass enemy troops and cover their movements, as seen in this video. They also carry out frequent drone attacks.