The Sudan crisis: A power struggle by design Featured

How do the rival Sudanese army and the paramilitary RSF stack up against each other, and what might happen next?The crisis in Sudan is in its fifth week with no end in sight.

Neither the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) nor the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have been able to gain decisive victories in the capital, Khartoum.

But their inability to overpower each other is not totally surprising. Instead, it is largely a byproduct of longtime President Omar al-Bashir’s strategy of rule in a country that has witnessed 16 failed and successful coup attempts since its independence.

Having come to power through a military coup himself in 1989, al-Bashir needed to keep his own army in check without rendering it too weak to maintain his hold on power. A sizable paramilitary is seen as reducing the risk of military coups because it shifts executive power away from a regular military to add a layer of protection against foreseeable mutinies.

For one state to have two sizable, quasi-independent armed forces is extremely risky and only works if these armed forces fulfil different functions to counterbalance each other.

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