The processes that transitioned Sudan from a deeply securitized kleptocracy into a fledgling democracy have generated stressors that are now threatening its collapse. The country's two rival generals—Abdel Fattah al-Burhan of the Sudan Armed Forces and Mohammed Hamden Dagalo (nom de guerre Hemedti) of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces—have plunged Sudan into a bloodbath. Khartoum, the capital that had been an island of civility since it was ransacked by Dervishes in 1885, has been engulfed in fierce battles since the two groups turned on each other in April 2023. Unpacking the host of factors that prompted the bloody conflict is a complex task, but the rivals and their allies are the chief culprits. Once created as a means to run counterinsurgency strategy on the cheap, the Rapid Support Forces has expanded its capacity and become a major power center. Originating in Darfur as a plunder machine of the Janjaweed militias, the group outgrew its function and became a private army capable of routing overlords in quick succession. This article traces the roots of the Rapid Support Forces to demonstrate the structural factors threatening Sudan's stability.
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