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Sudan slips further into chaos: Fighting in the capital continues for a 3rd day

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Residents in Sudan's capital are sheltering inside their homes, trying to protect themselves from the bombardments and artillery fire outside.

(SOUNDBITE OF WEAPONS FIRING)

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

It's a battle for power of the North African nation, a battle between the country's military and the paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces. The fighting has already killed nearly a hundred civilians since it began Saturday. Hundreds more are injured.

MARTÍNEZ: Journalist Zeinab Mohammed Salih is one of those sheltering in place. She's in Khartoum. And I spoke with her early this morning.

ZEINAB MOHAMMED SALIH: There is a heavy gunfire all over the city. Military jets are over us all the time. There's a small market nearby. But there's a shortage in food, and you can't go out.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Emmanuel Akinwotu is following this from Lagos, Nigeria. He's on the line with us. We heard from a reporter there in Sudan. What else are you hearing? And what can you tell us that led to the fighting?

EMMANUEL AKINWOTU, BYLINE: Good morning. You know, when I've been talking to people in Khartoum who've been kind enough to talk to me in such tough circumstances, they've shared about how, you know, places they used to eat, buy groceries, see family and friends have basically been turned into a battlefield right before their eyes. And this is truly the nightmare end to a power struggle between the army and the RSF. You know, the RSF are a brutal paramilitary force created by a former military leader and the President al-Bashir. They became a key part of the security infrastructure in Sudan.

And the army and the RSF really were allies. They helped actually bring Bashir down after the stunning Sudanese revolution in 2019. And the RSF helped the army take power again in 2021, in October. And since then, there's been a fragile, you know, some argue flawed, transition to democracy, a process that was meant to mean both forces were actually supposed to integrate. But that set the stage for a power struggle between them and their leaders - the leader of the army, General Burhan, and the leader of the RSF, General Dagalo, often called Hemedti. This, many people who I've spoken to say, is a battle between the two unfolding across Khartoum and Sudan.

MARTÍNEZ: And that battle, any sense right now over who has the upper hand right now so far?

AKINWOTU: It's not entirely clear. It's a very murky picture. Something that people have told me over the phone is that, you know, during civilian protests and coups, often what we see in Sudan is the internet being shut down. But actually, that has been not exactly the same case this time, you know? Internet services have been affected. But on the whole, there is still access. And people think, and people I've spoken to say, it's because, they think, there is also a propaganda war going on alongside the actual battles. And both sides are really claiming to have the upper hand, claiming to have taken over key sites. And the army have said, you know, they are close to victory. But the fighting is still going on.

MARTÍNEZ: And that political process to put a democratic and civilian government back in control, where does that stand?

AKINWOTU: You know, to put it mildly, it's extremely remote. Ever since the revolution, you know, the will of the Sudanese people, who trooped out onto the streets so admirably that we all saw in 2019, has been something that we made very key, very technocratic demands for, the kind of democracy that they wanted to see. But both forces that were key in shaping Sudan since then - the army and the RSF - have effectively subverted that will. And the transition process was meant to be a kind of pragmatic solution to create a civilian government that would create a new normal in Sudan. But that has not happened. And what we are instead seeing is both of these forces fight for supremacy on who will shape Sudan going forward.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Emmanuel Akinwotu. Thank you very much.

AKINWOTU: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Emmanuel Akinwotu
Emmanuel Akinwotu is an international correspondent for NPR. He joined NPR in 2022 from The Guardian, where he was West Africa correspondent.