Saturday, February 10, 2024

Sudan War Control Map & Timeline - October 2023

There are later versions of this map available. To see them, view all Sudan articles on PolGeoNow.

PolGeoNow proudly presents the first edition of our new Sudan war map series, meticulously researched over many months. We believe these to be the most accurate Sudan control maps available anywhere.

This edition of the map depicts control in early October 2023, based on research conducted through January of 2024. A map of control in December 2023 has been released to our paid subscribers, and we intend to publish another free edition soon showing the current situation in 2024.

Sudan War: Map of who controlled what in Sudan on October 9, 2023. Best Sudan control map online, thoroughly researched for maximum accuracy. Shows territorial control by the government-affiliated Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group, and rebel groups in Sudan including the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement's Abdelwahid El Nur faction (SLA-AW/SLM-AW) in Darfur's Jebel Marra, the SPLM-N faction of Abdelaziz El Hilu in the Two Areas of South Kordofan (Nuba Mountains) and Blue Nile. Also shows the area of control of the Ngok Dinka Abyei Area Administration (AAA) within the disputed Abyei Box. Includes disputed territories claimed by other countries, including the Halaib Triangle, Bir Tawil, and Wadi Halfa Salient along the border with Egypt, as well as Kafia Kingi, 14-mile, Abyei, Heglig, Kaka, and Bebnis along the South Sudan border, showing which parts are controlled by which country. Includes key cities and other locations from the news, including Khartoum, Omdurman, El Fasher, Nyala, Geneina, Zalingei, Shag Omar oil field, Babanusa, Dibebad, Kadugli, Um Rawaba, Dilling, Bahri, Wad Rawa, Kurmuk, and many more.
Map by Evan Centanni and Djordje Djukic, starting from base map by Koen Adams of See article below for a detailed accounting of which groups are included in each territorial control category. To use this map in your own materials, please contact us to arrange permission.

Timeline by Djordje Djukic and Evan Centanni

Unknown Territory: Sudan’s New Civil War 

In April 2023, a new civil war broke out in Sudan (officially “the Sudan”)*, pitting the country’s official military, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), against the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a powerful government-affiliated paramilitary group. Sudan has fought more than one civil war before, but never in its traditional heartland along the River Nile. This new conflict is said to be the first in “at least a hundred years” where control of the capital city, Khartoum, is clearly in the balance. 

Unlike previous wars, the new conflict is essentially a power struggle among members of Sudan’s majority cultural group, the “Arab” people - and yet, analysts say it’s still a continuation of the long-running clash between the country’s central core and outer regions. The RSF’s leadership, and most of its fighters, come from the nomadic Arab communities of Sudan’s Darfur region in the west, who were integrated into Arab culture later in history than the Nile elites, and until recently held little power in the national government. (See below for further discussion of these and other conflict dynamics.)

With at least 13,000 dead as of December 2024, the war is also one of the deadliest in the world today, on par with the Myanmar conflict and only far-surpassed in 2023 by the wars in Ukraine and Israel/Palestine. Many thousands of civilians are among the dead, with the United Nations documenting indiscriminate SAF airstrikes in major cities, while also describing an apparent campaign of genocide by the RSF and allies against non-Arab citizens of West Darfur state.

Sudanese flagCountry Short Name:  
• Sudan (common English usage)
• the Sudan (official English name at UN)
• as-Sūdān (Arabic)
Full Official Name:  
• Republic of the Sudan (English)
• Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān (Arabic)
Khartoum (official)
• Port Sudan (temporary seat of internationally-recognized government)
*The country’s official English name registered at the United Nations (UN) is “the Sudan”, not just “Sudan”, even for the short version (the full name is “the Republic of the Sudan”). PolGeoNow generally prefers following a country’s own preferences for what it should be called. But because most native English speakers drop the “the” (unless writing for the UN itself), and because that doesn’t seem to be controversial at all, we’ve chosen for now to stick with the more widely-recognized version.

New Sudan Map: Rigorous Research & Unequaled Accuracy

Through almost 200 hours of rigorous online research, PolGeoNow has produced what we believe to be the most precise and accurate Sudan control map available to the public. Though we began by comparing notes with existing online maps by other authors, we ended up almost completely redrawing the lines of control from scratch, through a painstakingly comprehensive review of available news articles, UN and NGO reports, and thousands of data points from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED) project. Various mapping decisions by other authors were found to be unsubstantiated, substantially less precise than ours, or flat-out incorrect.

The status of each town labeled on the map has been thoroughly corroborated, with uncertainty acknowledged where necessary by the “mixed/unclear” designation. And though the broader zones of control are necessarily approximations, they are based on research notes covering many more locations than can be labelled on the map, resulting in a tighter estimation than seen on maps by other authors. Areas of ambiguity have, again, been liberally included within the “mixed/unclear” designation. 

In this process of exhaustive research, we’ve teased out extensive details and nuance on the history of the conflict in specific areas, all of which is carefully chronicled in the conflict timelines accompanying this and later editions of the map. This is particularly the case for the areas controlled prior to 2023 by existing rebel groups, which have been relatively neglected by other mappers, and for the disputed territories along the border of Sudan and South Sudan. PolGeoNow has taken the time to carefully and thoroughly determine the precise situation in every one of these areas, to the extent possible, and to faithfully illustrate on the map both what’s known and what's not known about them.

We’ve also taken the time to conduct a detailed accounting of Sudan’s current and former rebel groups, along with their various factions. Though it only proved relevant to the map in limited circumstances, the results are reflected more fully in the reports accompanying this and later editions of the map, and may also become the basis of a future PolGeoNow article (we encourage you to contact us if this is something you’d like to see). In the meantime, both the discussion and timeline sections of each report describe all such groups by name and with careful precision.

Opposition Forces in Sudan's Civil War

The RSF was formed from a collection of Arab militias in Darfur who rose to power by allying with Sudan’s former leader, Omar al-Bashir, against an insurgency by non-Arab rebel groups there in the 2000s. Those militias, called the “Janjaweed” by their enemies and victims, briefly gained international infamy for their role in the Darfur Genocide against non-Arab Darfuris. Not all RSF fighters are former “Janjaweed”, and not all “Janjaweed” joined the RSF - but those who did rapidly grew in power as the new paramilitary group was first supported by, then officially integrated into, Sudan’s government.

Meanwhile, several rebel groups from the Darfur insurgency, and from the Second Sudanese Civil War that saw South Sudan break away as a separate country, have never disbanded. These groups continue to play a role as third parties in Sudan’s new civil war. Many have stayed neutral in the RSF-SAF conflict or pursued their own interests, while others have openly sided with the SAF against the RSF (their more bitter enemy). No group has entirely taken the RSF's side, though factions and individuals from some groups have. See below for more details on which groups are participating in the war, and how they’re illustrated on the map.

RSF vs. SAF: The Balance of Power

Despite the SAF being Sudan’s official military, holding control of the country's internationally-recognized government, and crucially, being the only party in the war with an air force, it’s quickly lost ground to the RSF over the course of the war. The latter group has not only captured much of the Darfur region, but also controls most of Khartoum and large parts of neighboring cities (among devastating destruction there). The RSF had already grown powerful before the war, with large sums of money invested from gold mines it controlled in Sudan and mercenary contracts in Yemen, plus recruitment advantages among Arab people in Darfur. But according to conclusions from an early copy of a UN experts report released by Sudan War Monitor and Radio Dabanga, the RSF has also benefited from secret weapons deliveries from another country, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

These weapons supplies are alleged to have been flown into Amdjarass in Chad, with support from some people in Chad’s government, then routed by land to the RSF stronghold of Zurrug in Sudan’s northwestern desert. One way or another, the RSF has taken to the air itself with a new fleet of attack drones, and is also believed to have benefited from anti-aircraft weapons smuggled in from the neighboring Central African Republic, plus fuel supplies funneled in from fellow neighbors Libya and South Sudan (apparently without the support of those countries’ governments). On the other hand, many of the RSF’s more advanced weapons seem to be captured from the SAF itself, and other parties, such as Russia's Wagner Group, have also allegedly armed RSF.

Armed Groups and Government Factions on the Sudan Control Map

The above map illustrates territorial control by groups divided into the following six categories. For more information on each group, use the “Find in page” function of your web browser to search for relevant entries in the Timeline of Events farther down in this article.

  • Govt./SAF & allies: The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) are the official military of Sudan. They also control the country’s internationally-recognized government, with the SAF’s leader ruling by decree. Areas without known or suspected opposition presence are generally placed in this category, under the assumption that they're administered unchallenged by organizations within the national government, which is currently controlled by the SAF. Armed allies of the SAF with a presence on the ground include:
  • RSF & allies: The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are a powerful paramilitary group that's officially affiliated with the government, but has been cast out since it began fighting against the SAF in April 2023. Allies of the RSF with a presence on the ground include:
  • Other opposition: This category includes three groups that control specific territory in defiance of the Sudanese government, while not officially taking sides in the SAF-RSF war. Though these three groups aren’t directly connected to each other, they do share a history of close relations with South Sudan.
    • SPLM-N El Hilu: The Abdelaziz El Hilu faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement–North is the largest rebel group in Sudan that hasn’t made permanent peace with the government. A splinter group from the original SPLM rebel organization, which became the government of South Sudan after that country’s independence, the SPLM-N El Hilu says it’s fighting for a democratic and secular Sudan, possibly with an option for independence. It controls parts of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, known as the “Two Areas”.
    • SLA-AW: The Abdel Wahid El Nur faction of the Sudan Liberation Army is the only Darfuri rebel group that’s maintained a strong presence inside Sudan ever since the insurgency there began in the early 2000s. It’s never made any peace deal with the government, and controls parts of the Jebel Marra, a mountain range in Darfur, which it calls the “Liberated Territories”.
    • AAA: The self-proclaimed “Abyei Area Administration”, which takes its name from a planned government intended to represent all people of the disputed Abyei Area, is run exclusively by members of the Area’s majority Ngok Dinka people who have ties to the South Sudan government. It purports to govern the whole Abyei Area, which is claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan, but mainly operates in the populated area stretching from Abyei town to Agok, and is shut out of the Area’s northern third. The AAA isn’t an armed group, but there are Ngok Dinka militias associated with it.
  • Foreign governments: No other country occupies any area that’s undisputedly part of Sudan, but some areas claimed by both Sudan and a neighboring country are under the other country’s control:
  • UN peacekeepers: The main police authority within the disputed Abyei Area is the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), a peacekeeping mission made up mostly of troops from Ghana, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
  • Mixed/unclear: Areas marked as “mixed/unclear” include:
    • Zones contested between the SAF and RSF or used by both, where neither side has established dominance or where information is unavailable or conflicting
    • The margins between areas controlled by one group and another, where the exact course of the boundary between each side’s control is unknown or not clearly defined
    • Areas within the broad scope of the conflict zone but with no evidence of presence by any of the parties listed above - generally sparsely-populated areas that maybe be completely lawless or governed exclusively by local authorities, like the quasi-traditional Native Administration organizations
    • Areas with a strong presence of forces that are neutral or opposed to the group that's dominant in their region. This includes neutral former rebel groups and the loyalist faction of Musa Hilal’s SRAC “Janjaweed” group in northern Darfur, anti-RSF militias in southern Darfur, the neutral Misseriya administration and militias in the northern Abyei Area, Titweng militias from South Sudan in the southern Abyei Area, and possible SPLM-N holdouts in the hills northeast of Blue Nile state’s Kurmuk town.

Sudan Civil War: Timeline of Events

The following is a timeline of territorial control changes, key political and military events, and other important news from roughly the first seven months of Sudan's current conflict, covering the period of April 15 to October 9, 2023. It includes relevant information about that period gathered in research continuing through January 2024. 
Information collected directly from news media, UN and NGO reports, and other online sources is indicated by in-line links to the source materials. Additional reporting is sourced from the ACLED conflict database (see footnote for full citation), with the "(ACLED)" label indicating that ACLED is the main source for the preceding text in a timeline entry. Note that PolGeoNow is aware of a significant amount of error in ACLED reporting, and we have taken that into account when evaluating claims found there.

Note on spelling: The national language and common tongue of Sudan is Arabic. There's no single agreed-upon way to convert the spelling of words from the Arabic alphabet into English letters, and systems based on the international Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) are generally not the closest match for how Arabic words are pronounced in Sudan. As a result, different sources will often have different ways of spelling Sudanese names in English.

In PolGeoNow's Sudan coverage, we favor spelling the names of places and people in ways that more closely reflect local pronunciation, especially as represented in coverage from the online English service of Radio Dabanga, which was a major source for our research. However, in some cases we may choose to use the most widespread spelling of a name even if it's not the closest match to local pronunciation, in order to keep it recognizable to readers who have seen it in other sources. Where we think it may be helpful, we've included alternate spellings in parentheses at the first mention of certain Arab names.

Summary: Background to the Current War

Following the April 2019 overthrow of Sudan’s longtime leader Omar al-Bashir in a military coup after months of protests (resulting in the country’s suspension from the African Union), a Transitional Sovereignty Council (TSC) was formed by military and civilian leaders to serve as the country’s internationally-recognized government (resulting in the lifting of the AU suspension). Elections were planned for just over three years later. 

However, in October 2021 Sudan’s government was again taken over in a new military coup (and again suspended from the AU). In this coup, the country’s official military, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), led by Gen. Abdel Fattah El Burhan, allied with the government-affiliated paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti”. Together they overthrew Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, one month before a civilian leader was set to take over control of the TSC. 

The TSC, often simply called the Sovereignty Council or Sovereign Council, was then reconstituted by El Burhan as a military-controlled body, and Prime Minister Hamdok was reinstated in a deal with El Burhan, but resigned a few months later, leaving the country without a civilian leader.

In early April 2023, a growing dispute between the SAF and RSF derailed a new agreement to resume Sudan’s democratic transition. Though the reasons for the tensions between the SAF and RSF were longstanding and complex, one major issue was the SAF’s insistence that the RSF be quickly integrated into the SAF.

April 15, 2023

Clashes broke out between the SAF and the RSF around the country, with each side accusing the other of starting it. An analysis the next month would say that it was still unclear exactly how or why the SAF-RSF dispute had escalated into full-scale violence. 

During clashes in the national capital city of Khartoum, the RSF claimed to have seized the presidential palace and Khartoum International Airport, where several aircraft were damaged due to the fighting. They also claimed to have taken the strategic airport in El Obeid (Al-Ubayyid), the capital of North Kordofan state. However, the SAF denied the RSF’s claims. Meanwhile, fighting also took place in El Fasher (Al-Fashir), the capital of North Darfur state, while in Geneina (Al-Junaynah), the capital of West Darfur state, the RSF was reportedly in control of the city’s airport. Elsewhere, the RSF captured an airbase in the northern town of Merowe and took prisoner more than 200 Egyptian servicemen who were stationed there. The Egyptians would be released four days later.

April 16, 2023

The SAF reportedly recaptured the presidential palace in Khartoum, though the RSF denied this. During the clashes, the RSF reportedly shot down an SAF attack helicopter. Fighting had also erupted in the neighboring city of Omdurman, just across the Nile River. Meanwhile, the SAF claimed to have captured seven RSF bases throughout the country, including one in Omdurman, with the others located in the cities of Port Sudan, Kassala, Gedaref, Damazin, Kosti, and Kadugli (Kaduqli). The RSF confirmed that it had withdrawn from some of its bases, but stated that it was in control of 90 percent of Khartoum. The SAF also recaptured Merowe’s airport, though the RSF still reportedly had a presence in the town as of April 19. Elsewhere, the RSF captured a military base and the international airport in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state and Sudan’s largest city outside the Khartoum area.

April 17, 2023

During the day, there were competing claims as to who controlled the headquarters of Sudan TV in Khartoum, while the RSF captured the town of Kabkabiya in North Darfur.

April 18, 2023

Fighting continued despite the announcement of a ceasefire. The violence had spread to Kassala and four other cities, including Port Sudan, where the SAF seized a strategic RSF base. The SAF would soon prevail in these areas, with the RSF essentially shut out from Sudan’s eastern states for the rest of the year.

April 19, 2023

The RSF was confirmed to have seized several government buildings and weapons stores from police stations in Khartoum. Despite this, the SAF, which had received reinforcements from the border with Ethiopia, was in control of access to the capital and was attempting to cut off RSF supply routes to the city.

The same day, the SAF reportedly seized “Camp Chevrolet”, an RSF base in the remote northwestern desert near the border with Libya.

April 20, 2023

The RSF claimed to have shot down two SAF helicopters during an attack on RSF positions in Omdurman. Meanwhile, RSF reinforcements for Khartoum were blocked by SAF ground and air attacks.

In Khartoum, SAF leader Gen. El Burhan announced that he was reversing the government’s 2017 order for the Border Guard Forces (BGF), a formerly-powerful “Janjaweed” paramilitary group that had fought Darfuri rebels, to be absorbed into the RSF. The BGF’s leader, Musa Hilal, had been imprisoned and later exiled to Libya after refusing the 2017 order, gathering his followers into an independent armed group known as the Sudan Revolutionary Awakening Council (SRAC). Though the SRAC had since split into rival factions, Musa Hilal and his remaining followers were suspected to be siding with the SAF in its new war with the RSF. According to an early copy of a UN report from the following January, the SAF had begun recruiting former BGF members in March, and “a few hundred” of them would later fight alongside the SAF in El Fasher and Kabkabiya. However, further recruitment was said to have been “thwarted” by SAF funding constraints.

April 21, 2023

Despite new attempts at a ceasefire for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, fighting continued (about 90% of Sudan’s people are Muslims, including parties on all sides of the war). Elsewhere, the SAF established full control of Merowe, ending RSF’s presence in the populated parts of northern Sudan, while fighting was continuing in El Obeid.

April 22, 2023

Fighting in Khartoum intensified and spread to the roads linking the capital with other states of Sudan. Evacuations of foreign nationals from Sudan had begun, with Saudi Arabia evacuating 157 people by sea, including 91 of its citizens, while the US evacuated around 70 of its citizens to Ethiopia from its embassy. Plans were also being made for diplomats and nationals from the UK, France, and China to be evacuated. 

April 23, 2023

A near-total internet outage took place in Sudan. Meanwhile, the RSF claimed to have captured two military facilities in Khartoum, while reportedly attacking an oil refinery north of the capital.

April 24, 2023

Reports said that over the previous three days, the RSF had attacked five prison facilities, including the Kober Prison in Khartoum, where it killed two prison officials and released all the inmates. Among those released were former officials from the government of ousted leader Omar al-Bashir. Al-Bashir himself, as well as several others, had been moved from the prison to a military hospital before the fighting. Meanwhile, the SAF reportedly captured a military base in northern Khartoum.

April 25, 2023

A national health lab in Khartoum holding biological material, including live polio and measles viruses and cholera bacteria, was seized by one of the warring forces, with reports not specifying which force it was. Meanwhile, the RSF captured the town of Wad Banda in West Kordofan state, along the main road connecting the greater Kordofan and Darfur regions. Just down the road, the city of En Nahud (An Nuhud), West Kordofan’s largest, would remain under SAF control as of January 2024, despite much of the rest of the route falling under RSF control.

April 27, 2023

The SAF conducted airstrikes against RSF positions near the presidential palace in Khartoum and in areas north of the city. Despite this, as well as ongoing fighting in West Darfur, the ceasefire was extended for another 72 hours.

April 28, 2023

According to the RSF, its forces controlled more than 90 percent of Khartoum state, the most populous state in the country, which includes both Khartoum city and Omdurman. 

April 24-28, 2023

In West Darfur, fighting took place in the city of Geneina. At midnight, a 72-hour ceasefire was declared, and was mostly observed. The Deputy Police Director of West Darfur state, Brigadier General Abdel-Baqi Al-Hassan Mohamed, was reportedly killed on April 26, and Geneina was later reported to have been captured by the RSF, with the group’s forces confirmed to be holding the city’s police headquarters. However, a small SAF force would remain near the state governor’s residence.

The clashes were reported to have left between 96 and 250 people dead, with reports of property destruction, arson, and looting. Local militias from outside West Darfur, mostly made up of Arab people, reinforced the RSF in the town. A witness later told reporters that the city was “fully militarized” after a crowd of non-Arab Masalit (Massalit) people took “thousands of Kalashnikov rifles” from a police depot to defend themselves from ongoing attacks by the Arab militias, after which fighting taking place between the Arab militias and Masalit civilians.

Many Masalit civilians sought refuge near the SAF-controlled residence of the state governor, a Masalit himself, with about 2,000 armed Masalit people joining the area’s defense. Among those were many members of the Sudanese Alliance former rebel group, which the state governor was also the leader of.

April 29, 2023

According to the RSF, the SAF had been constantly bombing its positions since the extension of the ceasefire.

April 30, 2023

The SAF stated it was attacking Khartoum to flush out the RSF, with airstrikes hitting the city. Meanwhile, the RSF reportedly took over the East Nile Hospital in Khartoum and converted it to a military base.

May 1, 2023

The UK conducted the last two of its evacuation flights from Sudan. Meanwhile, the RSF and its militia allies were said to have established full control of Geneina, where the death toll was estimated at 191, while fighting continued in Nyala and villages throughout South Darfur. Later reports would establish that Geneina was not entirely under RSF control, particularly if including the Ardamata neighborhood on the city’s outskirts, where an SAF base would remain until November. The SAF also still had some forces stationed near the home of the government-aligned governor of West Darfur inside the city.

Elsewhere, the fighting subsided in and around El Fasher after local mediation efforts, and the Joint Force,* a militia made up of Darfuri former rebels, positioned itself between the SAF and RSF as a buffer. The Joint Force is formed from a collection of mostly non-Arab armed groups that made peace with the government in 2020, after having been driven out of Sudan and in many cases joining the Libyan Civil War on the side of rogue general Khalifa Haftar. By 2023, all of them had returned at least some of their forces to Sudan under the terms of the 2020 deal, known as the Juba Peace Agreement (JPA), and later organized into the government-funded “Joint Armed Struggle Movement Forces”, with their leaders also accepting positions in Sudan’s military-led government. 

*The Joint Force is also called the “Joint Forces”, the “joint protection force”, or by its formal name, the Joint Armed Struggle Movement Forces (JASMF).

May 2, 2023

The RSF claimed to have shot down an SAF MiG fighter jet over Khartoum.

May 6, 2023

Representatives of both the SAF and RSF met in Saudi Arabia for direct talks, in the first serious attempt to negotiate an end to the fighting. The discussions were mediated by the United States and Saudi Arabia.

May 8-9, 2023

Minni Minawi - governor of the greater Darfur region, leader of the former rebel group Sudan Liberation Movement–Minni Minawi (SLM-MM)*, and chair of Darfur’s Joint Force alliance -  declared that he supported neither the SAF nor the RSF in the new war. He claimed to have already tried mediating between the two military rivals, and reports said he was redeploying SLM-MM forces he had maintained in the Khartoum area back to Darfur. The SLM-MM and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), another Darfuri former rebel force whose leader was Sudan’s Minister of Finance, had both denounced the rivalry between the SAF and RSF prior to the war’s outbreak.

*The armed wing of the Sudan Liberation Movement is officially called the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), so Minawi’s faction is also abbreviated SLA-MM or SLM/A-MM (or sometimes SLM-Minawi, SLA-Minawi, or SLM-Minnawi). “SLM-MM” seems to be the most commonly used abbreviation today, perhaps because Minawi is now a major political figure.

May 12-13, 2023

New fighting erupted in Geneina, with 280 people reported killed and more than 160 injured. The clashes were said to have started when RSF forces attacked the town and clashed with armed residents.

May 19, 2023

Gen. El Burhan, leader of both the SAF and Sudan’s ruling Sovereignty Council, announced that he was officially removing RSF leader Gen. Dagalo (Hemedti) as Deputy Chair of the Council. Malik Agar, leader of the main government-allied faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement–North (SPLM-N Agar)*, was promoted to take Hemedti’s place as Deputy Chair (Agar was already a member of the Council).

*The armed wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement is officially called the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), so Malik Agar’s faction can also be abbreviated SPLA-N Agar or SPLM/A-N Agar (or sometimes SPLM-N Malik, SPLM-N MA, SPLM-N SRF - because the faction inherited the larger group’s membership in the now-mostly-defunct Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel alliance - or other variations). Agar’s faction is usually referred to as “SPLM” rather than “SPLA”, which befits it now being mainly a political party, with only a small force of fighters on the ground.

May 21, 2023

The SAF was reported to be resisting attempts by the RSF to advance on its main airbase near Khartoum.

May 22, 2023

A week-long ceasefire was declared, several hours after the SAF conducted airstrikes in Khartoum.

May 29, 2023

The ceasefire was extended until June 3, while 866 civilians were confirmed to have been killed since the start of the conflict.

May 31, 2023

The SAF suspended its participation in peace talks in Saudi Arabia.

June 1, 2023

The United States imposed sanctions against firms linked to both the SAF and the RSF. Meanwhile, tank battles in Khartoum’s Mayo neighborhood left 19 people dead and 106 injured. In Darfur, the RSF withdrew from some positions in El Fasher, but continued to control the eastern part of the city.

June 2-3, 2023

Two days of fighting in Kutum, North Darfur state, left at least 40 people dead. The SAF denied claims that the RSF had captured the town. Meanwhile, the RSF claimed to have shot down an SAF fighter jet in Khartoum, while the SAF said the plane had crashed due to a technical malfunction.

June 4, 2023

A reported SAF airstrike on Khartoum’s International University of Africa left 10 Congolese students dead.

June 6, 2023

It was estimated that the fighting in Geneina had left 500 people dead and 500 injured. Meanwhile, the RSF took control of the Sudan National Museum in Khartoum.

Reports also said the RSF had captured Kutum in North Darfur, as well as the main base of the 22nd SAF Brigade in an area between Kutum and El Fasher.

June 7, 2023

The RSF launched an assault on one of Sudan's biggest military complexes, a weapons manufacturing facility, in the El Yarmouk neighborhood of Khartoum, claiming to have eventually seized the facility amid a massive fire caused by the bombing of nearby fuel and gas depots. The SAF denied this, but it was corroborated by local residents.

June 8, 2023

The Abdelaziz El Hilu faction of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement–North (SPLM-N El Hilu)*, one of Sudan’s two main “holdout” rebel groups that have never fully made peace with the government, entered the war by reportedly seizing seven SAF bases in South Kordofan. The bases said to have been captured included about five south and east of Kadugli and one southeast of Kauda (ACLED). The rebel group had mostly avoided fighting since 2016 amid a series of unilateral ceasefires, and had not previously participated in the SAF-RSF conflict. 

SPLM-N El Hilu would decline to comment on the clashes over the following weeks and months, with observers speculating that the group was taking advantage of an opportunity to strengthen its hand ahead of any future peace talks with the SAF. Accusations that the rebels had secretly allied with the RSF would appear not to play out, with El Hilu instead reportedly hearing out the SAF’s persistent pleas to join the war against the RSF (and continuing to claim neutrality at least as late as September).

*The armed wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement is officially called the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), so Abdelaziz El Hilu’s faction can also be abbreviated SPLA-N El Hilu or SPLM/A-N Hilu (or sometimes SPLM-N al-Hilu, SPLM-N Hilu, SPLM-N Abdelaziz, or other variations). El Hilu’s faction has the backing of the South Kordofan chapter of the movement’s political leadership, and is most often referred to as “SPLM” rather than “SPLA”, despite El Hilu himself being a military commander.

June 13, 2023

The RSF reportedly seized two important southwestern border towns from the SAF: Um Dukhun, along the border with Chad in Central Darfur, and Um Dafuq (Am Dafok), along the border with the Central African Republic in South Darfur (ACLED). Later reporting would corroborate this, though an early copy of a UN report from the following January would date the RSF’s capture of Um Dafuq to June 17 rather than June 13.

Around the same time, the RSF also captured an SAF base in the South Darfur town of Rahad El Berdi (ACLED).

The RSF had reportedly already used the Um Dafuq crossing on April 28 to import anti-aircraft weapons to use in its fight against the SAF, whose main advantage over the RSF was its air force.

June 8-14, 2023

On June 8, the RSF blocked the road between South Kordofan state capital Kadugli and El Obeid, and by June 13, it had besieged El Obeid, cutting off all entrances to the city. The group was also believed to be more or less in control of the whole road from El Obeid to Omdurman, with the SAF resorting to airstrikes to target RSF supply convoys traveling the route (ACLED) in locations such as the town of Gebrat El Sheikh (Jabra al-Sheikh).

Meanwhile, reports said SPLM-N El Hilu had surrounded Kadugli by June 14 amid fighting there between the SAF and RSF. 

June 14, 2023

The governor of West Darfur state, one of the region’s non-Arab Masalit people, was killed in Geneina immediately after publicly criticizing the RSF and apparently being arrested by it. His death was widely assumed to be an execution by the RSF, and both the Sudanese and US governments would allege that the local RSF commander was responsible. The RSF denied responsibility, claiming that it had in fact been trying to protect him from a third party. 

The murdered governor was also a founding member of the original Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) rebel group and current leader of the Sudanese Alliance, an umbrella group of former rebel cells that had made peace with the government in 2020 and kept close relations with the larger SLM-MM former rebel faction. 

After the governor’s killing, the last remaining SAF forces inside the city, who had been stationed near his house, reportedly retreated to the SAF base in Ardamata on the outskirts. Masalit and other non-Arab people taking refuge in the area also fled to Ardamata, though many - about 1,000 by some accounts - were killed along the way, while “at least 100” drowned trying to cross a river.

Governance of the city would then reportedly fall into the hands of RSF-allied Arab militias, at first led by a single Arab leader associated with the Gathering of Sudan Liberation Forces (GSLF), a former rebel group whose top leadership remained strictly neutral in the war. However, over the following months, his authority would break down, with various Arab militias controlling their own neighborhoods independently.

June 17, 2023

The number of people killed since the start of the fighting had by this time risen to between 3,000 and over 5,000, while between 6,000 and 8,000 had been injured. The casualties included at least 958 civilians killed and 4,746 injured. Among those killed were 15 Ethiopians, 15 Syrians, nine Eritreans, two Americans (one of Sudanese origin), an Indian, an Iraqi, a Turkish child, and an Egyptian embassy staff member.

June 20, 2023

SPLM-N El Hilu reportedly captured an SAF base at the south end of Kadugli, though the SAF claimed to have repelled the attack.

June 19-22, 2023

The RSF was reported on June 22 to have fully captured the city of Geneina, though the SAF retained control of a single base at Ardamata, on the outskirts of the city, where thousands of civilians would also take shelter. An early copy of a UN report from the following January would date the RSF’s takeover of the city to June 19.

Many civilians, especially of the Masalit people, fled to the neighboring country of Chad, though a major route southward across the border was obstructed by RSF control of the Foro Baranga area. The most direct route to Chad, straight to the west, was controlled by RSF checkpoints where civilians of the Masalit people would be harassed, raped, or executed. Local news would report on June 23 that at least 350 bodies lay on the road west from Geneina towards Chad, and that more than 5,000 people had already been killed in attacks in Geneina by June 12, more than a week earlier.

The same early copy of a UN report from the following January concluded that civilians of the Masalit people in Geneina had been systematically killed by the RSF and allied Arab militias during the attacks, which it described as a period of on-and-off “intense violence” lasting from April 24 to June 19, peaking around the time of the state governor’s murder on June 14 (see separate timeline entry above). The report further clarified that the RSF and allies had “deliberately targeted civilian neighborhoods, IDP gathering sites, and IDP camps, schools, mosques, and hospitals” (IDP means “internally displaced person”: anyone who’s had to leave their home but isn’t officially a “refugee” because they haven’t crossed into another country). 

Though the report didn’t use the word “genocide” - presumably out of caution regarding the word’s strict legal definition - its specific allegations did appear to meet that definition. The governor of West Darfur, a Masalit person himself, had called the violence a genocide just before he was murdered on June 14, and civil society groups in Darfur compared the events to the the Rwandan Genocide. (However, by sheer number of deaths, the reported atrocities in Geneina were still dwarfed by the 1994 events in Rwanda)

Though major Arab militias participated in the killing of Masalit people, the report also emphasized that “many” Arab people “actively protected” their Masalit neighbors, including by helping them escape to Chad. Despite the Masalit and Arab people generally being thought of as different racial groups, the aggressors were often not able to tell the difference - stories abounded of them asking people which group they belonged to before deciding whether to kill them.

Beyond Geneina, international non-profit organization Human Rights Watched reported on the “total destruction” of a major Masalit-majority town about 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of the city on May 28. At that town the RSF and allied militias reportedly defeated a Masalit “self-defense” militia and killed at least 97 people, many of them civilians. Similar fates were reported for several other villages and towns south of Geneina in May or early June.

The Sudanese Alliance, the largely-Masalit former rebel group whose members had fought against the RSF in Geneina, suffered from a shortage of ammunition, and after June was forced to disperse, while some fighters “resorted to individual resistance” within the city. 

RSF leader Hemedti, for his part, had in mid-May attempted to deflect blame for the violence, publicly telling the people of Geneina to “stop fighting amongst yourselves”, while local Arab leaders would later claim the Masalit had started it after being armed by the SAF, and that the RSF itself hadn’t been involved. However, PolGeoNow did not encounter any examples of outside observers finding these claims to be credible.

Further Reading: In-depth, photo-illustrated Reuters investigation of the violence in Geneina

June 21-22, 2023

SPLM-N El Hilu fighters attacked SAF forces in Delling (Dilling, Dalang, Dalanj), briefly capturing a police station before withdrawing. Though they reportedly didn’t capture the town, the group did claim to have gained “full control” of the road from Delling to Kadugli. SAF-aligned authorities had already closed the road south from Delling, citing a roadblock by an “unidentified armed group” about a quarter of the way to Kadugli. Elsewhere in Sudan, fighting was taking place in El Fasher and Nyala.

June 22, 2024

Reports said the RSF had assumed control of Dibebad town (Debibad, Dibebat, Ed Dubeibat, El Dubaybat) , along the biggest road connecting South Kordofan to the rest of the country, after capturing an SAF base six kilometers (four miles) to the south.

June 23-25, 2023

Reports said the SAF conducted airstrikes on an RSF base near Jebel Aweynat (Jabal Uwaynat), at the remote northwestern corner of Sudan along the border with Libya (ACLED). By some accounts, the strikes destroyed the base (ACLED), but no news was available from later months to confirm whether the RSF still maintained a presence there.

June 25, 2023

The RSF captured Khartoum’s highly strategic main police base at the southern edge of the city, giving it control of the southern entrance to the capital. It was reported that 14 civilians were killed during the fighting in the area, while an SAF source claimed the RSF lost “more than 400 men” in the three-day battle for the base. The RSF claimed to have seized a large amount of military equipment, including 160 pickup trucks, 75 armored personnel carriers, and 27 tanks. 

June 25-26, 2023

Fighting took place around Kurmuk town in Blue Nile state, near the border with Ethiopia, with SPLM-N El Hilu attacking SAF positions and capturing several villages. The SAF said it had repelled an attack on the city itself.

June 24-27, 2023

After three days of fighting, the RSF captured the military headquarters of the SAF’s 63rd Brigade in South Darfur state, midway between Nyala and El Fasher. 

June 30, 2023

The RSF was reported to be patrolling the countryside around El Obeid, establishing roadblocks on all the roads leading into the city. Meanwhile, the SAF reportedly maintained control of its headquarters in the eastern part of El Obeid, control of the airport, and “nominal control” of the city as a whole.

To the south, SPLM-N El Hilu was reported to have captured three SAF military camps in South Kordofan state. One of the camps, located midway between Delling and Kauda, had already been abandoned by the SAF three weeks earlier, while the other two were located north and southeast of Kauda respectively. [Note: The source article linked to for this entry is misdated to June 3 within its text - the correct date of publication is July 3, as shown by the smaller date at the top, as well as links within the article to stories from mid- and late June.]

July 7, 2023

In the evening, at least 22 people were killed in an SAF air strike on western Omdurman, near the end of the RSF supply route for reinforcements from its strongholds in Darfur. 

Meanwhile, South Sudan’s president claimed he had persuaded SPLM-N El Hilu to cease its attacks on the SAF in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. The South Sudan government, which is run by the southern wing of the SPLM party, is believed to have supported the SPLM-N against the Sudanese government in the 2010s (prior to its rupture into the El Hilu and Agar factions), but now has good relations with Sudan and has cast itself as a mediator in the conflict.

Clashes between SPLM-N El Hilu and the SAF would continue in the next few days, and for at least about four more months, despite South Sudan's ceasefire claim (ACLED).

July 9, 2023

Reports said SPLM-N El Hilu had captured another SAF base in South Kordofan, apparently near the Sudan border northwest of Kaka (ACLED).

July 12, 2023

Reports said SPLM-N El Hilu seized a strategic area roughly midway along the main road between Kadugli and Delling (though the SAF denied this), with SAF forces withdrawing to a base closer to Delling. The rebels also reportedly seized a well-known SAF base along the northern edge of their territory north of Kauda (ACLED).

Early July

The RSF reportedly captured Songo (Sungu) in South Darfur from the SAF (ACLED). Songo lies along the inside edge of the disputed, sparsely-populated Kafia Kingi area, which is claimed (but not controlled) by South Sudan. PolGeoNow has not been able to find any information on which conflict actors are now present within the Kafia Kingi area itself, except for allegations that the RSF benefited from a fuel supply route passing through it from South Sudan. It seems unlikely that any SAF forces remain there, but RSF forces may not be present either.

July 14, 2023

Heavy fighting broke out in the northern part of Bahri town, next to Khartoum, from which the SAF claimed to have pushed out the RSF. The RSF denied this, saying they had repelled the SAF attack. In nearby Omdurman, the SAF recaptured the eastern side of the al-Halfaya bridge. Around the same time, the RSF ambushed SAF troops in two areas of Khartoum, claiming to have killed hundreds of SAF soldiers. 

Meanwhile, ACLED reported that since June 17, it had recorded a total of 10 cases of SPLM-N El Hilu capturing SAF bases in South Kordofan state, in the general areas of both Kadugli and Delling. In addition, the RSF had seized several locations in Nyala since June 20.

July 16, 2023

The RSF seized a town 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Nyala, south of Torontonga along the road to Zalingei, including the base of the SAF's 61st Infantry Brigade. Among SAF troops taken prisoner were the brigade’s commander and 30 officers.

July 15-18, 2023

On July 15, SPLM-N El Hilu captured an oil pumping station 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) south of Delling in South Kordofan state. Fighting also took place between the SAF and RSF just north of Delling on July 16. SPLM-N El Hilu reportedly took over a military base north of Delling after the SAF withdrew (though sources cited by ACLED appeared to claim that the RSF first took over the base after the SAF withdrawal, with SPLM-N El Hilu only assuming control after the RSF in turn withdrew on July 19). 

During the same period, fighting between the SAF and SPLM-N El Hilu southeast of Kadugli was about to enter its second week as of July 17. Reports said that on July 18, the SAF seized an area south of Kadugli from SPLM-N El Hilu, while the rebel group captured an SAF base east of Kadugli (ACLED).

July 19, 2023

An RSF drone strike reportedly left 14 civilians dead and 15 injured south of Khartoum.

July 20, 2023

The SAF claimed to have seized the southern entrance to Khartoum and killed 18 RSF fighters in the fighting in the capital and nearby Omdurman.

July 22, 2023

Exchanges of rocket fire between the SAF and RSF in Nyala killed at least 16 civilians.

July 23, 2023

The RSF moved into villages in Gezira (al-Jazirah) state, south of Khartoum, where it came under SAF airstrikes. Meanwhile, the death toll in three days of fighting in residential areas of Nyala had reached at least 20.

July 24, 2023

The RSF said that 542 soldiers of the SAF’s 20th Division in East Darfur capital Ed Daein (El Dein), including 15 officers, defected and joined its forces.

July 26, 2023

The RSF reportedly captured an important town north of Geneina. Traditional leaders reported that more than 10,000 people had been killed in the violence in West Darfur.

July 27, 2023

The RSF attacked a key air force base north of Khartoum, reportedly killing and wounding “dozens” of soldiers and destroying three fighter jets.

July 28, 2023

At least 580 civilians were confirmed killed in the fighting in Khartoum since the start of the conflict. In South Kordofan, the SAF withdrew peacefully from another position midway between Delling and Kauda.

July 31, 2023

SPLM-N El Hilu shelled parts of Kadugli. Meanwhile, a faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Mustafa Tambour (SLM-Tambour, also called SLM-Tambor or SLM-T) - one of the former rebel groups that had made peace with the government in 2020 - joined forces with the SAF against the RSF in Zalingei. The group claimed to have killed or wounded 68 RSF fighters. This came after the RSF had reportedly killed Tambour's brother on the road between Zalingei and Nyala two weeks earlier for supporting the SAF.

August 1, 2023

Fighting broke out in Um Rawaba (Umm Ruwaba), east of El Obeid, after the SAF attacked an RSF post. Eventually, the SAF was repelled and RSF forces secured control of Um Rawaba, cutting the main supply route for the SAF’s 5th Infantry Division in El Obeid.

August 4-11, 2023

The RSF was reportedly in full control of Central Darfur state, including the state’s capital, Zalingei. However, two days later, SAF troops were reported to have broken an RSF siege of the headquarters of the SAF’s 21st Infantry Division in Zalingei and recaptured the western part of the city. According to the SAF, by August 11 its troops had retaken full control of the city and its surrounding areas, while killing 37 RSF fighters and capturing 26.

August 7, 2023

It was announced that the Sudan Shield Forces, an armed group formed in December 2022 in southeastern Sudan, was allying itself with the RSF. Though reportedly quite large, and active in the Khartoum area as well, the group’s purpose and origins are a matter of controversy. It claims to be formed to protect the interests of people in central and eastern Sudan, but has been accused of serving a political purpose for elements of the former government of deposed Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir. Its leader is said to share al-Bashir’s religion-oriented political ideology.

Meanwhile, fighting in Omdurman left an estimated 160 people dead, as the SAF attempted to capture the Shambat bridge, the main RSF supply and reinforcement link between Omdurman and Khartoum via Bahri. The SAF attack was eventually repelled.

August 9, 2023

The leadership of the Sudan Liberation Army’s Abdel Wahid El Nur faction (SLA-AW)* issued a declaration establishing a civilian government to administer the areas it held in and around the Jebel Marra - apparently a first in the holdout rebel group’s 20-year history of control in that mountain range.** The SLA-AW is the only one of Darfur’s non-Arab rebel groups that has managed to keep a continuous strong presence in Darfur despite offensives by the Arab “Janjaweed” militias, their successor the RSF, and the SAF itself - and unlike most of the other Darfuri rebel groups, it’s never signed any peace deal with the government. Though the group’s leader lives in South Sudan, its military headquarters are located in the mountain village of Torontonga (also spelled Toratonga, Turantonga, Torong Tonga, etc.).

*The political wing of the Sudan Liberation Army is officially called the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLA), so Abdel Wahid El Nur’s faction is also abbreviated SLM-AW or SLM/A-AW (and sometimes SLM-Nur, SLA-Nur, SLA al-Nur, SLA/M al-Nour, and other variations). PolGeoNow has chosen to use the “SLA” variation because it’s widely used and the faction is mostly active as an armed group.

**The word ”jebel” is Arabic for “mountain(s)” - the Jebel Marra is also sometimes called the “Marra Mountains”, and alternative spellings include Jebel Mara or Jabal Marrah.

August 10, 2023

Reports said the SAF had conducted airstrikes near an RSF-controlled airstrip and gold mine south of Hamrat El Sheikh, in remote western North Kordofan (the village is apparently also known as Hamra or Al-Hamra; Arabic words ending in an “a” sound are often spelled with the equivalent a usually-silent “t” in the Arabic alphabet). As of later in the year, the SAF would be reported to have expanded airstrikes to several more locations in remote northern North Kordofan, where it seemed that only the RSF had ground access.

August 14, 2023

It was reported that 43 civilians had been killed in fighting in Nyala, while 12 people were killed in Khartoum. Meanwhile, SPLM-N El Hilu reportedly captured an area east of Kadugli from the SAF (ACLED).

August 10-15, 2023

The SAF recaptured several locations south of Kurmuk town in Blue Nile state from SPLM-N El Hilu, including at least some of the same ones it had lost in June (ACLED). Meanwhile, the RSF was confirmed to be in control of at least part of the Al-Samrab neighborhood of Bahri.

August 16-17, 2023

Fighting erupted between the SAF and RSF in the capital of West Kordofan state, El Fula (Al-Fulah), and by the following day, the RSF had seized the town’s police headquarters. However, the RSF reportedly withdrew from the town soon afterwards under pressure from local leaders, with the SAF reinforcing the city three days later (ACLED). Reports from the following months would agree that the city was under SAF control.

August 17, 2023

A faction of the Third Front/Tamazuj armed group declared its alliance with the RSF. An early copy of a UN report from the following January would say that “several commanders and factions” of the group had joined the RSF during 2023, though PolGeoNow wasn’t able to determine whether this included the majority of the group’s fighters. Known as either “the Third Front” or “Tamazuj”, the force claims to be a former rebel group that made peace with the government in 2020, but it's been accused of being a fake player joining the peace process as a pro-SAF spoiler. Its leaders appear to have a complex history, including earlier affiliations with the original SPLM rebel group, which now governs South Sudan, and later affiliations with the Sudanese government and Sudan-backed rebels in South Sudan.

Meanwhile, fighting resumed in El Fasher after two months of calm.

August 20, 2023

Fighting for Kadugli continued between the SAF and SPLM-N El Hilu, while the road between Kadugli and Delling remained blocked.

August 21, 2023

Major General Yasir Fadlallah, commander of the SAF’s 16th Infantry Division, was killed in Nyala, reportedly by one of his own soldiers.

August 20-22, 2023

The SAF was reported to have repelled a major RSF attack on the armored corps headquarters in the El Shajara (al-Shajara) military area of Khartoum. However, fighting continued over the next few days, and by August 22, both sides claimed to be in control of the area. The RSF was confirmed to be holding the eastern side of the military base. Two weeks later, as of September 4, control of the base remained divided.

August 22, 2023

The National Entity Forces, another armed group founded in 2022 just before the Sudan Shield Forces, released a statement affirming its support for the SAF in its war against the RSF. Also called the “Homeland Entity” or “Patriotic Entity Forces”, the group was led by a former SAF spokesperson, and said to be active in White Nile state and the greater Kordofan region.

August 24, 2023

SAF leader and Sovereignty Council chair Gen. El Burhan appeared outside of his RSF-besieged Khartoum headquarters for the first time since the war began, with many describing his emergence as an “escape” from the bunker where the RSF had claimed he was trapped. He would then visit troops in Omdurman and several parts of River Nile state on his way to settle in Port Sudan, the unofficial temporary capital for the SAF-controlled government.

Over the next month, El Burhan would embark on an international diplomatic tour, visiting the neighboring countries of Egypt, South Sudan, and Eritrea, as well as more distant Uganda, Qatar, and Turkey, finally flying to New York City in the US to speak at the annual opening debate of the UN General Assembly.

August 27, 2023

A ceasefire was declared between the SAF and RSF in Nyala.

August 28, 2023

Fighting in refugee camps around Zalingei was reported to have left 202 civilians dead and 534 injured since April.

August 29, 2023

A contingent from the Joint Force of former rebel groups, apparently led by the neutral SLM-MM, arrived in Nyala from El Fasher, saying it was there to protect civilians.

August 28-29, 2023

The SAF said it conducted airstrikes on the Zurrug RSF base in the remote desert of North Darfur, where it said the group had been stockpiling weapons smuggled in from Libya. The Zurrug area - also known as Zarq, Zurug, Zuruk, or Al Zorg - had been developed since before the war as a stronghold of the RSF, which had encouraged the settlement of sympathetic civilians in the sparsely-populated area.

August 30, 2023

The RSF was pushed back around the outskirts of El Obeid, a day after fighting in the town killed 14 civilians.

Meanwhile, the JEM former rebel group split into two new factions, with a splinter group announcing their departure after a meeting of dissident members in Ethiopia. The splinter faction was led by high-ranking JEM political officials who had been fired two weeks earlier, after meeting with RSF representatives in Chad. They said they wanted the JEM to remain more strictly neutral, whereas they felt the group’s leader was too friendly with the SAF. According to an early copy of a UN report from the following January, the split would not so far have had any major effect on JEM’s fighting forces in Darfur.

August-September 2023

Musa Hilal, leader of the former “Janjaweed” SRAC armed group, reportedly returned to Darfur for the first time since his 2017 arrest, embarking on a publicity tour of the Kutum area and places east of El Fasher, where he called for an end to the SAF-RSF war and denounced dissident SRAC factions that he admitted were fighting on the side of the RSF.  It was unclear whether Hilal was at this point acting in the name of his quasi-rebel group the SRAC or of Sudan’s Border Guard Force (BGF) paramilitary group, which the government had officially reconstituted at the beginning of the current war. An October humanitarian report would claim that Hilal had declared allegiance to the SAF, though PolGeoNow has not been able to confirm this, while an early copy of a UN report from the following January would mention that Hilal’s forces were stationed at the SAF’s base in El Fasher in October.

September 1, 2023

Fighting in Zalingei was reported to be ongoing, with the RSF in control of large parts of the town, including the main roads, the police station, and government offices, while the SAF controlled the military bases in the city. There were also reported to be more than 100 RSF checkpoints between Zalingei and Nyala.

September 2, 2023

Fighting continued in Kadugli, with the town in a near-siege situation.

September 2-5, 2023

A SAF airstrike in southwestern Khartoum left at least 20 people dead. Two days later, fighting in nearby Omdurman killed 25 civilians, while the RSF claimed to have shot down two Antonov transport planes in Khartoum. The next day, September 5, SAF shelling in Omdurman killed another 32 civilians. By this point, the RSF was in control of most of Khartoum and much of Omdurman, but the SAF still had the advantage of heavier artillery and aircraft.

September 6, 2023

A report said that hundreds of members of Sudan’s Central Reserve Police force (CRP, nicknamed Abu Tira or Abu Tayra) had defected to the RSF in Geneina.

September 8, 2023

The RSF was reported to be in control of significant parts of Nyala.

September 10, 2023

At least 43 people were killed and 55 injured in a drone attack on a market in southern Khartoum, in the deadliest single attack since the start of the conflict. The RSF accused the SAF of being behind the strikes, while the SAF denied this.

September 11, 2023

Reports said Abdelaziz El Hilu, head of the SPLM-N El Hilu rebel group, had met with SAF leader Gen. El Burhan in the neighboring country of Eritrea and tentatively agreed to ally with the SAF against the RSF. However, El Hilu denied that the meeting ever happened. 

September 12, 2023

SAF shelling and airstrikes of Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri reportedly left 104 people dead, according to the RSF, while witnesses reported that RSF shelling in Omdurman killed 17 civilians.

September 13, 2023

The RSF and SAF clashed in Um Rawaba east of El Obeid, after the RSF had withdrawn from the town two days earlier under pressure from the population. More clashes would occur in the town six days later. Meanwhile, SAF airstrikes on RSF positions in Nyala left 45 civilians dead. After an earlier round of strikes on September 3, which marked the war’s first SAF airstrikes on civilian neighborhoods in Darfur, the total number of civilians killed in the strikes was said to have reached at least 54.

September 17, 2023

The SAF attacked RSF positions on the south side of El Obeid, with the RSF retaliating by shelling SAF positions in the western part of the town. A UN report said that around this time, the RSF controlled “the routes out of the city southwards and northwards”, without mentioning the eastward and westward routes - possibly implying that the RSF checkpoints along the start of those routes had been eliminated in the SAF’s August pushback against the RSF blockade of the city.

Meanwhile, the RSF continued its assault on the SAF’s military base in Zalingei. Still, the SAF managed to recapture another military camp in the town.

September 18, 2023

A landmark modern high-rise building in Khartoum, the Greater Nile Petroleum Oil Company Tower, caught fire amid the fighting for the capital.

September 20, 2023

Ukrainian special forces were suspected to have conducted several drone and ground strikes against the RSF in the Omdurman area, in relation to the RSF reportedly being supported by the Wagner Group, a Russian government-linked private military company also involved in the war in Ukraine. Wagner has a five-year history of reported cooperation with the Sudanese government, including a troop presence in the town of Um Dafuq along the Central African Republic border, where it once trained SAF soldiers. 

Wagner had been accused of siding with the RSF at the outbreak of Sudan’s current war, though the SAF had at first cast doubt on those reports. By September, journalists had continued to gather evidence that Wagner was indeed arming the RSF, including reports that a “large” Wagner convoy from Chad had delivered weapons to the RSF stronghold of Zurrug in North Darfur on September 6.

Three days later SAF leader Gen. El Burhan would reportedly hold a friendly “impromptu” meeting with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky at an airport in Ireland on the way home from speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York. Zelensky would afterwards say the two men had discussed the issue of “illegal armed groups financed by Russia” in both of their countries.

September 23, 2023

Darfuri holdout rebel group the SLA-AW said it had assumed control of Tawila town, and various other locations in the lowlands surrounding the Jebel Marra, after “government forces” (probably SAF) withdrew. Except for Tawila, most of these claims were difficult to corroborate.  

According to an early copy of a UN report from the following January, the SLA-AW forces in Tawila were part of an autonomous unit that had returned to Sudan in July from its base in Libya, and was also now present in some areas around the edges of the Jebel Marra.

September 28, 2023

RSF shelling in Omdurman reportedly left 10 civilians dead and 11 wounded.

September 30, 2023

Airstrikes and shelling in Omdurman killed nine civilians.

October 1, 2023

The RSF captured an SAF base on the El Obeid-Kosti highway, east of Um Rawaba and near the administrative border of North Kordofan with White Nile state, though it was not clear whether it stationed any occupying force there. The RSF also attacked an SAF base southwest of Um Rawaba, and was reported to be present again in the town itself. Later reports would continue to cast doubt on whether the RSF was maintaining a sustained presence at any given location within this area.

October 2-5, 2023

Ten people were reportedly killed by RSF shelling in Khartoum. More RSF shelling the next day in Bahri was also reported to have killed more than 20 people. Two days later, on October 5, artillery fire in Omdurman left at least 11 people dead and 90 wounded.

October 4, 2023

A large RSF attack on the headquarters of the SAF’s 16th Infantry Division in Nyala was reportedly repelled. Despite various reports saying Nyala was the last remaining site of SAF control in South Darfur, there was apparently also still an SAF base at the southern village of Buram, and a later research by PolGeoNow would find few, if any, claims of RSF control in the southeastern quarter of the state.

October 6, 2023

The RSF seized a town 30 kilometers (20 miles) southeast of Khartoum, on the road to Wad Medani, the capital of Gezira State. It then advanced further into seven more areas southeast of Khartoum, including three in Gezira State, including Wad Rawa. With this advance, the RSF cut an important SAF supply route to Khartoum.

Meanwhile, fighters from former rebel group the Sudanese Alliance re-entered Sudan’s West Darfur state from Chad, with government assistance, and the group would soon fight alongside the SAF in the next month’s battle for the Ardamata neighborhood on the outskirts of Geneina.

A conservative estimate by ACLED put the total number of deaths in Sudan’s current war at “more than 9,000”, with the UN reporting that “about 5.5 million” survivors had lost or fled their homes.

Following this conflict? Check for updates to our map by viewing all Sudan reports on PolGeoNow.

Graphic of the Sudanese flag (source) is in the public domain. Timeline compiled with help from the ACLED database: Raleigh, Clionadh, Andrew Linke, Håvard Hegre and Joakim Karlsen. (2010). “Introducing ACLED - Armed Conflict Location and Event Data.” Journal of Peace Research 47(5) 651-660.