Fighting in Sudan: A timeline of key events

Six weeks after fighting erupted between Sudan’s army and the RSF, multiple ceasefire deals have faltered and hundreds have been killed.

Smoke rises above buildings in Khartoum on May 24, 2023
More than 1.6 million people have been displaced since the fighting began in mid-April [AFP]

Efforts to end Sudan’s war, in its seventh week, suffered a major setback when the Sudanese army suspended talks with its rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Negotiations began in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah in early May with the objective of protecting civilians and implementing ceasefire deals that have repeatedly been violated.

More than 1,800 people have been killed since the battles began in mid-April, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, and more than 1.6 million people have been displaced within the country or across its borders, the UN has said, with many fleeing to Egypt, Chad and South Sudan.

Here are the main developments in the war raging in the northeast African country.

April 15: Fighting erupts

On April 15, heavy gunfire and explosions rock the capital Khartoum, sparking panic in the city of more than five million people on the Nile.

The army, led by Sudan’s de facto ruler Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Burhan’s deputy-turned-rival Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as “Hemedti”, each accuses the other of attacking first.

The clashes come after years of instability and repeated coups.

Fighting also erupts in the western region of Darfur, which is still reeling from a brutal war that started in 2003 under longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir.

April 22: Rush to evacuate

Countries rush to evacuate their nationals from Khartoum, by air or along desert roads, some lined with burned-out military vehicles.

Thousands flee in the frantic exodus while many embassies are ransacked.

Millions of Sudanese remain trapped in their homes, many quickly running short of water, food, medicines and basic supplies, and are fearful of the urban combat and roaming looters.

April 25: Failed truce, jailbreak

The US and Saudi Arabia negotiate a 72-hour truce but it is quickly violated. A series of further truce deals that follow meet the same fate.

Ahmed Harun, a leading figure in al-Bashir’s regime, which was deposed in 2019, announces he has escaped from prison.

The army says that al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges over the war in Darfur, was transferred to a hospital before the fighting began.


April 26:

Aid agencies raise alarm as humanitarian efforts are interrupted across the country. Organisations struggle to figure out how they can continue operating while ensuring the safety of their workers amid the fighting.

April 27:

The Sudanese army and the RSF agree to extend their ceasefire for “an additional 72 hours” amid continuing violence in Khartoum and the western Darfur region.

But fighting continues as warplanes patrol over the capital’s northern suburbs and fighters on the ground exchange artillery and heavy machine-gun fire, according to witnesses.

May 5: African ‘fortune seekers’

UN Special Representative Volker Perthes says armed “fortune seekers” from Mali, Chad and Niger are joining the fight, lured by money and gold.

His claim echoes the army’s allegation that the RSF is using mercenaries from elsewhere in Africa.

May 6: Jeddah talks start

US and Saudi-backed talks between army and RSF envoys begin in Jeddah.

May 11:

Both sides agree to allow urgently needed humanitarian aid to reach war-struck areas, committing “to ensuring the protection of civilians” but, again, the fighting never stops.

May 22:

A new one-week ceasefire comes into force on May 22 but is also repeatedly breached.

May 27:

Al-Burhan demands the dismissal of the UN envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, accusing him of having sparked the conflict.

May 31: Army walks out

On May 31, the army says it has suspended its participation in the ceasefire talks, accusing the RSF of failing to respect its truce commitments.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies