28 October 2023

By Thursday, the Rapid Support Forces claimed control over Nyala, the capital city of South Darfur State, after intense shelling of the army’s 16th Infantry Division within Sudan’s second-largest city. These claims were verified by local sources as the second commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Abdel Rahim Dagalo, moved forward with  “extending the prestige of the state in the city,” directing his forces to protect civilians whom he called on to return to their homes.  

The city of Nyala, which is about a thousand kilometres away from the capital, Khartoum, is a strategic location that makes it a gateway to border trade relations with the countries of Central Africa, South Sudan, and Chad, political analysts said. The RSF capture of the army’s 16th Infantry Division is also a major military victory since the division is considered the head of the Western Region Command for the army in Darfur, replete with a number of army units, including artillery, engineers, and armoured personnel. 

Lt.-Gen. Abdel-Rahim Daglo (Sudan Tribune)

After the RSF announced its control of Nyala on Thursday, Deputy Commander, Abdul-Rahim Dagalo called on the RSF forces to keep their arms in the military barracks and directed the police and judicial institutions to resume their work. 

Retired Police Major General, Ali Muhammad Edam, believes that the RSF capture of Nyala constitutes their control of the state and may use the city as their main base of operations. The military expert believes Nyala may also act as the RSF’s base for a parallel government, countering SAF’s establishment of Port Sudan as the new capital under the army’s control.  

This follows an audio recording in mid-September by the RSF leader, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo (“Himmedti), claiming his forces will form what he called a civil authority in the areas under its control in response to what he described as an attempt by the army to claim “false legitimacy”.

“Burhan’s formation of a government based in Port Sudan means moving towards scenarios that occurred in other countries, with two parties controlling different regions in one country,” the RSF leader said in the recording. 

RSF troops in Nyala (social media)

The RSF control of Nyala has received mixed reactions from residents and those who fled the city due to insecurity. 

“I have fears that the situation will get worse after the Rapid Support takes control of the city,” said Jumaa Mohammed Ahmed, who was displaced to the city of El Daein, East Darfur State.“It is still too early for us to return to our homes –the RSF must control the militias first so that they can invite us to return to our homes.”

On the other hand, some Nyala residents are simply happy that an RSF victory may mean the constant shelling will stop where previous peace attempts had failed. Since the outbreak of war between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and RSF in mid-April, a civil initiative had some success in preventing conflict from spreading across the city by dividing Nyala into two areas of control via the warring parties. However, this agreement quickly collapsed and several battles took place in the city in which more than one warplane intervened.