The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) seized control of Sudan’s second largest city Nyala on Thursday, marking a possible turning point in the six-month conflict.
The RSF declared the capture of the army's 16th Infantry Division, the military’s western command center, effectively seizing Nyala, the capital of the state of South Darfur.
The development could pave the way for the RSF to advance on El Obeid city, capital of the besieged state of North Kordofan, and other Darfur states.
The development took place hours after the rival Sudanese parties returned to the negotiations table in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in response to efforts led by the Kingdom and the United States to resolve the conflict.
The army has yet to confirm or deny the fall of its 16th Infantry Division. Several activists, who support the army, first denied the development, but later revealed that the military had “withdrawn” from its base to regroup ahead of the launch of an operation to reclaim it.
Activists and witnesses confirmed that Nyala is now under full RSF control.
The western command is the second most powerful military force in Sudan after the command headquarters in Khartoum. It is controlled by the 16th Infantry Division and comprised of eight military bases inside Nyala and 13 outside the city.
Concerns have arisen that the fall of Nyala could impact the negotiations in Jeddah, while some observers have said the development may strengthen the negotiations position of either party.
Economic and military significance
Nyala is Sudan’s second most significant economic hub after Khartoum given its geographic location. It largely relies on imports and exports. It boasts Nyala International Airport and a railway that connects it to the other parts of the country.
It is also located close to Chad, central African nations and South Sudan, making it a significant border trade hub. Nyala is home to the largest cattle market and boasts major agricultural crops, such as peanuts, millet and various fruits and vegetables. It is also the greatest exporter of gum arabic and cattle. Its residents rely on agriculture, herding and trade.
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Tayeb al-Malkabi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the capture of Nyala is significant given its military importance and since it is Sudan’s second largest city in terms of residents and economic resources.
It is the most important city in the whole of Darfur, he stressed.
Its capture allows the RSF to control various vital resources, as well as Nyala International Airport that can receive all types of aircraft and offer logistic aviation services.
Malkabi said the fall of Nyala means the collapse of military camps and units. It allows the RSF to recruit and train more members in complete security.
He added that RSF now enters a new phase of the war in which it has gained greater military, economic and political strength.
Journalist Ezzeldin Dahab, who hails from Nyala, said the RSF has claimed a victory in the war against the army.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the RSF now faces the challenge of demonstrating its ability in providing security and services to the residents and returning life to normal.