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Sudanese paramilitary head commits to de-escalate tensions with army

KHALID ABDELAZIZ and NAFISA ELTAHIR

GENERAL Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the head of a powerful Sudanese paramilitary group, said he was ready to meet the army chief to de-escalate tensions between his Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the army, mediators said.

The army on Thursday warned of a possible confrontation between the two forces following mobilisations by the RSF, in the most public sign of long-simmering disagreements that are hampering efforts to restore civilian rule.

The RSF, which together with the army overthrew long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019, began redeploying units in the capital Khartoum and elsewhere amid talks last month on its integration into the military under a transition plan leading to new elections.

RSF chief Dagalo, better known in Sudan as Hemedti, has been deputy leader of the ruling Sovereign Council headed by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan since 2019.

Sources close to both men said on Friday that they still remain at odds over who would be the commander-in-chief of the military during a multi-year integration period. The RSF says it should be led by the civilian head of state, a situation the army rejects.

Deputy head of Sudan’s sovereign council General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo speaks during a press conference at Rapid Support Forces head quarter in Khartoum, Sudan February 19, 2023. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

That dispute has delayed the signing of a final agreement with political parties and the formation of a civilian government.

Following Thursday’s warning from the army, several local and international players stepped forward with offers of mediation, including Finance Minister Jibril Ibrahim, Darfur Governor Minni Minawi and Sovereign Council member Malik Agar, three former rebel leaders who received posts following a 2020 peace deal.

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“After an honest and serious conversation, [Dagalo] assured us of his total commitment to not escalate, and his readiness to sit with his brother the head of the Sovereign Council and his brothers in the armed forces at any time and without condition,” a statement from the three men said.

Army sources told Reuters that in order to de-escalate the RSF needed to withdraw its forces from near a military airport in the northern city of Merowe, and that its movements needed to happen in coordination with the military and within legal limits. RSF sources told Reuters on Friday that the movements had occurred in coordination with Burhan.

SOWING DISCORD

Talk of a potential confrontation and the sight of armoured vehicles and military trucks in Khartoum streets have made citizens fearful, several told Reuters.

Many blamed both sides. “They are fighting over power and plundering the country, we are fighting for food and drink and education and healthcare,” said Nafisa Suleiman, sitting at a vegetable stall.

“The military is supposed to protect people and now they are our greatest danger,” said 35-year-old Isam Hassan. “The RSF should be under the military’s control. No country has two armies,” he added.

The Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), the main civilian coalition, joined pro-democracy resistance committees and labour unions in blaming Bashir’s now-outlawed party, which has a presence in the military, for the escalation.

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“Elements of the dissolved so-called National Congress Party … have once again appeared at the surface openly perpetrating criminal activity and sowing discord,” they said in a rare joint statement.

Earlier this week, an NCP official told Reuters the group was increasing its public activity against the pending deal.

While the army and RSF shared power with the FFC in the wake of Bashir’s ouster, their coup against the civilian government in October 2021 provided an opening for Bashir loyalists to return to the civil service.

Hemedti has said that that resurgence led him to regret the coup and support the new transition deal.


By The African Mirror

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