Sudan's Al Burhan warns opposition not to meddle in military affairs

He also warns unnamed parties against trying to drive a wedge between the army and the Rapid Support Forces

Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan led a military coup last October that toppled the civilian-led government. AFP
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Sudan’s military ruler warned the opposition on Tuesday not to meddle in the affairs of the army, counselling them to focus instead on forming a government to run the country until elections are held in 2024.

Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan also warned unnamed parties against trying to drive a wedge between the army and the Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, a paramilitary outfit whose roots are in the western Darfur region, where it fought ethnic African rebels in the 2000s on behalf of ousted dictator Omar Al Bashir.

“We will never raise our arms against each other,” said Gen Al Burhan, who led a military coup last October that toppled a civilian-led government, derailing Sudan’s democratic transition and plunging the country into a political and economic crisis.

He was apparently responding to growing speculation in Khartoum that he and Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the RSF commander, were at odds.

“We would like to assure those who want to dismantle the military institution that no one can do that,” said Gen Al Burhan.

“This institution will remain united, strong and able, through its unity, to pull Sudan through.”

The Sudanese leader was speaking at a function marking the 1898 Battle of Omdurman, when an Egyptian-British expedition dealt the final defeat to the forces of Imam Abdullah El Ta’aishy, the last leader of a short-lived independent Sudan known as the Mahdist state.

“We will leave politics but we will not allow others to do to us [the military] as they please. Never!” he declared.

The pro-democracy movement in Sudan has staged a wave of street protests since the October coup in a bid to force the military out and hold the generals accountable for the killing by security forces of 117 protesters. At least 6,000 others have been injured in the protests.

Gen Al Burhan maintains the protesters are not peaceful and insists the killings are being investigated, but he has yet to publicly share information on the progress of these probes or when their findings would be publicised.

The pro-democracy movement and its western backers, for their part, have repeatedly denounced the use of lethal force by the security forces, claiming that live ammunition could have only been used with the prior approval of the army generals.

The protest movement wants the army reformed, cleansed of Al Bashir supporters and placed under civilian oversight. They also want the RSF, which is deployed throughout Khartoum, to be fully assimilated in the armed forces — something that Gen Dagalo is known not to support.

“Form your government and rule the country as you see fit away from the military,” Gen Al Burhan said.

“We will protect you and Sudan until elections are held.”

Large segments of the pro-democracy movement have consistently rejected any dealings with the military. It wants the ruling generals to step down first before another transitional government is formed to run the country until the elections.

The military, for its part, wants the next government to be led by political forces loyal to it. These are mostly former rebel leaders with whom the military reached a peace deal in 2020, groups loyal to the Al Bashir regime or tribal leaders in fringe areas such as western Sudan.

Updated: September 06, 2022, 3:21 PM