The leader of a paramilitary force battling Sudan's army since April has said he is fighting to bring democracy back to the country and vowed to quickly win the war against his nemesis, Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan.
Rapid Support Forces commander Gen Mohamed Dagalo called Gen Al Burhan a “liar”, a “criminal” and a “traitor”, and accused him of starting the war in an audio message posted on Monday night on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. He also sought to distance himself from the 2021 takeover led jointly by the two generals.
The 20-minute recording had the tone of a tirade rather than an address to the nation, with Gen Dagalo using vernacular Sudanese Arabic. It also appeared to be a response to comments made by Gen Al Burhan in the nearly two weeks after he left Khartoum for the first time since the war began.
Gen Al Burhan has called his rival a traitor and accused RSF fighters of committing war crimes. He has also vowed to continue fighting to the last man, restore democracy and end the military's involvement in politics.
“We are not traitors, but treachery runs in your blood, Burhan,” said Gen Dagalo.
In his audio message, Gen Dagalo said the RSF was “defending itself, the Sudanese people, democracy and all of Sudan”, accusing Gen Al Burhan of starting the war despite what he said were his attempts to defuse tension before it broke out.
He said the RSF did not want to “destroy” the Sudanese army, but rather rid the nation of remnants of the regime of Omar Al Bashir – ousted in 2019 – who have joined the fight against the paramilitary group.
“There is no Sudanese army now, just remnants,” he said. Gen Al Burhan, he said, reinstated army officers known to be loyal to Al Bashir, claiming that his rival waged the war to cling to power.
Gen Al Burhan has repeatedly denied that he was allied with Al Bashir loyalists, saying the RSF was spreading these allegations to deceive the Sudanese people.
Gen Dagalo also vowed to end the war quickly and to restore democracy,
“The battle will end very soon, God willing,” he said. “And we will bring genuine democracy, a democracy of justice and fighting corruption.”
Hours after the release of the audio message, heavy fighting broke out between the army and the RSF in the area surrounding a key army base housing the Armoured Corps in Khartoum, residents said. Columns of black smoke rose over the area as homes shook from explosions and heavy gunfire.
The fighting started when troops tried to push back RSF fighters who had seized control of a large section of the base last week in some of the fiercest fighting seen in the capital since the war began.
RSF fighters deployed in residential neighbourhoods outside the base stormed private homes to escape gunfire by the advancing troops, said the residents.
“They were firing in every direction as they retreated,” said one resident who did not want to be named.
Gen Dagalo, better known by his nickname Hemedti, also sought to dismiss claims that the RSF was exclusively made up of Arab tribesmen from Sudan's outlying Darfur and Kordofan regions.
“The support forces bring together men from across Sudan,” he said.
The war between the RSF and the army is widely seen as a fight for political and military supremacy between the two generals. It has created a massive humanitarian crisis, forcing nearly five million people to flee their homes. Of these, more than one million crossed into neighbouring nations.
The latest displacements, according to the International Organisation for Migration, take to nearly 7.1 million the total number of internally displaced people in Sudan, which has a population of 48 million.
The country has been in a near constant state of conflict since independence in 1956.
Among the recently displaced are about 2.8 million from Khartoum, according to IOM. That is more than half the capital's prewar population of about five million.
Those still in the capital, built around the confluence of the White and Blue Niles, are enduring power and water supply cuts, scarce health care and skyrocketing food and fuel prices.
The RSF's forerunner is the notorious Janjaweed militia, which was accused of committing genocide in the western Darfur region when it fought on the side of the government against ethnic African rebels in the 2000s.
It is accused of vicious attacks against ethnic African civilians in Darfur this summer, killing thousands and forcing tens of thousands to flee across the border into Chad.
The International Criminal Court is investigating the killings in Darfur by the RSF and allied Arab militias. The ICC indicted Al Bashir and several of his top aides, including Janjaweed leaders, for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Darfur during the civil war in the 2000s.
RSF fighters are also accused of large-scale looting in Khartoum, where they occupied hundreds of private homes and turned them into field bases.
The army is accused of recklessly using air strikes and heavy artillery to target RSF positions in the Sudanese capital, killing hundreds of civilians and damaging private property.