Sudan's Abdel Fattah Al Burhan leaves for New York to attend UNGA meetings

Visit could bolster standing of the army chief as legitimate leader of Sudan

Sudanese Armed Forces Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly on Friday. AFP
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Sudanese army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan left for New York on Wednesday to attend meetings at the UN General Assembly, a trip that may strengthen his claim to be the legitimate leader of his nation.

Gen Al Burhan flew from Port Sudan, the Red Sea city that has been his base since he left Khartoum last month after four months trapped in part of the armed forces' headquarters.

The opposition Rapid Support Forces, led by Gen Al Burhan's one-time deputy and ally Gen Mohamed Dagalo, has been trying in recent days to take the entire complex in central Khartoum, but the army said it has repelled the latest attack.

Gen Al Burhan's visit to New York, where he will address the General Assembly on Friday, follows trips in the past month to Egypt, Eritrea, Uganda, South Sudan, Turkey and Qatar.

He has also visited troops in the east and north of the country.

The ruling military-led Sovereign Council said Gen Al Burhan would meet world leaders and representatives of international and regional organisations during his stay in New York. It did not elaborate.

Analysts say Gen Al Burhan will use his presence in New York to promote his case against the RSF in meetings with world leaders on the sidelines of the assembly

“I expect him to call on the international community to declare the Rapid Support Forces as a terrorist organisation in view of the abuses it has committed against civilians,” one analyst, Al Tayeb Al Makrabi, told The National.

“Beside that, he will offer a detailed account of what is happening in Sudan and listen to new ideas on how to end the fighting.”

Saudi Arabia and the US mediated a series of ceasefires between the army and the RSF during the early days of the war.

However, the truces were either ignored or partially observed, prompting Riyadh and Washington to suspend their mediation until the two sides showed a genuine desire to end the fighting.

There are unconfirmed reports that Gen Al Burhan will later this month visit Saudi Arabia, for decades one of Khartoum's main economic and political backers.

There has been no official word from Riyadh that such a visit is planned.

Gen Dagalo has responded in an audio recording posted online last week to Gen Al Burhan's foreign visits, saying they gave him a false sense of legitimacy.

He said his force would march on Port Sudan and claimed his fighters were in control of most of Khartoum, where he threatened to form a rival government if Gen Al Burhan sets up one in Port Sudan.

Sudan has not had a government since the two generals jointly seized power in a 2021 coup that toppled a civilian-led government, a move that derailed the nation's democratic transition, plunged it into an economic and security crisis and drew international sanctions.

Gen Dagalo sought to distance himself from the 2021 coup in the months before the start of the war, claiming that it has been used as gateway for militants loyal to dictator Omar Al Bashir to make a political comeback.

Mr Al Bashir was removed from power in 2019 during a popular uprising.

The fighting between the RSF and the army has created a humanitarian crisis, with more than five million Sudanese now forced from their homes.

Those trapped in the capital are struggling with lengthy power and water supply cuts, scarce health services and increasing food and fuel prices.

There are no reliable estimates for how many people have been killed since the fighting began, but the dead and injured are widely thought to be in the thousands.

In contrast to Gen Al Burhan's growing stature on the international stage, RSF claims to be a people's force fighting for democracy and equality in Sudan has increasingly been sounding hollow.

The RSF is accused of large-scale looting, sexual assaults and ethnic cleansing in Khartoum as well as in the western Darfur region, home and birthplace of the paramilitary's forerunner, the Janjaweed militia.

The International Criminal Court has sad it is investigating possible war crimes by the RSF and allied Arab militias in Darfur and the US sanctioned Gen Dagalo's deputy and older brother.

The army is also accused of causing hundreds of casualties among civilians by using heavy artillery and air strikes in the fighting in Khartoum.

Updated: September 20, 2023, 11:23 AM