Sudan's Al Burhan and Dagalo send Independence Day messages as civil war persists

A proposed December meeting between the two sides was postponed to January amid disagreements

Sudan's Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, fourth left, and Rapid Support Forces chief Gen Mohamed Dagalo, third left, in Khartoum, in December 2022. EPA
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The leader of Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces on Monday called for dialogue to end the country's civil war, on the condition that the rival general who leads the army admits defeat.

Gen Mohamed Dagalo spoke during a visit to Ethiopia, after Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan delivered a pre-recorded speech on Sunday to mark Sudan’s 68th Independence Day.

The army will only agree to stop the war if the RSF pulls out of Al Jazeera, Gen Al Burhan had said earlier, referring to a region where the paramilitary force has been making gains in recent weeks.

The RSF, which is almost in complete control of the capital Khartoum, has also captured several cities, including in Sudan's western Darfur region and localities in the Kordofan region.

“This anniversary is upon us, and the militia and mercenaries of Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo continue to destroy the state’s infrastructure, kill citizens, plunder their money, occupy their homes, violate their honour, displace them from their villages and original areas,” Gen Al Burhan said.

The military leader invoked the Jeddah Declaration, brokered by the US and Saudi Arabia and signed by the Sudanese army and RSF in May.

The document includes loosely worded clauses on the withdrawal of RSF forces from civilian spaces.

Gen Al Burhan also said that “the return of all looted funds and property of citizens and government moveables, in addition to the evacuation of citizens’ homes and headquarters,” were conditions for a ceasefire.

Gen Dagalo, who has been accused of committing war crimes since rising as a prominent leader of the Janjaweed militia in the early 2000s, denied that RSF personnel had committed “violations” in Al Jazeera since they took over its largest cities last month.

The Janjaweed is a notorious Darfur-based militia out of which the RSF was formed by Gen Dagalo. It fought alongside the Sudanese government during a civil war in the 1980s.

Gen Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, blamed the civilian killings, rapes and home invasions reported by humanitarian organisations on armed fighters operating outside of the RSF's control.

“We express our deepest regret and sadness for the widespread violations that took place in Jazeera State by armed elements not affiliated with the RSF,” he said.

Though his whereabouts have been largely unknown since the start of the civil war in April last year, Gen Dagalo has recently visited neighbouring African countries, bolstering his image as a statesman.

The visits were taken by Gen Al Burhan as troubling signs that his rival is scoring diplomatic points in the region while at the same time the RSF is gaining ground against the Sudanese Armed Forces.

“I am sending a message to the countries that receive those killers to stop interfering in the affairs of Sudan, because any facilitation provided to the leadership of the rebel group are considered a partnership in the crime and a partnership in killing and destroying the people of Sudan,” he said.

The rival generals agreed to a December meeting to discuss a ceasefire, but the Sudanese Foreign Ministry said last week that it had been postponed to January due to “technical difficulties”.

The fighting in Sudan has killed more than 10,000 civilians and displaced millions.

Sudan gained independence from Britain on January 1, 1956.

Updated: January 02, 2024, 1:21 PM