Sudan peace talks in doubt as army chief rejects any deal with rival paramilitary

Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan's comments appear to rule out a resumption of negotiations in Saudi Arabia with the Rapid Support Forces

Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan's comments have dashed hopes of at least a pause in fighting in Sudan. AFP
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Sudanese army commander Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan has said there will be no peace in Sudan until the military defeats the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that it has been fighting for more than a year, throwing a planned resumption of ceasefire talks in Saudi Arabia into doubt.

“There will be no negotiations, no peace, and no ceasefire except after defeating this rebellion and getting rid of these criminal rebels so that this country can live in peace,” Gen Al Burhan said after he visited the front lines in Nile River State on Wednesday.

Sudan has descended into crisis since the war between the army led by Gen Al Burhan, the country's de facto leader, and the RSF, commanded by his former ally Gen Mohamed Dagalo, broke out on April 15 last year.

Saudi Arabia was expected to host a new round of peace talks this week in Jeddah, where the kingdom and the US have already mediated several rounds of negotiations without success. The US special envoy for Sudan, Tom Perriello, said on April 16 that the Biden administration “welcomes the decision of Saudi Arabia to restart Jeddah talks within the next three weeks”.

But Gen Al Burhan's remarks have dashed hopes of at least a pause in fighting to alleviate what the UN has called a “humanitarian crisis of epic proportions”, with famine threatening and more than 8.7 million people uprooted – more than anywhere else in the world.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed, including up to 15,000 in the West Darfur town of El Geneina in what UN experts said was a campaign of violence by the RSF against civilians there.

Experts have warned the north-east African country is at risk of breaking apart.

“Our fight against the rebel terrorist Rapid Support militia will not stop except by liberating this country from these criminal rebels,” Gen Al Burhan said.

“We will not stop fighting until we defeat these criminals who destroyed this honourable country and who deprived citizens of their property, committed the most horrific violations and raped our free daughters in Khartoum, Al Geneina and Al Jazira.”

Fierce clashes erupted earlier this week, with hundreds of soldiers and RSF fighters killed in battles around the city of El Obeid, the largest city in the central Kordofan region that is mostly controlled by the paramilitary.

On Thursday, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it had been forced to suspend work and withdraw staff from the Madani Teaching Hospital, the only functional hospital for the hundreds of thousands of people in dire need of medical assistance in the capital of Al Jazira state.

“The health system and basic services in Al Jazira state have collapsed as a consequence of the fighting and the systematic blockade on supplies and personnel entering the area,” Mari Carmen Vinoles, operations manager for MSF in Sudan, said.

The RSF has seized four out of five state capitals in the Darfur region, home to around one quarter of Sudan's 48 million people.

The International Criminal Court, currently investigating ethnic killings primarily by the RSF in Darfur, says it has “grounds to believe” both sides are committing atrocities in the war.

Updated: May 09, 2024, 9:36 AM