Sudan's Al Burhan heads to Eritrea to shore up regional support

The continuing conflict between the military and the Rapid Support Forces has led to more than five million people being displaced

Sudan army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan has visited Qatar, South Sudan and Egypt in recent weeks. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Sudan's military leader Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan was on Monday visiting neighbouring Eritrea, his fourth foreign trip in two weeks.

Gen Al Burhan, also Sudan's army chief, is seeking to rally regional support at a time when the army is locked in a civil war with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

He has already visited Egypt, South Sudan and Qatar.

Gen Al Burhan will hold talks with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki on issues of common interest between the two states, his office said without giving further details.

Sudan and Eritrea are bound by close economic and political ties. Sudan was also home to hundreds of thousands of Eritrean and Tigrayan refugees during the civil war in Ethiopia between 1974 and 1991. Many of them remain in Sudan to this day.

The war, which began in April and is centred in Khartoum and the western Darfur region, has created a major humanitarian crisis, with more than five million people displaced.

The conflict between the RSF and the army is widely seen as a fight for political and military supremacy between Gen Al Burhan and his former ally and deputy, RSF commander Gen Mohamed Dagalo.

Diplomacy drive

Gen Al Burhan's foreign visits are helping confirm his legitimacy as the nation's ruler at a time when the RSF is coming under increasing criticism for its alleged wholesale abuse of civilians in Khartoum and Darfur. Its members are accused of looting, sexual attacks and targeting civilian members of ethnic African communities in Darfur.

The International Criminal Court is investigating suspected war crimes by the RSF and its Arab allies.

On Saturday, Gen Al Burhan again lambasted the African Union for what he said was its unwelcome meddling in Sudan's affairs. He did not elaborate, but the general has in the past warned the AU against sending peacekeepers to Sudan, threatening to fight them if they arrive.

He has also warned foreign powers against equating the army with the RSF, whose forerunner is a notorious Darfur-based militia, known as the Janjaweed, in their public announcements, repeatedly declaring that the RSF was a mutinous force and dissolved it in a decree last week.

Sudan's AU membership was suspended in 2021 when Gen Al Burhan and Gen Dagalo jointly seized power in a coup that toppled a civilian-led government and derailed Sudan's democratic transition.

Neither the army nor the RSF has been able to gain a battlefield edge after nearly five months of fighting, with the lightly armed RSF fighters entrenched deep in the capital's residential areas. The army relies on heavily on artillery and air strikes, unable to dislodge them or wrestle back control of the streets.

Gen Al Burhan, seeking to compensate for the army's insufficient manpower, had called on retired servicemen and able-bodied men to join his army in the fight against the RSF. Hundreds are known to have volunteered in the fight against the RSF.

On Saturday, he instructed his commanders to integrate them into the armed forces.

Updated: September 11, 2023, 2:29 PM