Sudanese army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan accused the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces of war crimes and called for its designation as a terrorist group, in a speech to the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday.
“These rebel groups have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes in many corners of Sudan,” Gen Al Burhan said of the RSF, which the army has been fighting for five months.
“They have carried out ethnic cleansing and forced displacement, as well as sexual violence and killing based on ethnicity.
“They are guilty of torture and actions that amount to war crimes in Darfur, Khartoum and other places,” he said.
He also called for the international community to designate the RSF as a "terrorist group" and said, without elaborating, that the paramilitary's outside “sponsors” must be held accountable.
Gen Al Burhan's army has been locked in vicious fighting with the RSF, led by his one-time ally Gen Mohamed Dagalo, since mid-April. The war is essentially a battle for political and military supremacy in the vast Afro-Arab nation of 48 million people.
Shortly before Gen Al Burhan spoke, Gen Dagalo – better known as Hemedti – said in a video message to the UN that his forces were fully prepared for a ceasefire and comprehensive political talks to end the conflict.
Gen Dagalo appeared in military uniform, seated behind a desk with a Sudanese national flag behind him, as he read out his speech. His location was not clear.
Most of his recent communications have been audio messages, and his whereabouts have been a source of speculation.
“Today, we renew our commitment to the peaceful process to put a halt to this war,” he said. “The RSF are fully prepared for a ceasefire throughout Sudan to allow the passage of humanitarian aid … and to start serious and comprehensive political talks.”
Fighting was initially centred in the Sudanese capital but has since spread to several parts of the country, including the western region of Darfur, an area that has seen decades of violence.
RSF forces are trying to “obliterate the history” of Sudan, Gen Al Burhan has claimed.
Gen Al Burhan, who flew to New York from Port Sudan, where he has been based since fleeing Khartoum, sought to portray himself as Sudan’s rightful leader and said he was “committed to our previous pledges to transfer power to the people of Sudan”.
The war has plunged Sudan into a humanitarian crisis, which the UN High Commission for Refugees fears is only going to worsen.
An estimated five million Sudanese have now been forced from their homes, including more than one million who sought refuge in neighbouring nations, chiefly Chad, Egypt and South Sudan, stretching the region's capacity to respond to humanitarian needs.
Those trapped in Khartoum have been suffering lengthy cuts to power and water supplies, scarce health care and soaring food and fuel prices.
Gen Al Burhan said the conflict was no longer just a Sudanese problem.
“I would like to assure you that the danger of this war is now a threat to regional and international peace and security,” he told the General Assembly.