Sudan's military warns of conflict after rival force deploys

Tensions between military and paramilitary have escalated in recent months, forcing a delay in the signing of a deal to revive the country’s democratic transition

By AP

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In this frame grab from a video posted by Sudan's state news agency SUNA on Thursday, Spokesman for the Sudanese Armed Forces Brig. Nabil Abdullah reads a statement warning of conflict after the recent deployment of Sudan's powerful paramilitary in the capital and other cities. — AP
In this frame grab from a video posted by Sudan's state news agency SUNA on Thursday, Spokesman for the Sudanese Armed Forces Brig. Nabil Abdullah reads a statement warning of conflict after the recent deployment of Sudan's powerful paramilitary in the capital and other cities. — AP

Published: Thu 13 Apr 2023, 9:22 PM

Sudan’s military warned on Thursday of potential clashes with the country’s powerful paramilitary force, which it said deployed troops in the capital of Khartoum and other cities.

Tensions between the military and the paramilitary, known as Rapid Support Forces or RSF, have escalated in recent months, forcing a delay in the signing of an internationally backed deal with political parties to revive the country’s democratic transition.

In a statement, the military said the buildup of the RSF in Khartoum and elsewhere in the country was done without “the approval of, or coordination with" the armed forces’ leadership and presents a clear “violation of the law.”

The paramilitary has also deployed troops in northern Sudan, along the border with Egypt, with local media reporting that the RSF attempted to build a military base there. Also, videos circulating on social media on Thursday show what appear to be RSF-armed vehicles being transported into Khartoum, further to the south.

The latest tensions between the army and the paramilitary stem from a disagreement over how the RSF should be integrated into the military — a key condition of an unsigned transition deal for Sudan. The army-RSF rivalry, however, dates back to the rule of president Omar Al Bashir, who was ousted in 2019.

Under Al Bashir, the paramilitary force, led by powerful Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, grew out of former militias.

Although both the army and the RSF together carried out a coup in October 2021 that upended Sudan's transition to democracy, friction between them became increasingly visible in recent months, with conflicting public statements, heavy military presence in Khartoum and parallel foreign trips by military and RSF leaders.

The RSF said on Wednesday that its presence in northern Sudan and elsewhere is aimed at “achieving security and stability and fighting human trafficking and illegal migration.” The wealthy paramilitary force is estimated to have tens of thousands of fighters.

According to Kholood Khair, founder and director of Confluence Advisory, a think tank in Khartoum, tensions between the army and the RSF are at an all-time high and Thursday's military’s statement just fell "short of accusing the RSF of committing an act of rebellion.”

The escalation has raised concerns of new fighting in a country known for internal armed conflicts.

Many took to social media to express their concerns. Sudan's National Umma Party — one of the country's largest political groups — called for restraint and urged “all political forces” against escalating the situation.

In response to the escalation, the US Embassy in Khartoum advised American citizens on Thursday against travelling to northern Sudan. Also, US government staff have been prohibited from venturing beyond the capital's metropolitan area until next Thursday, it said.


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