AFRICA/SUDAN - Is the regional tour of the leader of the Rapid Support Forces a hope for peace?

Thursday, 4 January 2024 civil war   military   bishops  

Khartoum (Agenzia Fides) - Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemeti or Hemedti), commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) said he is ready for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire through talks with the Sudanese army. Signing a statement with the Coordination of Democratic Civil Forces ("Taqadum") on January 2 in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Dagalo said he was open to a ceasefire with the army. In recent days, Dagalo has held a series of talks in some of Sudan's neighboring countries: Uganda, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya. Led by former Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok, Taqaddum is a platform that includes more than 60 representatives of Sudanese political parties, citizens' committees, trade unions, civil society organizations and independent figures, many of whom belong to the civilian arm of the civil-military coalition government (Sovereign Council of Sudan) who took power in Khartoum in 2019 after the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir.
The Sovereign Council of Sudan was overthrown in October 2021 by its own military wing, personified by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (head of the Sudan Armed Forces-SAF, the regular army) and Dagalo, head of the powerful paramilitary RSF. The two generals, who had allied themselves to suppress Sudan's attempt at a democratic awakening, clashed on April 15, 2023, plunging Sudan into a new dramatic civil war. The Addis Ababa Declaration was described by Hamdok as a turning point "to end the conflict in Sudan." A possible meeting between al-Burhan and Dagalo is now expected in Djibouti, whose head of state Ismail Omar Guelleh is acting president of the IGAD ("Intergovernmental Authority on Development"), the international organization that brings together the states of the region (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda) and are mediating in the Sudanese conflict. However, Dagalo's travel through the region and particularly his stay in Ethiopia has raised fears from Egypt, which supports al-Burhan's Sudanese regular army and fears a joint blackmail by Ethiopia and the RSF leader over control of the Nile waters. The threat Cairo fears relates to Ethiopia's large dam on the Blue Nile and Dagalo forces' control of Sudan's Blue Nile territories. Since mid-December, the rapid reaction forces have taken control of Gezira state bordering the Blue Nile and launched attacks on areas in Sennar state, another key area for controlling the waterway. Meanwhile, the serious humanitarian situation caused by the conflict has led the Sudanese and South Sudanese bishops to appeal to the UN and the so-called Troika (US, UK and Norway) to cease hostilities. In their statement, the bishops recall the "challenges facing the people of God in Darfur and Kordofan", where "villages have been razed to the ground, leaving citizens homeless and without housing." (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 4/1/2024)