KHARTOUM: General Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo, leader of Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Force’s (RSF, one of the two warring factions in the violence-hit African nation, said that there won’t be any talks until the fighting ends.
Speaking to the BBC on Friday night, Dagalo, popularly known as Hemedti, alleged that RSF fighters were being “relentlessly” bombed since a three-day truce had been extended on Thursday midnight.
The initial 72-hour ceasefire was brokered by the US on Monday and the extension of the truce came after intensive diplomatic efforts by neighbouring countries, as well as Washington, the UK and UN.
“We don’t want to destroy Sudan,” Dagalo told the BBC and blamed General Abdul Fattah Al Burhan, chief of the Sudanese Armed (SAF), the second warring faction, for the violence.
Gen Burhan has tentatively agreed to face-to-face talks in South Sudan.
Burhan, however, branded the RSF a militia that aims “to destroy Sudan”, in an interview with US-based TV channel Alhurra.
He also claimed “mercenaries” were pouring over the border from Chad, Central African Republic and Niger to exploit the chaos.
The RSF chief further said that he was open to talks but the condition was that the ceasefire should hold: “Cease hostilities. After that we can have negotiations.”
Dagalo said he had no personal problem with Gen Burhan, but regarded him as a traitor for bringing into government those loyal to former President Omar Al Bashir, who was ousted together by the SAF and RSF in 2019 after mass street protests.
“Unfortunately Burhan is being led by the radical Islamist front leaders,” he told the BBC.
In 2021, he and Gen Burhan overturned an agreement to share power with civilians, taking full control in a coup.
The two military leaders fell out this year over the proposed return to civilian rule, in particular about the timeframe of incorporating Dagalo’s 100,000-strong RSF inclusion into the army.
“I am looking forward to having the civilian government today — before tomorrow, a fully civilian government. This is my principle,” he told the BBC.
He also said that RSF fighters were not the enemies of the military soldiers, explaining they were battling to protect the country from “the relics of the government of the past 30 years”.
“We won’t fight you. Please go back to your army divisions and we won’t fight you.”
Meanwhile, warplanes on bombing raids drew heavy anti-aircraft fire over Khartoum on Saturday as fierce fighting between Sudan’s army and paramilitaries entered a third week, despite a renewed truce.
Lawlessness since April 15
Sudan has plunged into chaos and lawlessness since the fighting erupted on April 15 between forces loyal to Burhan and Dagalo.
Burhan and Daglo have agreed to multiple truces since the start of the conflict, but none has effectively taken hold, with each side blaming the other for breaching them.
The latest three-day ceasefire was agreed Thursday after mediation led by the United States, Saudi Arabia, the African Union and the United Nations aimed at securing a more lasting truce.
“We woke up once again to the sound of fighter jets and anti-aircraft weapons blasting all over our neighbourhood,” a witness in southern Khartoum told AFP.
Another witness said fighting had been ongoing since the early morning, especially around the state broadcaster’s headquarters in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman.
Residents across Khartoum - home to five million people - have largely sheltered at home despite supplies of food and water dwindling to dangerously low levels, and a lack of electricity.
Some managed to sneak out only during brief lulls in fighting to buy desperately needed supplies.
The clashes have so far killed at least 512 people and wounded 4,193, according to the health ministry, with the death toll feared to be much higher.
Some 75,000 have been internally displaced by the fighting in Khartoum and the states of Blue Nile, North Kordofan, as well as the restive western region of Darfur, the UN said.
Tens of thousands of Sudanese have fled into neighbouring countries including Egypt, Ethiopia, Chad and South Sudan, while foreign countries have carried out mass evacuations of their nationals.
Britain said it would end evacuation flights for its citizens and their relatives on Saturday, after airlifting more than 1,500 people this week.
The United Nations said on Friday that its last international staff had been evacuated from Darfur.
The World Food Programme has said the violence could plunge millions more into hunger in a country where 15 million people - one-third of the population - already need aid to stave off famine.
‘Alarming’ conditions in Darfur
In West Darfur state, at least 96 people were reported to have been killed in the city of Geneina since Monday, according to UN human rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani.
The UN described the situation in Darfur as “alarming” while Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said there were reports of widespread looting, destruction, and burning of property, including at camps for displaced people.
“The current fighting has forced us to stop almost all of our activities in West Darfur,” said Sylvain Perron, MSF’s deputy operations manager for Sudan.
“We are incredibly worried about the impact this violence is having on people who have already lived through waves of violence in the previous years.”
Darfur is still reeling from its devastating 2003 war, when then hardline president Omar Al Bashir unleashed the Janjaweed militia, mainly recruited from Arab pastoralist tribes, to crush ethnic minority rebels.
The notorious Janjaweed - accused by rights groups of committing atrocities in Darfur - later evolved into the RSF, which was formally created in 2013.
The scorched-earth campaign left at least 300,000 people dead and close to 2.5 million displaced, according to UN figures, and saw Bashir charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide by the International Criminal Court.
Burhan and Daglo - commonly known as Hemeti - seized power in a 2021 coup that derailed Sudan’s transition to democracy, established after Bashir was ousted following mass protests in 2019.
But the two generals later fell out, most recently over the planned integration of the RSF into the regular army.