The Sudanese army said on Thursday that a para-military force headed by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo had mobilized troops in the capital Khartoum and other cities - a move that raises the prospect of confrontation with the armed forces.
The army said in a statement that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) movements represented a “clear violation of law.”
The RSF is a powerful former militia that has been accused of widespread human rights abuses, especially during the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region.
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Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, climbed Sudan’s political ladder by serving under former leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who was ousted in a coup in 2019.
He is now deputy leader of Sudan’s ruling council, which took power in another coup in late 2021. However, he has recently pulled away from military colleagues and found common ground with a civilian political alliance.
Relations between the military and the RSF have worsened, forcing a delay to the signing of an internationally-backed agreement with political parties for a two-year civilian-led transition to elections.
Central to Hemedti’s disagreement with the military is his reluctance to set a clear deadline to integrate the RSF into the army, two military sources said.
The RSF, which operates under a special law and has its own chain of command, said in an earlier statement that it deploys across the country as part of its normal duties.
Concerned about his intentions, the army under ruling council leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has stationed more soldiers in Khartoum on a state of alert, the military sources said.
Dagalo’s underlying differences with the army have not been resolved and the risk remains of a confrontation that could tip Sudan, which sits in a volatile region between the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, into deepening instability.
He commands tens of thousands of fighters in the RSF and has amassed considerable mineral wealth.