© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Deputy head of Sudan’s sovereign council General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo speaks during a press conference at Rapid Support Forces head quarter in Khartoum, Sudan February 19, 2023. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo
By Khalid Abdelaziz
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – The leader of a powerful paramilitary force in Sudan has put himself at the forefront of a planned transition toward democracy, unsettling fellow military rulers and triggering a mobilisation of troops in the capital Khartoum last week.
General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo commands tens of thousands of fighters in the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and has amassed considerable mineral wealth. He is also deputy leader of Sudan’s ruling council, which took power in a coup more than a year ago.
Recently however, Dagalo, widely known as Hemedti, has pulled away from military colleagues and found common ground with a civilian political alliance, in moves that could establish him as a major figure even after the democratic transition.
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, referring to a stipulation within the outline deal signed in December that paves the way for a two year civilian-led transition to elections.
The sources said the standoff led Hemedti to bring additional RSF forces in recent weeks to bases in Khartoum from Darfur, the western region where the group emerged from the so-called Janjaweed militias accused of atrocities during the early 2000s.
Concerned about his intentions, the army under ruling council leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan stationed more soldiers in the capital on a state of alert, the sources said.
Speaking to RSF troops earlier this month, Hemedti said his forces would never fight the army, but “our problem is with these people who are clinging to power” – an apparent reference to Islamist-leaning elements of the former regime that retain influence in the army and civil service.
The reasons for the troop movements have not been previously reported. Spokespeople for the military and RSF did not respond to requests for comment.
While tensions have since cooled, Hemedti’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.
Hemedti and other military…
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