LONDON: Sudan’s representative to the UK has put the blame for the violence enveloping his country squarely in the lap of the Rapid Support Forces, demanding that the paramilitary group lay down its weapons.
Charge d’Affaires Khalid Mohamed Ali Hassan told Arab News that the RSF needs to accept a swift reintegration into the Sudanese Armed Forces and take responsibility for the bloodshed.
“The RSF, which was once a part of the Sudanese military, started this violence, attacking the army, its general command, and even Gen. (Abdel Fattah) Al-Burhan himself,” said Hassan.
“It has behaved recklessly, with no care or respect for international humanitarian law nor the norms of the army because they aren’t the army. Actually, they’re a militia … They’ve taken families hostage … even used civilians as shields.
“We need the world to know that this isn’t a war between two generals but a rebellion by this rebel force, and the Sudanese military is responding to it to protect civilians.”
Hassan was speaking several hours into the latest Saudi-US-brokered 72-hour ceasefire between the warring groups, but with previous ceasefires swiftly broken, he had scant faith in the present one holding, noting a breakdown in RSF communication and coordination.
The collapse into violence between the RSF and SAF comes just months after a framework agreement was reached that many hoped would lead the country back to civilian government after the October 2021 military coup.
Both Al-Burhan and the RSF chief Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemeti, were signatories to the Dec. 5 agreement in Khartoum, alongside the leaders of Forces of Freedom and Change — the country’s largest pro-democracy group — and 40 other parties.
Providing a path to a civilian-led transition made up of democratic elections and the return of the military to its barracks, the framework agreement stipulated a need for full civilian control over all aspects of society, with a security and defense council headed by the prime minister.
But as he thanked the Saudi government for its efforts in brokering the latest truce, Hassan warned against “negative international pressure” which, pointing squarely at the Western-pushed framework agreement, he considers partly culpable for the present chaos.
“You know in our discussions with the British, we always said to them that the framework agreement would create what we’re witnessing now because they talked about integrating the RSF as part of the agreement,” he said.
“But under the workshops, Hemeti said he’d commit to the integration but over a period of 10 years. Why did he need 10 years? The army said two was sufficient.
“RSF forces are well-known to the army. The personnel are well-known. They took salaries from the army budget. It’s not like a rebel movement that’s very difficult to integrate. Ten years is very long, and it’s one of the reasons we’re now seeing these clashes.”
Hassan also castigated the framework’s isolating of the “very important political figures” that had been involved in the 2020 Juba Agreement, which ended decades of violence in Sudan through provision of economic and land rights and political representation for the various parties involved.
Asked what would bring the present conflict to an end, he said the RSF needs to lay down its weapons and rejoin the SAF, stressing that individuals who did this would be granted amnesty by Al-Burhan.
Hassan said if the RSF persists in attacks, he is confident that the SAF would bring the situation to a close, adding that “from what we’re seeing on the ground, this will happen soon.”
He added that the SAF “said their first priority is to finish this rebellion and after that, maybe they can sit at the table to negotiate how they can integrate the RSF into the army, and how they can put down their arms and be part of the army.”
He said the army has also accepted an initiative proposed by Djibouti, Kenya and South Sudan in which the three East African countries would mediate negotiations between the RSF and SAF, adding that it “may offer something more advanced than a ceasefire.”
Stressing gratitude for Saudi efforts in brokering the series of ceasefires, he said lasting peace would come in the design of “African solutions for African challenges,” with support from those who “truly understood” what is happening in Sudan.
Hassan, however, said such efforts are not being helped by Western depictions of the conflict as a “battle between equals” rather than as the “rebellion it is.”
He added: “Western media attempts to portray this as a war between two generals, but this isn’t true because the Sudanese army is a professional army that’s more than 100 years old, proficient and made up of recruits from all across Sudan.
“It represents different ethnicities and different tribes from all of Sudan, and everyone can see themselves in this army, which is responding to this attack from a rebel group.
“So this is the first thing international or regional powers wanting to intervene must do: address what’s going on correctly.
“You have to send a message that this is a rebellion, because if this happened in any other country, even in the UK, the army would respond as ours has.”
Just moments before sitting down with Arab News, Hassan had been in a meeting with UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.
According to Hassan, Cleverly had asked that a message of thanks be passed to the SAF for their efforts in facilitating the evacuation of UK nationals from Sudan as the violence worsened over recent days.
“This meeting also allowed us to discuss the humanitarian situation in Sudan, and we talked about the needs of our people because of the lack of food and medicine,” said Hassan.
“The minister said he would consider what help the UK could offer when he sat down to talk with the government but, you know, the price is very high on Sudanese people because of this rebellion with hospitals, schools, universities attacked.
“Doctors can’t reach the hospitals because roads have been blockaded, so the situation has been made very bad for the people.”
Hassan said he does not believe the conflict will spread beyond Sudan’s borders, pointing to the military having taken control of most of the country’s states, with efforts being made to calm tensions in western Darfur as the army centers in on Khartoum.