Head of Sudanese paramilitary force says still committed to single army
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – The head of Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group accused of widespread human rights abuses, said on Sunday he was committed to intergrating the force into a reformed national armed forces.
RSF commander General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, joined Sudan’s leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in a coup in 2021 that ended a ruling partnership between the military and pro-democracy groups and plunged the country into political and economic turmoil.
The RSF is Sudan’s largest paramilitary group. It emerged from the “janjaweed” militias accused of atrocities during the early 2000s conflict in Darfur.
They are also accused by human rights groups of killing scores of protesters since the military overthrow of Omar al-Bashir in 2019. Dagalo, who is known as Hemedti, has denied most of these claims, blaming infiltrators, while allowing the prosecution of some soldiers.
Pro-democracy groups and army leaders have called for the RSF to be integrated into the main military and for the formation of a single army.
The military leadership has reached an initial agreement with political groups, with discussions going on to formalise a new political settlement and create a new government.
But in a speech on Thursday, Burhan said the army would only support the deal as long as it provided for the integration of the RSF.
On Sunday, Dagalo defended the RSF’s legitimacy.
“We are committed to the principle of a single military formed according to agreed upon timelines, and we are sincerely committed to being involved in security and military reform,” he said in a speech.
The framework agreement, signed in December, recognises the RSF as a force alongside the military, police, and general intelligence. It assigns the head of state as its highest commander and also calls for its integration.
“The Sudanese military is a historic institution, and it will not be captured by any party,” Dagalo said. “We are part of it and we will not spare any effort to defend it from anyone who abuses or belittles it.”
He also warned against any interference by Islamists who lost control of the country in 2019 with the overthrow of Bashir.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum and Nafisa Eltahir in Cairo, Editing by Angus MacSwan)