KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s prime minister called for a unified national army on Tuesday in a bid to protect a fragile political transition, amid tensions between the military and the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
“The big question today is will Sudan exist or not exist,” Abdalla Hamdok said at a press conference, decrying “worrying” divisions between and within civilian and military factions.
Sudanese sources told Reuters that Hamdok is concerned in particular about a widening split between the army and RSF in recent weeks, and the potential for conflict if it continues.
Hamdok’s comments are his most explicit to date in attempting to influence the military partners he has shared power with since the overthrow of former leader Omar al-Bashir in 2019. His cabinet serves under the Sovereign Council, headed by General Abdelfattah al-Burhan of the armed forces with RSF leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo serving as Burhan’s deputy.
In a statement circulated at the news conference, Hamdok called for the RSF’s integration into the armed forces, pending agreement between leadership of both forces and the government.
Security sector reform was a national issue that needed civilian involvement, he said.
Bashir gave the RSF official military status, but it remains separate from the armed forces.
Sudan’s international allies, as well as some internal rebel groups, have pushed for the RSF, which grew out of Darfur’s janjaweed militias, to be integrated into the national army.
Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti, frequently complains that he and his forces have been demonized. He has made public statements rejecting the integration of his forces.
Both the army and RSF have released statements denying any conflict.
In central Khartoum, barriers were erected this month around the armed forces’ headquarters. The RSF has separate facilities in Khartoum and in other parts of the country.
Last week, Hamdok warned of the possibility of civil strife fomented by loyalists of the former regime.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, writing by Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Aidan Lewis, William Maclean)