By Our Reporter
Gunfire and explosions have been heard in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, after days of tension between a notorious paramilitary force and the country’s army.
The dispute centres around a proposed transition to civilian rule.
Reuters is reporting that gunfire has been heard close to the headquarters of the army in the centre of the city.
The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) say one of their camps in the south of Khartoum has been attacked.
The army has said that RSF fighters are trying to seize the military headquarters.
Generals have been running the country since a coup in October 2021.
A proposed move to a civilian-led government has foundered on the timetable to integrate the RSF into the national army.
The RSF wanted to delay it for 10 years, but the army said it should happen in two years.
On April, 13, 2023 REUTERS reported that the Sudan’s army on Thursday (last week) warned of a risk of confrontation following the mobilization of a powerful paramilitary group, in a sign of growing strains between the rival forces and a potential complication in moves to restore civilian rule.
Here are details of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and its path to prominence.
The RSF is commanded by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who currently holds the position of deputy head of Sudan’s ruling Sovereign Council. Analysts estimate the force numbers about 100,000, with bases and deployments across the country.
It evolved from so-called janjaweed militias that fought in the early 2000s conflict in Darfur, where they were used by the Omar al-Bashir regime to help the army put down a rebellion. At least 2.5 million people were displaced and 300,000 killed in the conflict in total, and the janjaweed are accused of widespread human rights abuses.
Over time the forces grew, and were used as border guards in particular to clamp down on irregular migration. In tandem, Dagalo’s business interests grew with help from Bashir, and his family expanded holdings in gold mining, livestock and infrastructure.
Beginning in 2015, the RSF, along with Sudan’s army, began sending troops to fight in the war in Yemen alongside Saudi and Emirati troops, allowing Dagalo, who is also known as Hemedti, to forge ties with the Gulf powers.
In 2017, a law legitimising the RSF as an independent security force was passed. Military sources said that the army’s leadership had long expressed concern about the development of Hemedti’s forces and rejected their inclusion within its ranks.
In April 2019, the RSF participated in a military coup that ousted Bashir. Later that year Hemedti signed a power-sharing agreement that made him deputy of a ruling council headed by army general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
Before the signing in 2019, the RSF was accused of participating in killing dozens of pro-democracy protesters. RSF soldiers are also accused of tribal violence, with Hemedti removing immunity from some, allowing for their prosecution.
The RSF participated in a Oct 2021 coup that halted the transition to elections. Dagalo has since said he regrets the coup and has expressed approval of a new deal to restore full civilian government.
In 2022, Dagalo visited Russia on the eve of its invasion of Ukraine and expressed openness to the building of a Russian base on the Red Sea.