Sudan’s opposition leader, Sadiq Al-Mahdi, said the country should avoid tensions between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) – also known as the Janjaweed militia – which controls the security apparatus in the capital, Khartoum, and the army at any cost. Otherwise, Sudan will risk further unrest following the military coup in April.
Al-Mahdi, a prominent figure in the Sudanese political scene and former Prime Minister, called on military commander General Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo, aka Hamiditi, to merge his RSF into the army to promote unity within the armed forces.
Al-Mahdi, who was Sudan’s last democratically elected Prime Minister, told Reuters in an interview: “Any tensions between our armed groups must be resolved peacefully. The people will solve the conflict either through fighting, which would be very bad for Sudan or accept a reconciliation process.”
Al-Mahdi, head of Sudan’s largest opposition party, added: “All our political forces must focus on the need to avoid this civil war and all forms of conflicts that are likely to occur.”
During an interview in his spacious villa surrounded by gardens in the Sudanese capital, Al-Mahdi indicated that the opposition had proposed the idea of merging troops to the Transitional Military Council (TMC), which has been running the country since the ousting of President Omar Al-Bashir, following the outbreak of protests sparked by the economic crisis.
There is no sign of a looming conflict between the RSF and the military establishment, and there are also no apparent divisions between the TMC’s vice-president, Hamiditi, and the TMC president Abdel Fattah Burhan.
However, Al-Mahdi, who was ousted by Al-Bashir in 1989, conveyed that Sudan cannot take the risk during the turbulence, adding: “All our thoughts will be focused to avoid this catastrophic development lurking on the horizon.”
Politicians, analysts, and opposition figures said the army has more firepower. However, the confrontation with the RSF in the capital will cause heavy civilian casualties.
The authorities are holding Al-Bashir with other former officials at the Kober prison in Khartoum.
Negotiations on political future dismantled
The moderate National Umma Party, led by Al-Mahdi, is an opposition party that demanded that power be handed over to civilians during the talks that were suspended with the TMC last month.
The RSF were not available to comment on Al-Mahdi’s statements.
Hamiditi stated that he had political ambitions, amid repeated public speeches he has been delivering, while promising the Sudanese people a bright future from the palace that has been once Al-Bashir’s residence.
Al-Mahdi asserted: “If Hamiditi is aspiring to be a leader, it will be acceptable for us, provided that he becomes a civilian citizen. By then, he can form his own party or join any party he thinks is closer to his ideas.”
In contrast to many army officers, Hamiditi did not graduate from a military institute. Thus, his rapid rise under Al-Bashir elicited resentment. Analysts and security officials say the RSF, who lack discipline, often receive better salaries than the military personnel.
The RSF began as a militia after a war with rebels in Sudan’s Darfur region in 2003, and ended up under the control of the army, but only in times of conflict.
On Sunday, large numbers of Sudanese marched to the Sudanese Ministry of Defence to exert pressure on the TMC. The authorities stated that at least seven people were killed and dozens wounded in nationwide protests in the biggest demonstrations of its kind since security forces broke up a sit-in the centre of Khartoum three weeks ago.
A tight grip on Khartoum
Hamiditi announced that unidentified snipers shot at civilians and soldiers during Sunday’s incidents.
Al-Bashir assigned Hamiditi in Darfur, where human rights groups accused his forces, which later became the RSF, of committing atrocities against civilians in their war against the rebels.
Al-Bashir also deployed Hamiditi and his soldiers in Khartoum. Hamiditi’s fighters were armed with rocket launchers and machine guns mounted on vehicles to face the dangers posed by his opponents, in the framework of a security strategy that helped him to stay in power for 30 years.
Al-Mahdi stated: “We believe that Hamiditi must now accept the necessity of achieving this integration between the RSF and the army, merging his fighters with the national defence mechanism.”
He added that such a step must be done by the armed forces “voluntarily”.
Al-Mahdi highlighted that reconciliation opportunities could be improved by launching an independent investigation into the violence that took place three weeks ago. Hence, witnesses claimed that the RSF had led the operation to break the Khartoum sit-in.
Medical workers affiliated to the opposition affirmed that more than 100 people were killed in the sit-in while the government estimated the death toll was only 61, including three security members.