Sudan's rival military leaders address UN amid conflict

Sudan's Army and RSF Leaders Deliver Competing UN Speeches on Conflict Resolution and Terrorism Allegations.
Deputy head of Sudan's sovereign council General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo speaks during a press conference at Rapid Support Forces head quarter in Khartoum, Sudan February 19, 2023.
Deputy head of Sudan's sovereign council General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo speaks during a press conference at Rapid Support Forces head quarter in Khartoum, Sudan February 19, 2023. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo

By Khalid Abdelaziz

CAIRO (Reuters) -The heads of Sudan's rival military factions gave competing addresses to the United Nations on Thursday, one from the podium at U.N. headquarters in New York and the other in a rare video recording from an undisclosed location.

Army leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, speaking at the United Nations following a string of foreign trips, called on the international community to designate the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) as a terrorist organization and to counter its sponsors outside Sudan's borders.

RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, said in a video message that his forces were fully prepared for a ceasefire and comprehensive political talks to end the conflict.

Both sides blamed the other for starting the war that erupted in mid-April in Khartoum and has spread to other parts of the country including the western region of Darfur, displacing more than 5 million people and threatening to destabilize the region.

Most of Hemedti's recent communications have been audio messages, and his whereabouts have been a source of speculation.

In the video released on Thursday shortly before Burhan spoke, Hemedti appeared in military uniform, seated behind a desk with a Sudanese national flag behind him as he read out his speech. His location was not clear.

"Today we renew our commitment to the peaceful process to put a halt to this war," Hemedti said. "The RSF are fully prepared for a ceasefire throughout Sudan to allow the passage of humanitarian aid ... and to start serious and comprehensive political talks."


Previous assertions by the army and the RSF that they are seeking a solution to the conflict, as well as announcements of ceasefires by both sides, have failed to stop bloodshed and the deepening of a humanitarian crisis in Sudan.

"We are still extending our hands for peace, to stop this war and the suffering of our people," said Burhan, adding that the army remained committed to withdrawing from politics in a transition to civilian rule.

But he also called for the RSF to be labeled a terrorist group and said it was backed by regional and international backers, without naming any. "There is a need to firmly address their sponsors," he said.

Sudan's war broke out over plans to formally integrate the RSF into the army as part of a political transition, four years after the overthrow of former leader Omar al-Bashir during a popular uprising. The army and RSF staged a coup together in 2021 before coming to blows.

Witnesses say the army has used heavy artillery and air strikes that have caused casualties in residential districts of Khartoum and other cities, and that the RSF has inflicted widespread looting and sexual violence on residents as well as participating in ethnically targeted attacks in Darfur.

Saudi Arabia and the United States have tried to secure a lasting ceasefire in Sudan but the process stalled amid parallel international initiatives in Africa and the Middle East.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdeaziz, Yomna Ehab and Enas Alashray; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Leslie Adler, Sandra Maler and Grant McCool)

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