Sudan’s military warns of conflict after rival force deploys

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) – Sudan’s military warned Thursday of potential clashes with the country’s powerful paramilitary force, which it said deployed troops in the capital and other cities.

Tensions between the military and the Rapid Support Forces have escalated in recent months, forcing a delay in the signing of an internationally backed deal with political parties to revive the country’s democratic transition.

In a statement, the military said the buildup of the RSF in Khartoum and elsewhere in the country was done without “the approval of, or coordination with” the armed forces’ leadership and presents a clear “violation of the law.”

The warning came as the RSF deployed troops in the Northern Province on the border with Egypt. Local media reported that the paramilitary force has attempted to build a military base there. Earlier reports this week said the force was transporting armed vehicles from Darfur to the capital Khartoum.

The present tensions are rooted in the integration of the RSF into the military, a key term of the deal first agreed upon last December. The paramilitary force, led by powerful Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, grew out of former militias that executed a brutal crackdown in Sudan’s Darfur region over the past two decades.

Though the military and the RSF together led a coup in Oct. 2021, friction between the forces’ two leaders has become visible in recent months. Conflicting public statements, heavy military presence in the capital, and parallel foreign trips reflected the tension.

On Wednesday evening, The RSF said that its presence in the Northern Province, like other areas of Sudan, aims at “achieving security and stability and fighting human trafficking and illegal migration.” The wealthy paramilitary force is estimated to have tens of thousands of fighters.

The escalation has raised concerns of a new civil war in a country known for internal armed conflicts. Many took to social media to express their concerns.

Sudan’s National Umma Party – one of the country’s largest political groups — called for restraint and urged other political forces not to escalate the situation.

“All political forces must refrain from issuing any statements or support for one of the parties,” the group said Thursday. The party has arranged an emergency meeting Thursday morning and invited leaders from both forces to attend.

Sudan has plunged into chaos since a 2021 military coup removed a western-backed, power-sharing administration and dashed Sudanese aspirations for democratic rule after three decades of autocracy and repression under Islamist President Omar al-Bashir.

A months-long popular uprising forced the military’s overthrow of al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019. Since then, the former president, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court over the Darfur conflict, has been imprisoned in Khartoum.

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