TIPPING. Between air raids and fighting against a backdrop of rivalry between two generals, the Sudanese army and the paramilitaries are engaged in a showdown.
Par Africa Point (with AFP)
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L’Sudanese army sent its air force on Saturday against the paramilitaries who say they have taken control of the airport and the presidential palace in Khartoum in the most violent episode of the rivalry between the two generals in command since the putsch. The Rapid Support Forces (FSR) of General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, known as “Hemedti”, claim to hold the international airport and the presidential palace and call on the entire population, including the soldiers, to turn against the army . Opposite, the army, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, de facto ruler of Sudan since his coup of October 25, 2021, said that his air force was carrying out “operations” against the “enemy”.
In Khartoum, AFP journalists heard overflights over RSF bases as the army posted a photo of one on fire in southern Khartoum on its Facebook account. The two camps also clash near the headquarters of the state media, witnesses told AFP. The conflict between soldiers and paramilitaries, latent for weeks, has now taken on a warlike tone: the army says “to face the enemy” and speaks of “militias” which it accuses of “lies” and “treason”.
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Rumors for several days
During the putsch, Hemedti and Burhane formed a common front to oust civilians from power. But over time, Hemedti – many of whom are ex-militiamen trained in combat in the Darfur region (West) – has consistently denounced the coup. Even recently, he sided with civilians – therefore against the army in political negotiations – blocking discussions and any solution to the crisis in Sudan. For days, the street had been buzzing with rumors of an impending guerrilla war between the two camps. On Saturday morning, Khartoum woke up to the sound of heavy and light gunfire and almost non-stop explosions. In a few hours, the FSRs announced that they had taken Khartoum international airport, in the heart of the capital, then the presidential palace where General Burhane usually sits, as well as the palace reserved for state guests, an airport in the north of the country and “other bases in different provinces”.
The army denies the capture of the airport but assures that the FSR “infiltrated there and set fire to civilian planes, including one from Saudi Airlines”. She also claims to always have control of the HQ of her staff. For their part, the FSR call on the population to “join them” and affirm to the soldiers that they are “not targeting them, but their staff which uses them to stay on its throne, even if it means putting the stability of the country in peril. Residents are confined to their homes. “Like all Sudanese, I remain sheltered,” tweeted US Ambassador John Godfrey. “The escalation of tensions between soldiers to direct confrontation is extremely dangerous. I call on senior military commanders to immediately stop fighting,” he wrote. Chancelleries and political forces claim to have been active in mediation for several days, so far without success.
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The army accuses the FSR of having started the hostilities: “The fighting” began when the FSR attacked army bases “in Khartoum and elsewhere in Sudan”, the spokesman for the army told AFP. the army, General Nabil Abdallah. The army, on the other hand, “fulfills its duty to protect the homeland”, he added. The RSF say they were “surprised in the morning by the arrival of a large contingent of the army who besieged their camp in Soba”, in the south of Khartoum, and “attacked them with all kinds of heavy weapons and light”. On Thursday, the army was already denouncing a “dangerous” deployment of paramilitaries in Khartoum and other cities without “the slightest coordination with the command of the armed forces”. Because for days, while civilians and the international community had to accept a new postponement of the signing of a political agreement supposed to get the country out of the impasse – because of the differences between the two generals – videos showed the arrival of very many armored vehicles and men in various cities, including Khartoum.
The differences between the two strong men essentially relate to the future of the paramilitaries: the return to democratic transition is dependent on their integration into the regular troops. If the army does not refuse it, it still wants to impose its conditions of admission and limit in time their incorporation. General Daglo, he claims a broad inclusion and, above all, his place within the staff. The return to transition is demanded by the international community to resume aid to Sudan, one of the poorest countries in the world.
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