Head of Sudanese Paramilitary Force Says Still Committed to Single Army

The head of Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group accused of widespread human rights abuses, said on Sunday he was committed to intergrating the force into a reformed national armed forces.

RSF commander General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, joined Sudan’s leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in a coup in 2021 that ended a ruling partnership between the military and pro-democracy groups and plunged the country into political and economic turmoil.

The RSF is Sudan’s largest paramilitary group. It emerged from the “janjaweed” militias accused of atrocities during the early 2000s conflict in Darfur.

They are also accused by human rights groups of killing scores of protesters since the military overthrow of Omar al-Bashir in 2019. Dagalo, who is known as Hemedti, has denied most of these claims, blaming infiltrators, while allowing the prosecution of some soldiers.

Pro-democracy groups and army leaders have called for the RSF to be integrated into the main military and for the formation of a single army.

The military leadership has reached an initial agreement with political groups, with discussions going on to formalise a new political settlement and create a new government.

But in a speech on Thursday, Burhan said the army would only support the deal as long as it provided for the integration of the RSF.

On Sunday, Dagalo defended the RSF’s legitimacy.

“We are committed to the principle of a single military formed according to agreed upon timelines, and we are sincerely committed to being involved in security and military reform,” he said in a speech.

The framework agreement, signed in December, recognises the RSF as a force alongside the military, police, and general intelligence. It assigns the head of state as its highest commander and also calls for its integration.

“The Sudanese military is a historic institution, and it will not be captured by any party,” Dagalo said. “We are part of it and we will not spare any effort to defend it from anyone who abuses or belittles it.”

He also warned against any interference by Islamists who lost control of the country in 2019 with the overthrow of Bashir.

Source: Voice of America

African Union Vows ‘Zero Tolerance’ to Undemocratic Change

The African Union insisted Sunday it had a “zero tolerance” policy toward unconstitutional change as it maintained its suspension of four military-ruled countries.

The Sahel states of Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali as well as Sudan were sanctioned by the Pan-African body after coups in recent years, but the AU said Sunday it was ready to help them return to democratic rule.

“The assembly reaffirmed zero tolerance against unconstitutional change (of government),” said the AU’s Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Bankole Adeoye.

“The Commission is ready to support these member states to return to constitutional order, the idea is that democracy must take root and must be promoted and protected,” he told a news conference on the final day of the weekend AU summit in Addis Ababa.

“It is necessary to reemphasize that the AU remains intolerant to any undemocratic means to political power,” he added.

The regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc also said it has maintained sanctions on the three Sahel countries.

West African leaders met on the sidelines of the AU summit to review the measures and discuss the progress in restoring civilian rule in the three states.

“The Authority of Heads of State and Governments decided to maintain the existing sanctions on all three countries,” the bloc said in a statement signed Saturday but shared on Sunday.

ECOWAS has also decided to impose travel bans on government officials and senior leaders in those countries, it added.

Sanctions in spotlight

Fearing contagion in a region notorious for military takeovers, ECOWAS imposed tough trade and economic sanctions against Mali, but lesser punishments against Guinea and Burkina Faso.

All three countries are under pressure by ECOWAS to return swiftly to civilian rule by 2024 for Mali and Burkina and a year later for Guinea.

Juntas seized power in Mali and Burkina Faso amid anger at the military over the toll from a jihadi insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and forced millions from their homes.

The coup in Guinea had different causes, being rooted in public anger against then President Alpha Conde over a lurch toward authoritarianism.

Sudan has been gripped by deepening political and economic turmoil since the coup led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in 2021 that derailed a short-lived transition to civilian rule following the ouster of Omar al-Bashir in 2019.

In an address to the summit Saturday, AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said the Pan-African bloc needed to look at new strategies to counter the backsliding of democracy.

“Sanctions imposed on member states following unconstitutional changes of government… do not seem to produce the expected results,” he said.

“It seems necessary to reconsider the system of resistance to the unconstitutional changes in order to make it more effective.”

Source: Voice of America

U.S provides $289 million to fight hunger in South Sudan

The United States has provided $288.5 million to support over two million of the most food-insecure people in South Sudan with life-saving food and nutrition assistance through the 2023 lean season.

The announcement of the funding for WFP’s 2023 humanitarian response was made during a visit to United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and World Food Programme (WFP) – pro-supported projects in Aweil, where delegates met with women and children at the Gabat nutrition site.

South Sudan is facing one of its hungriest years since independence with 7.76 million people expected to be in crisis or worse levels of hunger (IPC3+). The lean season – the period between household food stocks running out and the next harvest – falls between April and August in South Sudan.

“A fourth year of record flooding, rising costs of food and energy, and ongoing conflict are disrupting lives and livelihoods and threatening to push millions of families further into hunger,” said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP’s Country Director in South Sudan.

She added, “This generous contribution comes at a critical time as we race to dispatch food assistance to the most remote areas ahead of the lean season. Receiving funding in advance means we can act earlier to prevent families from falling into more severe levels of acute hunger when shocks strike”.

The event was attended by the U.S Ambassador to South Sudan, Michael J. Adler, Kate Crawford, the USAID Mission Director in South Sudan, Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, Vice President of South Sudan and Head of Gender, Youth and Humanitarian Cluster, H.E. Tong Akeen Ngor, Governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal State.

The contribution from the U.S is expected to support the delivery of food to more than 2.2 million severely food-insecure women, children, and men across South Sudan through 2023. As the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance grows, however, sustainable funding from donors is more critical than ever to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

Source: Sudan Tribune