The integration of powerful paramilitary forces into the army became the latest obstacle in Sudan’s transition to civilian command, after three decades of rule by the deposed autocrat Omar al Bashir.
Sudan has been under civil-military rule since August 2019, following a power-sharing agreement that was due to expire next year, but was extended after a peace pact reached in October with various rebel factions.
Both agreements contemplate military reform, including the integration of the Rapid Support Force (RSF), formed in 2013 to confront the rebels fighting the Bashir government, into the regular army.
The RSF is largely made up of Arab nomads and the Janjauid militia, accused by human rights organizations of atrocities in Darfur.
Tensions between the RSF and the army have grown in recent weeks, especially after paramilitary commander Mohamed Hamden Daglo, known as Hemeti, rejected integration with the armed forces.
“Talking about the integration of the RSF into the army could divide the country,” Daglo warned in a speech that went viral on social media.
“The RSF was made official by a law approved by an elected parliament, it is not a battalion (…) that can be integrated into the army,” he declared.
Military leaders have denied a confrontation, but the civilian prime minister, Abdullah Hamdok, has pointed to “very worrying” fractures between the powerful blocs of the security system in Sudan.
He came out for a unified army that includes the RSF and warned that disputes between political factions in charge of the transition in Sudan could result in chaos and civil war.