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 of the signing of an internationally-backed deal with political parties to restore the country’s democratic transition. In a statement, the military said the buildup of the RSF in Khartoum and elsewhere in the country has come without “the approval of, or coordination with” the armed forces’ leadership.
RSF measures “have stirred up panic and fear among people, exacerbated security risks and increased tensions between regular forces,” it said.
The military said it has attempted to “find peaceful solutions to such violations” to prevent an armed conflict with the RSF.
The statement 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.
In a statement published Wednesday evening, the RSF said its deployment across the country aims at “achieving security and stability and fighting human trafficking and illegal migration.”
Recent tensions are rooted in the integration of the RSF into the military, a key term of the internationally-backed 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 force’s two leaders has escalated in recent months. Conflicting public statements, heavy military presence in the capital, and parallel foreign trips reflected the tension.
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.
In a statement issued Thursday, 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. The groups have 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 monthslong 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.