Hemedti, Sudan’s paramilitary leader, meets with civilian leaders

In Addis Ababa, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, the leader of Sudanese paramilitary forces (RSF), engaged in discussions with civilian pro-democracy figures.

The activity marks another leg of his global tour amidst his forces’ increasing dominance in a grueling nine-month conflict.

Hemedti appears to position himself as a potential leader in a country grappling with the world’s most significant displacement crisis, where millions endure deprivation amid looming famine and minimal aid access.

His diplomatic visits to Uganda, Ethiopia, and Djibouti have been regarded by Sudan’s head of state, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, as “hostile acts.”

The expanding presence of RSF in central and western Sudan has sparked concerns about the potential for civilians to take up arms, heightening fears of a full-scale civil war.

Local anti-military committees accuse RSF of widespread atrocities in Wad Madani, including killings, abductions, and plundering, after its recent takeover. The influx of refugees from Khartoum has faced similar aggression in farming communities, with reports of RSF soldiers pillaging homes for vehicles and women.

Such repeated patterns prompted the U.S. to accuse RSF of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing in West Darfur. Hemedti expressed regret for the violations in Gezira and claimed his forces were reining in “rogue actors” within RSF leadership ahead of the recent meeting.

While urging optimism for Sudan’s future and echoing the calls for democracy, many of the civilian politicians present in the meeting, including ousted former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, had been removed from power in a 2021 coup led by the army and RSF, halting Sudan’s democratic progress after Omar al-Bashir’s ousting in 2019.

Burhan condemned those endorsing RSF actions as complicit in their crimes, highlighting the need for RSF withdrawal from Sudanese cities and Gezira state and the restitution of looted property, referencing earlier discussions in Jeddah.

Both leaders have agreed to meet under IGAD, a regional organization, although the specifics of the meeting remain undisclosed. Meanwhile, the NGO Sudanese Human Rights Monitor reported that the army, too, has been accused of war crimes, citing 118 casualties from airstrikes in Nyala in late December.

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