Paramilitary Head Ready to Cooperate in Repatriation of Egyptian Troops in Sudan

Paramilitary Head Ready to Cooperate in Repatriation of Egyptian Troops in Sudan

Smoke rises in Omdurman, near Halfaya Bridge, during clashes between the Paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army as seen from Khartoum North, Sudan April 15, 2023. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

The head of the Rapid Support Force (RSF) the paramilitary group at the heart of the ongoing violence in Sudan, has expressed its readiness to cooperate with Egypt in the repatriation of a number of Egyptian troops currently confirmed to be in Sudan.

Since the early hours of Saturday, 15 April, Sudan has been witnessing clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF, which operated as a militia during the height of the Darfur conflict, but was recently merged with the formal military.

A video surfaced on Saturday, showing Egyptian troops that had “surrendered” themselves in Merowe. In the video, a number of men attired in Egyptian army fatigues seated on the ground and speaking with members of the RSF. Other footage showed some RSF elements beside a military aircraft with Egyptian Air Force signs, claiming to have seized it in Merowe, the credibility of which Egyptian Streets is unable to verify.

The Egyptian Armed Forces released a statement later in the evening, urging the “the safeguarding of the safety and security of Egyptian troops who were in Sudan to conduct joint training with their Sudanese counterparts.”

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Saturday called for an immediate ceasefire in Sudan and urged opposing forces to prioritise dialogue and national consensus while upholding the interests of the Sudanese people.

According to statements issued by the Egyptian Presidency spokesperson, Al-Sisi made these statements during a phone call which took place between the president and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday, 15 April, and a separate phone call with President Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Republic of South Sudan on Sunday, 16 April.

Al-Sisi emphasised to Guterres that Egypt is “deeply concerned over the ongoing clashes in Sudan” and warned of the “dangerous repercussions on the country’s stability.”

An emergency meeting of the Arab League Council at the level of permanent representatives kicked off on Sunday in Cairo, to discuss Sudan’s ongoing armed conflict. The meeting was held at the request of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

What is happening in Sudan?

The fighting began in Sudan’s capital city, Khartoum, and several other cities on Saturday, 15 April, and continued to escalate as the day drew on, including the use of heavy weapons and air force fighters and helicopters.

Since clashes erupted, the SAF and RSF have traded accusations as to the instigator of the clashes. The RSF issued a series of statements claiming that the SAF had attacked its base in Southern Sudan, and that it had in turn seized control of the city’s airport and Republic Palace.

The SAF, meanwhile, has rebuffed the claims, and says it is still in control of all bases and airports across the capital. Neither party’s claims could be verified, making it nearly impossible to verify who has control of these strategic locations.

As fighting carries on, escalating violence has killed at least 56 people and left nearly 600 more injured.

Tensions between the RSF and the SAF have been rising for months, but their roots go as far back as the days of former Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir, who was ousted in 2019. Under Al-Bashir’s rule, the RSF was formed in 2003 from a number of militias, which played a role in the conflict that raged in the Sudanese region of Darfur for decades. Later Bashir put the RSF under the authority of the SAF in 2017, while maintaining its autonomy and separate command structure.

However, the rising of the current tensions can be traced back to an internationally backed deal was proposed late last year, to put Sudan back on track to democratic transition and a return to civilian rule. This deal was brokered by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Nations, and the United States.

A key condition to this deal taking effect is the merging of the RSF with Sudan’s formal military, a condition the RSF has been resisting.

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