Sudan’s de facto leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has issued a warning to the United Nations, expressing concerns that the ongoing civil war in Sudan may spill over into neighboring African nations. In his address to the international community, General Burhan also urged the designation of his opponents, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), as a terrorist group.
The civil war in Sudan, which began in April and has claimed the lives of thousands, has seen a recent escalation of tensions between General Burhan and RSF leader Hamdan Dagalo. The two generals, who staged a coup in 2021, have been locked in a power struggle, leading to armed conflicts among their respective supporters.
Speaking to the UN, General Burhan expressed his party’s willingness to engage in peace talks with the goal of ending the war and alleviating the suffering of the Sudanese people. However, he lamented that the RSF had thus far refused to participate in such talks.
In a rare video message to the UN, Gen Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, conveyed his readiness to engage in dialogue.
The conflict in Sudan began in April when RSF troops were deployed throughout the country, a move perceived as a threat by the army led by General Burhan. The origins of the violence remain disputed, but it has since spread to various regions of Sudan, resulting in a death toll of at least 7,500 people, according to the NGO Acled, and the displacement of millions.
General Burhan, who assumed de facto leadership following the 2021 coup, has been actively seeking international support during his travels around the world. He also drew attention to the RSF’s connections with Wagner, a Russian mercenary group operating in several African countries, including the Central African Republic, Sudan, Libya, Mozambique, and Mali.
General Burhan emphasized the threat the conflict poses to regional and international peace and security, alleging that rebel groups associated with the RSF have sought support from outlaws and terrorist organizations in the region and worldwide.
He argued that the RSF should be designated as a terrorist group, citing their involvement in various crimes such as killing, burning, rape, forced displacement, looting, theft, torture, arms and drug trafficking, and the recruitment of child soldiers. He stressed the need for accountability and punishment for these crimes.
However, General Burhan has also faced criticism for military actions throughout the conflict. Upon his resignation in mid-September, UN envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, strongly criticized both generals, attributing sexual violence, looting, and killings in RSF-controlled areas to the RSF and condemning indiscriminate aerial bombings by the Sudanese armed forces.
The United States has already imposed sanctions on RSF leaders, including General Dagalo, but Western nations have also expressed strong criticism of General Burhan due to his role in displacing Sudan’s leading party in the 2021 coup.