Leader of Sudan’s RSF visits Ethiopia in rare foreign trip as war rages

The trip by the paramilitary group’s leader comes a week after his forces captured the North African nation’s second largest city.

Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (C),
Mohamed Hamdan 'Hemedti' Dagalo, centre, is on his first known foreign trip since Sudan's war began and made his second stop in Ethiopia on December 28, 2023, after visiting Uganda [File: Ashraf Shazly/AFP]

The leader of Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, has visited neighbouring Ethiopia, where he has had discussions on the end of the war between the RSF and Sudan’s army.

Dagalo, known as “Hemedti”, landed in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, on Thursday in the second stop of his first known public foreign trip since the war erupted on April 15.

The trip comes weeks after RSF fighters captured the country’s second-largest city, Wad Madani, once a hub for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the eight-month war.

Thursday’s meeting was preceded by Hemedti’s meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni at Museveni’s country home on Wednesday.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said he had received the RSF leader and his delegation “for a discussion on securing peace and stability in Sudan”, posting pictures of them seated around a restaurant table.

Hemedti was received by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen at the airport in Addis Ababa.

Hemedti posted pictures of his arrival and a meeting with Demeke on X.

“We discussed the need to bring a swift end to this war, the historical crisis in Sudan and how to best alleviate the hardships of the Sudanese people,” Hemedti wrote.

US- and Saudi-brokered talks have failed to end the conflict, which has killed more than 12,000 people and forced more than seven million people to flee their homes. Last month, Human Rights Watch accused the RSF of carrying out mass ethnic killings in Darfur.

UAE, a key ally

Posts by Hemedti and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs showed him exiting an aircraft belonging to Royal Jet, a United Arab Emirates airline, that flight records show had flown from Abu Dhabi to Uganda’s Entebbe airport on Wednesday morning.

The UAE has been Hemedti’s most important foreign ally since before the current conflict.

In November, a Sudanese general accused the UAE of backing the RSF and funnelling supplies through countries that included Uganda. The UAE responded by saying it supported diplomatic dialogue in Sudan and the conflict’s end while Uganda said the accusations were false.

Hemedti is next expected to visit Kenya, a source close to the RSF told the Agence France-Presse news agency. Al Jazeera could not confirm the planned stop through official sources.

“After having visited Uganda and Ethiopia, Hemedti will go to Nairobi in order to try to rally the member states of IGAD to his cause before going to Djibouti to meet General al-Burhan,” the source was quoted as saying, referring to Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the leader of Sudan’s armed forces.

IGAD, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, is a bloc representing eight East African countries. It has been trying to bring al-Burhan and Hemedti together since the outset of the war.

Both sides in Sudan’s war have been accused of war crimes.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies