Warring generals in Sudan have rejected negotiations with each other, as fighting between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continues, despite repeated attempts at a ceasefire.
Speaking to Al Jazeera on Thursday, the head of Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), General Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo, said that he would not sit down and talk with his chief rival, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
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“We are calling for a humanitarian truce and for a ceasefire for a specific period, but the other side does not want that,” Hemedti said in a phone call with Al Jazeera on Thursday. “But we are not talking about sitting down with a criminal. We have been negotiating [with al-Burhan] for two years, without any results.”
“Al-Burhan was the one who started the battles and he is the one responsible for murdering the Sudanese people, so there are no future negotiations with him,” he added.
Following the interview with Hemedti, al-Burhan also spoke to Al Jazeera, and said that there was no party “with whom we can sit down to negotiate with now”.
“This party [the RSF] vowed to eliminate the Sudanese army and the rule of Sudan, and it is now stealing the homes of the Sudanese, and this does not augur that it is a party that restores Sudan’s permanence.”
Both men spoke of the upcoming Eid holiday, with Hemedti saying that he had “no objection” to a truce over Eid, but claimed that the army had continued attacking his forces despite a ceasefire that was supposed to be observed from 16:00 GMT on Wednesday evening.
For his part, al-Burhan said that the Sudanese people “did not deserve to receive Eid while living through this suffering”.
“The reason for this situation is the personal greed of the RSF,” al-Burhan added.
Eid will begin on either Friday or Saturday.
Fighting in Sudan between the army and the RSF has continued for a sixth day, with more than 300 people killed, including many civilians.
Residents of Khartoum have been fleeing the capital, hoping to reach safer areas.
Despite international mediation efforts, there are few signs of de-escalation.
Both the Sudanese army and the RSF have been accused of human rights violations during the fighting, and in the months preceding the conflict, when the two sides united to launch a military coup against a transitional government in October 2021, and cracked down on the protests that followed.
Internationally mediated talks to transition the country back to civilian rule were reportedly in their final stages, but a dispute about the integration of the RSF into the army sparked the recent outbreak of fighting.
In his interview, Hemedti attempted to portray himself as a supporter of a democratic transition in Sudan, despite his forces being repeatedly accused of arresting and killing protesters calling for a civilian-led government.
“We are defending the realisation of a true democratic transition in the country,” Hemedti said. “The only key to resolving the conflict in Sudan right now is bringing al-Burhan to justice.”
“Democracy does not come by the gun,” al-Burhan responded in his interview.
“The leadership of the RSF covets the rule of Sudan. We say that no one can rule Sudan by force,” al-Burhan said. “The Sudanese people want freedom and democracy and know how to take their rights.”
Hemedti has attempted to shift international perceptions of his image. He first emerged in Sudan as a leader in the government-backed Popular Defence Forces (called “Janjaweed” by rebel groups) accused of human rights violations in Darfur. The RSF later emerged out of the Popular Defence Forces during the presidency of former President Omar al-Bashir, who was overthrown after protests in 2019.
The RSF has used international public relations firms to portray itself as a defender of Sudanese civilians and a barricade against religious hardliners in recent months, and has taken to publishing statements in English on social media, decrying the army.
Hemedti has also rejected accusations that his forces were receiving external support, specifically from the Russian mercenary Wagner Group.
“[There is] no truth to [reports of] us receiving any external support,” the general said. “These are false accusations made by al-Burhan. We have not even requested external support … Wagner was brought in to support the army, and not the RSF.”
Asked about reported Israeli mediation efforts, al-Burhan responded curtly, saying that he did not have “any information” and that he had not received any communication from Israel “until now”.