Sudan’s army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan met Qatar’s emir during his third trip abroad since war broke out in April, after also visiting Egypt and South Sudan in recent days.
Al-Burhan, whose troops are fighting the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), had spent months under siege inside the military headquarters in Khartoum and stayed in conflict-hit Sudan until late August.
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He is now aiming to secure regional support against the RSF, and legitimacy for his rule.
In Doha on Thursday, al-Burhan received a red carpet welcome. In a video posted by the Sudanese army, the army leader was filmed leaving a plane in Doha and numerous Qatari officials greeting him on an airport tarmac.
Al-Burhan discussed “the latest developments in the situation and challenges facing Sudan” with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, a statement from the Emiri Diwan said.
Sheikh Tamim reiterated his call for broad peace negotiations between all of Sudan’s political forces and a lasting end to the fighting, the statement said.
“The armed forces reassure the Sudanese people and the entire world that we are continuing to complete the transition to democratic civilian rule after the defeat of the rebellion,” al-Burhan told reporters.
“The priority … is how to end the rebellion and defeat it,” he said.
Al-Burhan left Doha on Thursday afternoon, the official Qatar News Agency said.
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said that, unlike his previous visits to South Sudan and Egypt, al-Burhan’s visit to Qatar is specifically “more political and more diplomatic as opposed to more to do with the security and military situation in the country”.
Al-Burhan said part of the purpose of the visit is to “let the emir know the latest developments in the country”, according to Morgan.
“It’s also to garner political and humanitarian support for Sudan,” she added.
The fighting between forces loyal to al-Burhan and his former deputy, RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo, has killed at least 5,000 people, according to a conservative estimate from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).
The war since April 15 has also displaced more than five million people, according to the most recent figures from the United Nation’s International Organisation for Migration.
Late on Wednesday, al-Burhan issued a decree dissolving the RSF, while the United States slapped sanctions on senior commander Abdelrahim Hamdan Dagalo, the brother of the paramilitary leader.
Sudan’s ruling Transitional Sovereignty Council said in a statement the decree was “based on the repercussions of these forces’ rebellion against the state, the grave violations they committed against citizens, and the deliberate sabotage of the country’s infrastructure”.
Confirming al-Burhan’s ‘legitimacy’
Rights campaigners have blamed the RSF and allied Arab militias for reported atrocities including rape, looting and the mass killings of ethnic minorities, primarily in the restive western region of Darfur.
The army has also been accused of abuses, including reports of indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas with RSF presence.
Since leaving the capital Khartoum, al-Burhan has been based in Port Sudan, an eastern city that has been spared the fighting.
Government officials and the UN have similarly relocated to the coastal city, which hosts Sudan’s only functioning airport.
Late last month, as rumours swirled of negotiations aimed at ending the crisis, al-Burhan flew to Egypt, historically his closest ally, followed by a visit to South Sudan this week.
“The significance of [the trips abroad] is to confirm the legitimacy of al-Burhan with the international community,” Ashraf Abdulaziz, editor-in-chief of independent Sudanese daily Al-Jarida, told the AFP news agency.
Both Cairo and Juba have sought to mobilise regional and international efforts to end the nearly five-month conflict after mediation attempts in the early stages of the war had repeatedly floundered.
Multiple truces brokered by the US and Saudi Arabia were systematically violated before the two mediators adjourned talks in June.
Announcing sanctions on Wednesday, the US Department of Treasury said that under Abdelrahim Hamdan Dagalo, RSF fighters “have engaged in acts of violence and human rights abuses, including the massacre of civilians, ethnic killings and use of sexual violence”.
Many of the abuses took place in the Darfur region of Sudan, it said.
Abdelrahim Hamdan Dagalo called the sanctions against him “unfair” in comments Thursday to Sky News Arabia, a TV channel based in the United Arab Emirates.
The US Department of State also placed RSF’s West Darfur commander Abdul Rahman Juma on its blacklist for what Washington called “his involvement in a gross violation of human rights”.